Swooniest Heroes (a conversation with Pepper Basham)

Posted April 2, 2016 by meezcarrie in Becky Wade, Carla Laureano, Christian, Dawn Crandall, Denise Hunter, Jody Hedlund, Laura Frantz, Pepper Basham / 58 Comments



Just the word brings about images of tall, strong, and swoony men emerging into a story with enough testosterone to encourage a primal growl from the purist of prudes.  Okay, so some heroes might encourage more of a quiet sigh as their tenderness, touch of tease, and/or quiet strength wrap around your heart like a constant hug…from nice strong arms.

But they’re both heroes. The flirty, leather jacket-type bad boy with a good heart AND the quiet, powerful pillar ready to protect and comfort in a moment.

Carrie and I are discussing heroes today. The gorgeous, the great, and the swoon-worthy.

a few of our favorite heroes.jpg

Everyone has their favorites, you know – and for different reasons, but we’re trying to list some of our top choices and WHY. (Mind you, this is a HIGHLY reduced list because we LOVE good heroes, and authors are great at writing them).

And of course we want to hear from you because, honestly, can you really have too many fantastic heroes? We say NAY! No WAY. Nada. Nein….Nope!

About two months ago, we developed a Hero Scale – and though imperfect (because really how can you rate the many variants of perfection) it’s a good guide for chatting about our favorites.

hero scale

Pepper has already talked about these categories as they relate to Austen’s heroes over at The Writer’s Alley, but today we’re going to use the scale to analyze the level 5 heroes.

The swooniest.

Let’s talk about a few of these hunky guys… and let’s stay in safer territory than the whole Darcy/Knightley debate by focusing on novels from more recent years 😉

The first type of the # 5 category is affectionately referred to as The Flirt – Possible Bad Boy/Adventurer.

meant to be minePepper: We’ve both agreed that Ty Porter goes at the top of this list…and he encourages much more than a deep sigh and a long stare.

Carrie: How about some girlish giggling? Because as long as Ty is in the room, I’ll be doing plenty of that. By the way… we are clearly talking about after he comes back to his senses. Before that, he’s like in the negative range. But – and please know I’m fanning myself as I type this – what a comeback! Irrepressibly flirtatious.  One-track mind when it comes to kissing. (I’m fanning again….)  ADORABLE as a daddy without losing the bad boy vibe that makes him so … ahem … hot.

Pepper: Guys with kids just melt my heart, especially guys with little girls and babies! This just put him way up at the top of the list, and yes – once he gets some sense literally knocked into him, he transforms from a grumpy goose into a hunky hero. He definitely tends toward more devil-may-care on the outside with an intense heart on the inside, you know? Another thing that just gives my heart a wonderful jolt is, despite his external control, he is DEEPLY impacted by Celia’s response to him. When she shows up at his parents’ house after his accident, the intensity of his reaction to her being there is absolutely palpable. I LOVE that. We get a brief look at the weakness for such a strong man and the strength this woman’s nearness brings to him.

Carrie: Intense “his-woman”-induced emotion in a strong man usually puts that hero in a level 4 or 5 category for me too. Something about those reactions… whew.

Pepper: Oh mama! Yes!! What a great start! Who else ya got on your list?

five days in skye.jpgCarrie: I’m sure no one is surprised by this… but myJames (or as he’s known to everyone else, James MacDonald).  And can we just go ahead and get a couple of dreamy sighs over with right now because no way can I recover from talking about Ty and transition into talking about myJames without needing to get some good old-fashioned swooning out of my system.  Oh – and could someone hand me a bib for all this drool? And something to unfreeze my face from the goofy grin perpetually stuck there when talking about either of these two flirtatious hunks. I mean… heroes. Flirtatious heroes.

Pepper: I think you need a hashtag like #Carriesjames or something. Besides, really? Who can overlook a Scottish brogue? Sigh. I think, like with Ty, there’s this persona the world sees but this deeper person that Andrea brings out in him, almost against his will. That’s how you know they’re MFEO 😉

Carrie: I actually do use the hashtag #teamJames from time to time. I need to break it out again. Perhaps adapt it per your suggestion.  I love myJames as a hero mostly for the grinning and winking and flirting and playfuling (new word) and SMOLDERING.  But – for all of James’ flirting and SMOLDERING, he has a very solid side to him. (And I don’t just mean his muscles.)


Pepper: Um….sure you don’t.

Carrie:  Hey – I’m trying to appear less shallow here. 😉 James has depth of character that most people overlook in their celebrity image of him – and, granted, it is an integrity that evolved with time and maturity.  Part of James’ journey during his five days in Skye is to come to grips with his two personalities – his public facade and his private truth – and how his relationship with God is represented in each.  And that right there… as well as how his presence helps Andrea unfold from her cocoon… is the main reason I love myJames.  That, and the winking and SMOLDERING, of course.

Pepper: A Godly guy with a smolder? How on EARTH can it get any better than that?!?…add in an English, Australian, Irish, or Scottish accent and I…well, as Mikal Hermanns so frequently says “I die”.

Pepper: However, we are trying for a broader view of swoony-guys. This next batch may not be the kind that overtly makes you want to run grab your biker jacket or your tickets to The Isle of Skye, but they are swoon-worthy none the less.

Carrie: I’m sorry… did you say something? I succumbed to a swoon somewhere around “Godly guy with a smolder”.

Pepper: Who wouldn’t? Wowzah! And there’s MORE!

The second type of #5 category hero is lovingly referred to as The Tender Tease – Nurturer.

What do we mean by this guy? He’s the kind who can certainly flirt, but there’s a subtler quality to him. He draws you in with encouragement and camaraderie, and tops it off with some good old fashioned playfulness.

NobleGroom_mck.inddPepper: I picked Carl from Jody Hedlund’s book A Noble Groom. Oh my goodness!! I would say he probably had a smolder or two in here too, but his main way of being swoon worthy is his gentle pursuit and subtle humor. And…of course, he’s absolutely wonderful with kids! That gets me every time! He has this gentle charm and self-sacrificing care. I tell you, I keep thinking of the word ‘cherish’ with this category. They have a special way of showing their heroine how very special they are. With Carl there are a few daring rescues, but mostly in the quieter moments (and I include a child-birthing scene within those moments). He consistently places Annalisa and her girls above his own desires. I’m just…sigh…undone.

Carrie: CHERISH, yes.  And that rain kiss.  😀

Pepper: Great googley moogley! The RAIN KISS!! There’s my hashtag #therainkiss

Carrie: That cover, too.  I’ll just be here staring at him for a while if you need me….

a twist of faith revisedCarrie: But fortunately for all of us, I can multitask! So while I stare at Carl, I’m also going to talk about your (Pepper’s) own Reese Mitchell from A Twist of Faith.  Reese is yummy in all the best ways, but what makes him one of my favorite Pepper Basham heroes (y’all haven’t met the other two yet) is exactly the category he falls into here – his teasing and his nurturing.  Like Ty, he’s got the daddy adorableness going on – and the talent at kissing – and the flirtatious side (though it comes across more as teasing… which is my FAVORITE type of flirting!). But Reese is a bit more settled, a lot more mature, and while he likes to have fun he has to take life more seriously than Ty has so far.

One of my favorite scenes between Reese and Dee (besides the kissing… wowza!) happens during a kiss-induced discussion of to-do lists.

Her grin spread wide. “I’m on a list along with fertilizer, overshoes, and cattle feed.”

“There’s no need to be jealous, darlin’.  You’re near the top of the list.”

The discussion leading up to those lines, the way he’s letting her bury her head in his chest, his gentle teasing … they are all a perfect example to me of why he’s a #5 hero and why he falls in this particular category.

Pepper: I just sighed. I so love how tender and fun he is – and a rather perfect match for her, IMO. You know, I do think you nailed a thought on the head by saying he’s ‘settled’. There is something incredibly strong in the fact that he kind of knows who he is but is still willing to take risks and grow as a person.

convenient groomAnd now I’m wondering if Lucas Wright might go better in this category than the next? He was a hard one to place, which is why we have three in this category instead of a symmetrical two 🙂 Lucas Wright is the hero of MY FAVORITE Denise Hunter book, The Convenient Groom. He’s so…so….self-sacrificing and devoted. Good gravy, that is incredibly sexy without even a smolder – but he has smolders TOO! He KNOWS Kate, has observed her to such an extent he anticipates her movements and needs. Again truly cherishing her, even when she’s rather rotten to him. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Denise Hunter’s heroes mimic some of the best Christ-like features of any heroes out there, to me. There’s this faithful and forgiving quality to many of them, and Lucas is at the very top – although The Goodbye Bride had a pretty swoony hero too.

Carrie: I think you’ve really defined this category even more specifically, Pepper , with that word “cherish”.  The tender teasing can be such a wonderful part of showing adoration but so is that steadiness! As you said, incredibly sexy.  Smolder not required (though a very nice bonus!) And I absolutely agree with you about Denise Hunter’s books  – some of the best Christlike heroes out there. (Although you, Pepper, have a fantastic Christlike hero waiting to be discovered in the final Penned in Time book.  I can’t wait for everyone to meet him!)

Pepper: One word. August 🙂

Carrie: Another word. Swoon 🙂

And the third type of #5 category hero is wonderfully referred to as The Quiet Strength – Protector      

This category celebrates the swooniness of the quiet hero. The faithful friend who slides gently into a very different role and steals our hearts along with the heroine’s. These heroes are as powerful as the first two, but in a very different, and sometimes surprising, way.

Unequivocally, Laura Frantz’s (and Morrow Little’s) Red Shirt belongs in this category.

Red Shirt Jay T.

Courting Morrow LittleCarrie: Red Shirt is the hero of heroes, Morrow’s friend first and foremost, and a wonderful picture of Jesus.  Morrow thinks she is weak but Red Shirt is ever in her corner, believing in her, telling her that he knows she’s far from weak. Plus, we get to see this strong, quiet hero as a husband. As a father. And there’s something about all of the above which inevitably makes a bevy of women sigh in unison when Red Shirt’s name or CML come up in conversation.

Pepper: There’s such a depth to him, so that when he speaks we listen. Morrow listens. Laura Frantz did a beautiful job of tangibly creating this quiet strength that reverberates from him and surrounds Morrow. He cherishes her. See, there I go using that word again! Red Shirt’s style is quiet, but constant, and ready to take on the world for the ones he loves with this impenetrable strength. Oh….what could be more swoony-worthy than that? To be cherished? Go get my fan!

Carrie: Yes! Grab an extra fan for me while you’re at it, please!

the bound heartCarrie: Another hero that absolutely must be mentioned here is Lawry Hampton from Dawn Crandall’s The Bound Heart. Lawry is another Christlike hero to me because his relationship with Meredyth is a beautiful picture of how Jesus loves us. From the way Lawry waited with agonizing patience for Meredyth to reciprocate his feelings, to his adoration of Wynn, to the way he demonstrates unconditional love. Even how he punches Vance. It all points back to how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus for each one of us.

Pepper: There’s a lot to be said for a healthy punch to the jerk in defense of his lady love. Even the quietest, calmest guys must run to the daring rescue of their ladies. And Lawry does this and so much more. Like you said, Carrie, he has the beautiful patience, a tempered pursuit. I did want to slap some sense into Meredyth on several occasions, but Lawry…oh my goodness, faithful, consistent, tender Lawry. What a friend…and a lover. Oh so sweet!

So… now it’s your turn. Let us know some of your #5 heroes and WHY you would place them as a #5 🙂

About Pepper Basham

pepperquiltlaughingBesides being a prolific and award-winning author, Pepper Basham is also my friend.  One of those friends you can spend hours chatting with about everything and nothing. Laughing. Supporting each other. Laughing some more. Swooning over Captain Hotface (aka Hook from OUAT). Which inevitably brings about more laughter…

So it makes perfect sense that Pepper writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus, and proud AlleyCat over at a group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley.

Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015 and very quickly won a Readers’ Favorite Book Award. The Thorn Bearer has also recently made the 2015 Inspy Awards longlist and finaled in the 2015 Grace Awards. Pepper’s second book in her Penned In Time Series, The Thorn Keeper, released in February 2016 and already made my most recent KissingBooks 101 list (something I’m sure all authors aspire to LOL).

Pepper’s first contemporary novel A Twist of Faith (featuring the swoonworthy Reese Mitchell) debuts on April 6th. RT Book Reviews called it a “witty, sweet romance with memorable, honest characters.” If you love books that come with a dose of humor as well as faith, family, and flirting, then you need to be running right out to preorder a copy of this delightful book!

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58 responses to “Swooniest Heroes (a conversation with Pepper Basham)

  1. FUN!!!! OK, I need to REALLY think about this. I might need to reread a couple to make sure they fall in the categories you and Pepper are thinking. But boy, I do agree about Reese and Lawry. I’m still waiting to read about James, sorry (busy schedule), but I believe he’s patiently waiting for me. I take a nice turn of my head to my bookshelf and there he sits….waiting. So one day, I will give you my list and from the sound of it, James may be on it too. =P

  2. Sarah

    Ok, I have a confession. I pretty much develop crushes on every hero in every book. To pick favorites would be like picking which child I loved the most. Don’t worry fictitious men, this woman has enough love for you all!

  3. Rebecca Maney

    Such a fun post. Lot’s of my favorites are “front and center”. I thought “Five Days in Skye” was about the most romantic book of all time when I read it. I even hit up Pinterest and started pinning “Isle of Skye” pictures just to get my mind wrapped around the setting. But I am with you, Reese Mitchell is pretty special, especially since I have all kinds of southern VA roots.

    • Carrie

      Yes, myJames notwithstanding – Five Days is one of my favorite romances ever! 🙂 And Reese…. Oh goodness, don’t get me started again lol

  4. Fun post, girls 😉 I’m with you on all of these – shout out to Lucas from my fav Denise Hunter book, too.

    Could we add a wounded hero section, too? Hmmm…Ronie Kendig’s Sal “Falcon” Russo (Falcon) and don’t get me started on Tox Russell who will be released upon unsuspecting readers everywhere in October (The Warrior’s Seal) and December! (Conspiracy of Silence), Tamara Leigh’s Abel Wulfrith (The Kindling) and Axel Smith (Leaving Carolina) and Susan May Warren’s Owen Christiansen (You’re the One That I Want).

    I better stop now…

    • Carrie

      ooooo these are some additionally excellent choices, Rel! Yes! Ronie’s heroes are always good for several swoons. I still need to read both of those Tamara Leigh titles and that last Christiansen family book but I have heard marvelous things about them all. And their heroes 🙂

  5. Debra

    well, this is a wonderful post for a Saturday night. I haven’t read all these books, but I absolutely agree with the ones I have. Goodness! The funny thing is, I am a guest blogger this week and my post is a rating of Austen heroes. Apparently, it makes good sense to use these “universally known” heroes!

    Thanks for a mini vacation to hero-land!

    Loved him. (He’s the only one I’ve read out of these books ya’ll mentioned…and I’m biased…) But OH my word. He had me swooning from the “Will you light my fire line.” And seeing him with his children. Ohh. My HEART.

    • Carrie

      Oh Meghan! You must take this list and use it as a syllabus for the books you should read and the heroes you need to meet by this time next year 😉

  7. Oh, oh, OH!!! I die. 😉 Look at all those heroes! And I know the majority of them so well. <3 The others, I am sooooo sure to meet. SOON.

  8. Winnie Thomas

    You two are having way too much fun! I’m so glad you are vetting all the heroes and posting about the swoon-worthy ones. You are certainly saving us all a lot of trouble by narrowing down the books we need to read. I already have so many on my TBR list it will last me for the rest of my life–and I keep adding to it!! Luckily for me, I have already read about half of these, and I have a couple more on my Kindle to read. And A Noble Groom is on sale today for $1.99–whoops, just added another one to my Kindle! Thanks for the laughs! I’m going to have to make sure my air conditioner is working well–I think I’m going to need it with all the smoldering going on!

  9. Best. Post. Ever! But I think that about ALL of yours! You & Dr. Pepper make a lovely team! And I cherish (there’s that word again:) your words here & honoring Red Shirt. Amazing that a man w/o a real name or POV leaves a mark. Thank you for honoring CML with these other great heroes/books!

    • Carrie

      Laura, I cherish all of your comments. Always so beautiful and gracious – just like you 🙂

    • Laura,
      Love that you stopped in to see our adoration of Red Shirt. I have to say there is something about Cassius that I find incredibly interesting too! Ahhh….you write some of the best heroes!

  10. carylkane

    This post needs a warning label….HOT! *wink* Thanks for the fun post Meez Carrie and Pepper. 😀

  11. Emilee

    Great list! I’ve read most of these, and just added Five Days in Skye. I’ll never forget Ty Porter, love those bad boys. Redshirt is another one of my favs. Definitely need a fan.

  12. Carrie and Pepper, you ladies are a HOOT! I love it!
    I nominate Dillon Bleu from Goodbyes and Second Chances by T.I. Lowe. #5 list of characteristics fits him perfectly and crank up the A/C because he has serious smolder!

  13. I’m loving this post! Red shirt – pass me the fan! 🙂 I can happily say I’ve read all but 2 of these!

    Dr. David Ross is absent on this list, though! In my opinion, he slightly nudges Reese into second place. Peppermint might have something to do with it.

    Another few I’d add: Cullen from Tamera Alexander’s To Win Her Favor and Morgan Spencer from Kristen Heitzmann’s The Breath of Dawn (I might’ve mentioned him recently, but I’ll offer no apology), and Mitch from Julie Lessman’s A Passion Redeemed.

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