I recently read The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne (and loved it so much that I talked about it on WGW a few weeks back). For me, the hero, Grey, (the spymaster of the title) typifies the Sensual Hero. He’s still an alpha—very much so. He knows exactly what he wants, and what he wants is the heroine, Annique. But Annique is so very much his equal that Grey knows he has to be patient or risk losing her. Riding roughshod over this woman, and merely paying lip-service to the deeply held principles that drive her, will only provoke her to repay him in kind—or even kill him. (Yes, she is that capable, and that much his equal. *g*) He has to be smart and devious in his pursuit of her.
For me, the sensual tension throughout this book was breathtaking, and not once was I disappointed that the love scenes were not explicitly described. Here’re some examples:
“The hall gets chilly. Sleep with me tonight, in that bed.”
He cradled her cheek into the warm hardness of his palm. He was so aware of her… even the infinitesimal nod of her head, she felt.
“You have to say it.”
“Yes.” She was without shame.
“I’ll hold you to that.” He drew her against him, body to body, and nuzzled into her hair, breathing the scent, making a growl deep in his throat. It grappled at her heart, that he desired even her smell.
He set his chin on top of her head. “Just hold on to me for a while.”
With her eyes closed, in darkness, it was like being back in France, being blind, knowing Grey by the touch and smell of him. After a time, a clock sounded in one of the rooms along the hall. Seven strokes. His back muscles tightened under her hands, and she knew the little truce between them was over. Truces were of that nature. They ended, sooner or later.
He let her go. “I shouldn’t have made love to you this afternoon. I’ve made you doubt your own judgment. You’d trust me better if your body weren’t hungry for me.” He looked down and traced the shell of her ear with his fingertip. “See? When you feel even that much, you pull back, thinking I’m trying to manipulate you.”
“Are you not?”
He opened his hand, as if he released something. “I don’t know how to convince you. I want you so much I can’t think clearly.”
One final example:
Grey’s hand moved lightly to the nape of her neck, beneath her hair, warm against her skin. He did this to strengthen and reassure her. She had the thought that it does not take much to convince a woman she is in love if one is even a little kind to her when she is alone and frightened.
Sorry, I can’t resist. One last one:
“Oh.” She breathed onto his shoulder. “Well.” He could feel each separate breath. Neither of them moved. Slowly she let her forehead lower till it rested against him. Her tongue—a soft, warm touch—tasted him. Tasted his skin.
He knew for sure, then. This hit her as hard as it hit him. They were both lost. No way back for them.
His hand shook with the effort of keeping control. Slow. He had to go slow. He didn’t trust himself to touch her anywhere but her hair. Her neck. The shell of her ear.
By the end of this book, I was more than a little in love with Grey, myself! He’s strong, capable, ruthless, and utterly determined. And his pursuit and eventual winning of Annique is the most sensual 367 pages I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. Grey truly did capture my heart.
So how does one define sensual?
A dictionary definition is: of, or arousing gratification of, the senses and physical, especially sexual, pleasure.
I think the key words here are “arousing the senses”. For some people, physical beauty is arousing. A sculpted physique or a beautifully proportioned body really does it for them. I can admire physical beauty in a hero—boy, can I what! But for a truly sensual hero, I need more. For example, I have a huge crush on Vin Diesel. Listening to him is like bathing in warm liquid chocolate. That man…. All he needs to do is speak and I’m weak-kneed. A Facebook friend of mine agrees. She swears Vin could read the phone book aloud and make it sound sexy.
But I would be irritated as heck by the heroine commenting ad nauseam about her hero’s chocolately voice. His voice is something I want to know about, of course, just like I want to know about his physical looks. But once I have those fixed in my mind, I’m more interested in what goes on inside his head, and how he treats the heroine. I’m greedy. I want to be gratified by all the components that make up a hero. His looks. His voice. His actions. His inner thoughts. And I want all the heroine’s senses to be aroused by him, too.
The way I see it, like all good things, arousing all the senses takes time.
For me, the most important characteristic a sensual hero can possess is patience. He knows what he wants. He’ll stop at nothing to get it. He’s smart enough to know that if he goes too fast, he’ll lose his prize, AKA the heroine. His method? Slow, sensual seduction. He cherishes all of her little quirks, shows her that he cares about her in a myriad of tiny ways. He entices all her senses but respects her wishes, even as he challenges her and does her head in. He never crosses that invisible line she has metaphorically inscribed in the sand, no matter how much his lust-fueled masculine parts demand otherwise. And when that invisible line is finally crossed, it’s apparently all the heroine’s idea… and then he pounces and she doesn’t have a chance. *evil grin*
I was allocated the Sensual Hero as part of our Writers Gone Wild “We Give Great Hero” series by fellow Wild Woman, Jennifer, who commented, “You have the perfect two-cock alien pleasure slave.” Jenn’s one smart cookie. She’s read my SFR book, From The Ashes, so she must have a reason for believing that Asher, despite his extra set of male parts, and despite being genetically bred as a sex slave, is an example of a Sensual Hero.
After giving it some thought, I think she’s right. Asher is a Sensual Hero. Through the mental bond he shares with Calista he knows her deepest thoughts and desires. He knows she lusts after him in the worst way. But he also knows how she feels about slavery, and that if she fucked him, she’d not be able to forgive herself for taking advantage of him, using him. So rather than using his obvious charms to seduce her and satisfy her sexually, he is determined to overcome his genetic programming, and become the man she wants him to be. His own man, in other words. A man who is worthy of being loved by a woman like Calista, rather than a victim bred to be a plaything for others. And along the way, while he learns to stand up for himself and his own needs, and defend himself against those who desire to use him, he must convince Calista that she, too, is worthy of being loved and cherished.
How does he do that? By holding back whenever she becomes too overwhelmed by his sexuality and her own physical needs. Whenever she’s provoked to space her morals and beliefs out the airlock and jump his bones, no matter how much Asher wants her, he is her voice of reason. And because he knows all her secrets and understands what motivates her, Asher becomes the man who finally helps Calista to let go of the past, and embrace a future where she can love and be loved…. By him, of course. It is a romance, after all!
Kat On A Hot Tin Roof (my novella in Red Sage’s Secrets Volume 30: Desires Unleashed anthology due out on July 30) is a sensual hero, too…. Eventually. When Kat finally allows him to be.
In one of my favorite scenes, he turns up on her doorstep, only to find an exhausted, sleep-deprived, stressed to the max woman. So what does he do? He runs her bath, pours her a glass of wine, takes care of her. Even more importantly, he sits beside the bath to keep her company while she relaxes, and lets her quiz him about his childhood. Which is a Big Deal so far as Kat’s concerned, because he’s finally revealing himself to her in a way that’s even more intimate than sex.And when Jace comes back from paying the pizza delivery boy, and discovers Kat’s fallen asleep in the bath, he tucks her into bed and doesn’t join her—even though it just about kills him not to crawl in with her. What a man. *sigh*
So there it is: my take on the Sensual Hero. Long may he grace the pages of our books!
And I’d love for y’all to share your own thoughts about Sensual Heroes, and share any particular examples that you’ve come across. Any takers?
Starting 18th July, and continuing for two weeks, the Wild Writers will take you on our own personal tour of great heroes. Check in every weekday to see what flavor of hero we’re discussing, and let us know whether you think he’s hot, or not. Then at the end of July, two lucky commenters will win fabulous collections of books from our back lists and by other authors we admire.
U.S. and Canada only (print) package:
Autographed copies of Blue Angel by Logan; Secrets Volume 30 (signed by contributor Anne); Secrets Volume 27 (signed by contributor Liane); Who Needs a Hero by Jenn; Starfire (Demonfire) by Kate Douglas; and Blood of the Rose: The Tudor Vampire Chronicles by Kate Pearce.
World-wide (e-book) package:
The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: Skeletons in the Closet and Redeeming Characters by Jenn; Even Demons Get the Blues, Let Sleeping Demons Lie, From the Ashes, and Scent of a Man by Maree; Shifting Priorities, Wanton, and Stranded on Earth by Anne; Out of Her League and Cover of Darkness by Kaylea; Fallout by Karly; Wicked Redemption and Believe by Liane; and Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann.
Because there may be a drought in Texas, but at Writers Gone Wild, it’s raining men.