Give me a guy who’s gruff and tough then can eventually let a woman see the deepest part of him and I’m hooked! Mel Gibson in LETHAL WEAPON, Rochester in JANE EYRE and one of my favorites from a book, Nick Gentry from Lisa Kleypas’s WORTH ANY PRICE.

Why am I drawn to tortured heroes? They’re sexy! There’s something about discovering that a macho, hard-edged man is vulnerable in some way.

The Cowboy's Reluctant Bride by Debra CowanI love the idea that there are men with emotional, often painful secrets, who never let anyone close and there is a woman, somewhere, who can get under his skin and be the one person to accept him for who he is or help him to accept himself. One woman who can see past the tough, steely-eyed face he shows to the world. The whole Beauty & the Beast vibe, if you will. Who’s more tortured than a man who sees himself as damaged and must be restored by the love of the right woman?

As much as I love tortured heroes, they need to have a good reason for being the way they are. When I write guys like this, I delve into their character to see how they’re put together and why they’re put together that way. In reality, everyone I know has emotional baggage. The way my hero handles that baggage, handles himself, further defines him for me. Sometimes, I might initially know part of who he is, and I work with that to understand the rest.

All I knew about Gideon Black, the hero of my current historical, THE COWBOY’S RELUCTANT BRIDE, was his name, that he’d been in prison and had a mass of scars all over his body.

Gideon was first introduced in my novella, “Once Upon A Frontier Christmas”, as that hero’s best friend whom he’d met in prison. But why was Gideon in prison? Had he gotten his scars there? What was the rest of his story? Figuring that out took some help from the heroine, Ivy Powell. She wanted answers to those questions, too. If you read the book, I hope you’ll agree that Gideon was worth getting to know.

A tortured hero needs someone not only to soothe the raw edges, but to challenge his seemingly-unreachable heart. Someone to trust with every part of himself, just as the heroine needs from him.

Maybe the best way to say it is he needs her. He may not know it. He certainly won’t admit it until it’s almost too late, but he needs her. He can’t walk away from that. And neither can I.

What about you? Do you like tortured heroes? Or is that too much angst for you?