Debra Dixon here, we have a guest blogger today. She is new to Loveswept and Random House, which we all know are near and dear to my heart. Without further adieu, here is Ruthie Knox.

The Groveling Potential of a Grouchy Hero

By Ruthie Knox

Some of the best-known, most beloved founding texts of the romance genre contain deeply grouchy heroes. Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice—these men were grumpy. They’re arrogant and condescending, short-tempered, even cruel. What’s to love?

Indeed, when I first encountered all of these novels as a teenager, their heroes did nothing for me. I fell hard for Jane Eyre, but Rochester? Meh. I could take him or leave him. Darcy, too, for that matter. Why did it take him so long to come around to Elizabeth’s many charms? Why did he have to be such a jerk?

These days, though, I have a serious soft spot for grouchy heroes, because I appreciate that they have something the voluble, charming fellows lack: excellent groveling potential.

Seriously. Grouchy heroes are so sure of themselves. They are sedulously arrogant, certain of their power and importance, settled in their worldviews. They know beyond a shadow of doubt that the heroine has nothing—nothing—of value to offer them.

The reader knows otherwise.

And thus it becomes a pleasure of the purest, most delicious sort to wait and watch, measuring the precise distance our grouchy hero will have to fall in order to become worthy of the heroine. How far will he have to crawl, gravel biting into his knees, before he deserves this woman he was prideful enough to think beneath him?

For me, the hero’s fall is, in fact, the most enjoyable part of both Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. Rochester and Darcy each propose marriage somewhere around the halfway point of their books, but no, no, they’re not done groveling yet. They haven’t fallen far enough or hard enough. Rochester doesn’t deserve his little Janet until he’s been forced to survive fire, scandal, blindness, and her loss. Mr. Darcy remains unworthy of Elizabeth until he’s endured the sting of rejection, become thoroughly embarrassed by his own conduct, and resolved to right all the wrongs he’s done to his beloved and her relations.

This groveling thing—I’m not sure it gets enough attention in conversations about “alpha heroes,” past and present. Critiques of the bodice rippers of the past often suggest that the virginal heroines of such books succumb to the dubious charms of men unworthy of their love, as if the main attraction of the books’ heroes is their ability to do violence, to master the heroine. As if the heroine’s primary role is to swoon and be taken on the gangplanks, and then to be so brainwashed as to like it.

Not so. From the very beginning, romance novels have been about the humbling of arrogant men. Because nothing confirms love’s power to conquer obstacles quite so handily as watching a neat, smart, plain woman of no fortune humble a grouchy, presumptuous, arrogant jackass and turn him into decent husband material.

It’s a tale that never gets old. Which is why we never get tired of telling it.

Ruthie Knox spent her formative years hiding romance novels in her bedroom closet to avoid the merciless teasing of her brothers. After graduating from Grinnell College with an English and history double major, she earned a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use. These days, she writes witty, sexy, smart contemporary romance. Her debut novel, Ride with Me—which features a very grouchy bike mechanic hero—releases from Loveswept on February 13.

Buy Now:

Barnes & Noble

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  1. CateS says:

    Love watching those pompous jackasses fall !!! Look forward to your newest!!

  2. SueG says:

    You know, I never looked at it that way, but now that you mention it . . . reading those scenarios are some of my most favorite too! That must be why I love Tom, I mean, RIDE WITH ME – your paring him to Lexie made the ride oh so much fun! Congrats on your new release!!

  3. Cindy Gerard says:

    Love your take on this Ruthie. And it is fun seeing a strong man beg LOL Congrats on the new release!

  4. TrishJ says:

    Something about a groveling hero just empowers us doesn’t it. The book sounds fantastic.

  5. loisgreiman says:

    🙂 Ruthie, I love your post. Thanks for joining us. I couldn’t agree more. Good romance authors just set ’em up to knock ’em down. Love it.

  6. JMM says:

    I like these, too – as long as the HEROINE is strong-willed enough to tell him EXACTLY where to get off and what to do when he gets there.

  7. Leanne says:

    Ruthie, congrats on your publication and welcome to the ‘vert! I love a cranky hero, especially when it’s motivated, and love watching him find his way to love with a strong, worthy woman!:)

    • Ruthie Knox says:

      Thank you! I’m glad so many of you share my love for the grouchy hero. Be warned, though — next book around, I’m going to be out singing the praises of a chatty English banker. Am fickle that way.

  8. Welcome, Ruthie! Can’t wait to read RIDE WITH ME. I’m intrigued with the growl-y loner who doesn’t want to be bothered. He’s always deeply wounded. Not that he’d ever admit it.

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  10. MaryC says:

    Loved the post – have Ride With Me preordered – can’t wait to read it!

  11. Debra Dixon says:

    Oh, my gosh! I had such a bad day that I just now got to the blog to welcome Ruthie. LOL!

    So…um…welcome, Ruthie. Great post. And yummy cover!

  12. Caffey says:

    I so smiled reading your post Ruthie and Debra! I’m reading a book now and just a couple chapters in and so know this hero is going to have to do alot of groveling to win this heroine, so much in that its a Medieval and during the time periods, it varied too I think on what they could do then! You know, I haven’t read Jane Eyre yet. I so must change that after reading this! Awesome post!

    cathiecaffey @

    • Ruthie says:

      Glad to hear I made you smile! Medieval groveling is good, especially when it involves swords. And definitely Jane Eyre is worth checking out. One of my favorite books!

  13. Pingback: Ruthie Knox (aka Ruth Homrighaus ’98) debuts romance novel | My Sportsline

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