Scarred heroes in contemporary romance

This is cross-posted at The Season where Bev is giving away a copy of Deirdre Martin’s Icebreaker to one commenter.

The last week of December, I celebrated my final few days of holiday by dipping into the pile of books I’d bought myself for Christmas. Completely unintentionally, the two books I read were both contemporaries with scarred heroes.

Edge-of-Sight-coverThe first, Edge of Sight by Roxanne St. Claire, is a sexy, exciting romantic suspense with one of the hottest heroes I’ve read about. He and the heroine have a history together, but in their years apart he’s suffered horrifically and it’s kept him from contacting her. To say anything more would spoil parts of the plot, so instead I’ll quote the back cover copy, which describes Zach as “a Special Forces vet with the scars to prove he’s  both courageous and flawed.”

The second, Never Too Hot by Bella Andre, is a very steamy contemporary single title starring a wounded firefighter. The reader finds out about Connor MacKenzie’s scars in the first paragraph, so I don’t think it’d spoil anything to say his hands and arms were burned and he’s had skin grafts which continue causing him terrible pain and discomfort.

In Bella Andre’s book, the scars are a mark of heroism but also a sign that the hero’s future plans are damaged beyond repair. Connor is desperate to get back to firefighting because it’s all he’s ever imagined doing, but doing so would mean not having a future with his heroine.

In Roxanne St. Claire’s, the scars Zach carries are a constant reminder of a decision he made that cost the men who trusted him far more than it cost him. When he is asked to protect his heroine, he has good reason to doubt his abilities.

Scars are used for so many reasons in romance, but as I think back over my twenty years of reading romance it seems like characters—particularly men—suffer more and more.

Never Too Hot coverBack in the early 90s, contemporary heroes sometimes had a scar slashed across their cheeks, probably to make them sexier instead of being a physical manifestation of their emotional torment. Now, contemporary men can be missing body parts, or even sacrifice them while protecting their lover.

I can only think of one contemporary romance I’ve read recently that featured a terribly scarred heroine: the amazing Butterfly Tattoo by Deidre Knight. (If you love unusual, deeply emotional contemporary romance, please do yourself a favor and read Butterfly Tattoo. It’s one of my favorite books.)

Although I don’t seek out scarred characters, gut-wrenching contemporary romance is my favorite thing to read so I’d love to know what you think about characters who might make other people stare.

Are we living in darker times? Do scarred characters reflect the popularity of military characters and the fact that many militaries around the world are engaged in fighting wars right now? Or are authors upping the ante to create more emotional, more gripping stories? Do you feel more sympathetic toward scarred characters because of all they’ve survived?

Finally, any books you can recommend?

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