Everyone loves a hero. We pine for them, swoon over them, and hoard them, but, for me, a fantastic hero needs an equal. Someone who is confident, strong, assertive, and independent, someone who takes charge and demands what she deserves, and someone who takes risks is exactly what I look for in a heroine. These authors have created my top heroines for 2016.
*Note: I, once again, struggled to stick with the Top 6 of 2016, but I figured if the men got 8, then the women should get 8, too!
“Love was an adventure. It should be spontaneous and irresponsible and a little crazy. Not planned for. Not overthought. I had no idea when I was going to say those words to Jamie, and I liked not knowing. I wanted impulsive I love you’s and reckless desires. I wanted this how it always was between us—uncontrollable. Overwhelming. And never, ever contained.”
Tori is sass, and I love a sassy heroine. She resists Jamie out of fear, fear of his reputation, of being hurt by him, and of being damaged again like her previous relationships. Her struggle and her pain make the reader sympathetic to her plights, and when she goes to seek comfort after a tumultuous encounter, readers’ hearts will break for her. This act is the impetus for the relationship and really where readers get to see Tori for who she is, a woman embracing what she needs and no longer being weighed down by fear. Her growth in this novel after she relinquishes this weight is really when Tori shines and when she earns the adoration of readers.
Is this love or just a game?
Tori Rivera thinks Jamie McCade is rude, arrogant, and worst of all . . . the sexiest man she’s ever laid eyes on. His reputation as a player is almost as legendary as his surfing skills. No matter how her body heats up when he’s around, she’s determined not to be another meaningless hookup.
Jamie McCade always gets what he wants. The sickest wave. The hottest women. And Tori, with her long legs and smart mouth, is definitely the hottest one. He knows Tori wants him-hell, most women do-but she won’t admit it. After months of chasing and one unforgettable kiss, it’s time for Jamie to raise the stakes.
Jamie promises that soon Tori won’t just want him in her bed, she’ll be begging for it-and he might be right. Somehow he’s found the spot in her heart that makes her open up like never before. But with all she knows about his past, can she really trust what’s happening between them? Is Jamie playing for keeps or just playing to win?
This book can be read as a stand-alone.
Full review of Hit the Spot
“When you’ve spent your whole life not being good enough, it takes time to let yourself believe that you finally are. Self-worth isn’t a switch that flips inside you. It’s a daily struggle not to sabotage your own success. Not to cave into the voices inside your head that whisper you’re not good enough, or you’ll fuck things up, or that someone else could do things better than you.”
I LOVE Kat. She is one of my favorite heroines ever, mainly because she is jaded, complex, insecure, but also brave. There is so much depth to her character that she becomes completely relatable. Her insecurities have been mine, her search for love and jaded personality as a result is understandable, her choices to become involved with someone you know will hurt you resonates. I often found myself nodding and agreeing with the ideas she spouted, and I adore her bite and sarcasm. I felt for her and with her, often feeling my heart ache within my chest when her would came crashing down multiple times. I love her most because she is real, and she is brave enough to go after love pushing past her fear.
Katharine Firestone is a bit of a mess.
Between an acting career that’s never quite made lift-off to stardom, a pathetic love life of online-dating-app losers, and a maxed-out balance on every one of her credit cards, things can’t get much worse. So, when she’s plucked from relative obscurity to land a lead role in Hollywood’s next big blockbuster, Kat is sure she’s finally on the right track.
Until she meets her co-star, Grayson Dunn… and all her plans are completely derailed.
Grayson is everything you’d expect the hottest actor alive to be — charming, disarming, and cocky as hell. As their characters slowly spiral into love on screen, Kat struggles to keep herself from falling for real. She knows handing Grayson her heart and expecting him not to break it would be the biggest mistake of her life. Yet the deeper she’s immersed in his glamorous world, the more blurred the boundaries between scripted affection and sincere passion become… and the harder it is to deny that their on-camera chemistry has crescendoed into a behind-the-scenes love affair…
What happens when you fall for someone who’s guaranteed to shatter you into pieces? Do you walk away? Or do you let him break you because, even broken, there’s simply no way you can’t stay?
THE MONDAY GIRL is a messy contemporary romance about a mixed up girl who falls for the wrong boy. It is the first part of a duet. The second installment, THE SOMEDAY GIRL, will be released a few weeks later, in early 2017. Each installment is approximately 85,000 words. Recommended for readers ages 17+ due to strong language, sexual situations, drug use, and other mature elements.
Full review of The Monday Girl
“Our history runs deep, and the scars aren’t superficial. They’re branded into who I am and have shaped the deformity that is my heart.”
Presley could have so easily been a heroine I didn’t like. In story-lines, such as hers, previous relationships are often devalued, leaving me with antagonistic feelings towards the heroine of the story. Corinne Michaels, however, develops Presley as a character who has incredible strength, fortitude, love, and respect for relationships, romantic and familial. Specifically, Presley’s characterization showcases how she honors her relationship with Todd and still works to maintain her connections to his family for not only her sons but also herself. She never denies that she loved Todd. She never devalues what they had together, and this makes me love her and root for her to get her happy ending.
It was all he had to do. Instead, he got on that bus and took my heart with him.
That was seventeen years ago.
I moved on. Marriage. Kids. White picket fence. Everything I ever wanted, but my husband betrayed me and I was left once again.
Alone, penniless, and with two boys, I had no choice but to return to Tennessee. He wasn’t supposed to be there. I should’ve been safe. However, fate has a way of stepping in.
This time around, the tables are turned. It’s my decision. Second chances do exist, but I don’t know if we can repair what’s already been broken . . .
** This book is a STANDALONE **
Full Review of Say You’ll Stay
“Size eighteen women were supposed to dress like they were apologizing for taking up space in a city where space was at a premium, and I never apologized for it.”
The reason that I love this book so much is because of our heroine, Natalie. I admire her adventurous and bold spirit, her hilarious internal dialogue, and her take-no-prisoners attitude towards men, well, all but one man. After struggling with body issues, Natalie has come to own her plus-size figure, and Alice Clayton gives the appropriate attention to this part of her character without dwelling on it. The message of “love your body” is loud and clear for the reader without beating us over the head with it. The fact that there is a whole discussion on comma placement in reference to her a** had me laughing so hard, and it truly conveyed the confidence Natalie has in herself and her body. The fact that she had gumption to even verbally spar with Oscar over this comment proves that she was able to bounce back from a previous troubled relationship that hurt her self-worth, ultimately making the reader sympathize with her. The musical soundtrack that runs through her head is just one more attribute that makes her such a likeable character. Also, the ramblings of Natalie, particularly when she is around Oscar, only makes her more endearing. This full-on confident city girl is left a blubbering mess when faced with the man who asked her, “Brie?”. I love everything about her! I am not sure in all my years of reading romance novels that I have ever loved a character in the way I love her. I am completely crushing on her!
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton brings her trademark blend of funny and sexy to this second contemporary romance in the brand-new Hudson Valley series!
Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is…cheese.
Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his, ahem, milk can.
Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be…love?
Full Review of Cream of the Crop
“I can’t let you torch what’s left of me.”
Mandi Beck is a crazy genius. The way she wrote Willow’s character had me loving her as much as I love Stone. Why? Because, I felt every single thing Willow felt, and so her emotional experience became my own. For an author to be able to place the reader in such a way that I am feeling her emotional reactions as though they are my own just speaks to the skills of the author. Not only are my feelings toward Stone directly aligned with Willow, but I also respected her as a heroine. She is tough and her strength she exhibits to create a new life just shows how great she is as a character. The final attribute of Willow that sold me on hero is the fact that she puts Stone through the ringer. She doesn’t just accept him with open arms. She is openly defies his advances, seeks comfort in the arms of another, and tries to eradicate him from her life She is one really one of the few heroines I can say truly made a hero work for his redemption, and that, in itself, is admirable.
“A rock star with no rhythm is a man with no soul.” – Stone Lockhart
As the lead singer of one of the hottest bands to hit the rock scene, f*cks are free, drugs come easy, and music is life.
For as long as Stone can remember, Willow has been his music – the notes that weave his soul together. His rhythm.
Until he threw her away.
All he has left is a handful of pills and a few lines of powder to make him forget her. And he tries, over and over.
Clean and ready to make things right, he’s faced with the fact that Willow’s moved on. She’s not the same girl he cast aside. Willow’s a woman sure about her purpose in life. Sure about who she’s meant to love.
Stone may be lost without his rhythm, but Willow has found so much more.
Full Review of Stoned
“He would always be something sharp and deadly on the inside, something that could be used to destroy, but every blade needs a sheath and every gun needs a holster to protect it. I had no problem offering myself up as the thing that kept this particular weapon secure.”
These characters sold the story for me, but none more so than Key. I absolutely love every single aspect of her character. Her confidence and ownership of who she is and her sexuality is completely fantastic, and I am in a state of envy over her self-esteem. Every single time she references her job, her body, or her sexuality with a “this is who I am” attitude, I wanted to stand up and applaud. Heroines like her are often so infrequent, and I love when I come across one. On top of her fierce attitude, I love her acceptance of Nissar. There is no plan to change him, no aloofness to what he actually does. She owns the darkness in him and lets it work with them as a couple. I also love her honor and desire to help others. She is hands down one of my favorite female characters to date.
Don’t be fooled.
Don’t make excuses for me.
I am not a good man.
I’ve seen things no one should, done things no one should talk about. Honor and conscience have no place in my life. But I’ve fought and I’ve survived. I’ve had to.
The first time I saw her dancing on that seedy stage in that second rate club, I felt my heart pulse for the first time. Keelyn Foster was too young, too vibrant for this place, and I knew in an instant that I would make her mine. But first I had to climb my way to the top. I had to have something more to offer her.
I’m here now, money is no object and I have no equal. Except for her. She’s disappeared. But don’t worry, I will find her and claim her. She will be mine.
Like I said, don’t be fooled. I am not the devil in disguise… I’m the one standing front and center.
Full review of Honor
An aspect of Meghan March’s writing that I adore, one of many, is her depiction of her heroines. These women are strong, smart, independent, fierce, and will throw-down with their men if and when needed. There is absolutely no doubt that these women will stand toe-to-toe with their alphas when it is required. More than that, though these women have all overcome some type of hardship in their lives, some struggle that has put them in harm’s way. Their courage in facing these people or circumstances of their past only makes them that much more amazing in my book. Additionally, this group of heroines support each other without any of the standard cattiness that seems to accompany a group of females. These women support and love fully each and every other character in the book. I truly wish I could be a character in this series, and not just for the alpha men but also for the amazing friendships with these phenomenal women.
***Technically, I only read Beneath these Lies & Beneath these Shadows in 2016, but I couldn’t leave out the rest of this amazing group of women just because I read them in 2015.
Beneath this Mask
Former Navy fighter pilot. Son of a congressman. Successful businessman in my own right. With a résumé like mine, women have never been a challenge.
Until I met her.
This sexy, tatted-up bad girl wasn’t part of my plans, but that punch to my gut every time I see her tells me I have to know more.
She’s a mystery. An enigma. A challenge.
I’m going to figure her out—and then I’m going to make her mine.
We’ll find out what she’s hiding . . . beneath this mask.
Beneath this Ink
I’ve always known she was too good for me, but that never stopped me from wanting her.
And then I finally had her for one night.
A night I don’t remember.
I figured I’d blown my shot.
But now she’s walked back into my life, and this time, I have the upper hand. I want my second chance.
Will she be able to see the man beneath this ink?
Beneath these Chains
I was raised on the streets, so I know things are rarely as simple as they appear—especially this rich girl showing up at my pawnshop demanding a job.
She’s the most tempting thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ll be damned if I can make her leave.
Shit just got complicated … but when it comes to her, I want complicated.
We’re both fighting our own demons, and our only chance at a future is to let go of the past.
But will we be strong enough to break free from beneath these chains?
Beneath these Scars
I’m the guy you love to hate.
In every story in my life, I seem to end up playing the villain—and I’ve got the scars to prove it.
That role works fine for me, because I’m sure as hell not anyone’s hero.
I run my life and my empire with an iron fist—until she knocks my tightly controlled world off its axis.
She’s nobody’s damsel in distress, but I can’t help but want to save her anyway.
I guess we’re about to find out if there’s a hero buried beneath these scars.
Beneath these Lies
Look, but don’t touch…she might as well wear a neon sign that says it. It just makes me want her more.
She might be above me in every way, but I still want her under me.
I’ve got no business touching her rich-girl skin, but that won’t stop me from stealing a taste. Because rules were meant to be broken—especially when the prize is so fine.
In a world where nothing is as it seems, what’s buried beneath these lies?
Beneath these Shadows
The only permanent thing in my life is the ink I put on my clients.
I drift from city to city, in and out of beds, from one tattoo shop to the next.
Every time I start to put down roots, I rip them up.
Until New Orleans.
She’s everything I’m not.
Full of fire and life. An innocent where I’m a sinner.
I want to consume her. Protect her. Keep her.
But first, I have to escape from beneath these shadows.
Full review of Beneath these Shadows
#WCW post on Valentina from Beneath these Lies
“The way he kisses me overpowers my mind, and I can no longer fight the desire to need him.”
Viola, with her Harry Potter loving self and her smart mouth, is one of my favorite heroines. Her sass, I love. Every time she gets mouthy or verbally spars with the Travis I internally cheer for her, finding pure entertainment in her game-playing. What I enjoy most though is that Viola is more than this girl that is with Travis. She is a student, a sister, a friend as well, and the writers do a fantastic job fleshing out all of these aspects of her personality to make her seem like a real person who deals with the stresses of life and how they affect relationships. I also love that she chooses to trust Travis. She could have easily been insecure and questioned him, but she chooses to put her faith in him and in their budding relationship, which shows immense bravery on her part. Viola’s ownership of who she is, demands for what she wants, and determination to succeed makes her a top heroine.
Checkmate: This is War
Travis King is the worst kind of a**hole. He taunts me for being a good girl and mocks my high standards.He’s cruel, crass, and has enough confidence to last two lifetimes. And I hate him.
It wouldn’t matter so much if he were avoidable. But considering he’s my older brother’s best friend and roommate, I see him more than I’d ever want to. His sculpted abs and gorgeous eyes are wasted on such an arrogant man, which makes me hate him even more.
Even though I’ve had a crush on him since I was ten, the feelings weren’t mutual and he’s made that very clear. He’s always loved getting under my skin and one night against my better judgment, I let him in my bed. I’ve succumbed to his manw**re ways, but that doesn’t change a thing.
Because the King is about to get played at his own game–and lose.
*Recommend for ages 18+ due to sexual content and adult language.*
**This is War is book 1 of 2 in the Checkmate Duet.**
Checkmate: This is Love
Viola Fisher is the epitome of perfection.
She despises my one-night stands and mocks my less-than-classy habits.
She’s smart, beautiful, and too good to be true.
And I want her.
If she were anyone else, I’d have made my move years ago, but considering she’s my best friend’s little sister, she’s always been off-limits. Not to mention how much she loathes my very existence.
Hating me is her religion, but needing her is mine. Her sexy curves and filthy smart mouth make me want her even more, and I’m more determined than ever to change her mind.
I’ll prove I’m done playing games.
But until then, we’ll continue to play by her rules.
Viola Fisher may have won the battle, but the war isn’t over yet.
*Recommend for ages 18+ due to sexual content and adult language.*
**This is Love is book in the Checkmate Duet. You must read This is War first.**
Full review of Checkmate: This is War & Checkmate: This is Love