Having Fun With Wounded Heroes by Annie West

by Annie West, author of Scandal: His Majesty”s Love-Child (Harlequin Presents, July 2010. Final book in the Dark-Hearted Desert Men series)

It doesn’t sound right, does it? In fact it sounds downright mean to suggest you’d enjoy someone else’s pain. But that’s what romance writers (and, I’d propose romance readers), enjoy.

OK, I’m not actually saying that we get a kick out of someone else’s pain. But, when a hero is tortured by their past, it makes him ripe for the plucking by some enterprising romance author.

A wounded hero is so interesting – all those hidden layers to discover. Their behaviour is affected by what’s gone before, often in an attempt to protect themselves or someone they care for from further hurt. Or perhaps it’s colored their assessment of others, making them ready to jump to conclusions about people’s motives and methods.

I’ve written wounded heroes before. The man who’d lost his family as a child in traumatic circumstances, driven to regain the trappings of his family’s past wealth and possessions and home, in lieu of having a family himself. The hero who’s lost his memory of the woman he loved. The one who’s determined to wreak vengeance on the person who destroyed his mother. The man who’ll do anything to save his child rather than watch her suffer. I’m sure if you think through the Presents titles you’ve read you’ll find plenty of men with pasts – pasts that have made them suffer and change.

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of discovering another wounded hero. I was lucky enough to be asked to write the final book in the Dark Hearted Desert Men series to follow books by Carol Marinelli, Jennie Lucas and Trish Morey.

Tahir, from my July Presents Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child isn’t driven by vengeance or the need to build a world to replace the one he’s lost. He’s is the consummate loner. He’s made and lost and made again several fortunes. He has wealth, power, prestige, women who vie for his attention, a jet setting life of business, extreme sports and high stakes gambling. Yet it all means nothing to him. He’s discovered that despite his ‘success’ in the material world, he cares for none of it. If you want to find out what he’s like then visit my website http://www.annie-west.com and you’ll find an excerpt on the book page.

Oh, what a joy he was to write! Though he had it all, Tahir instantly grabbed my sympathy. Beneath the uber sophisticated gloss was a man suffering from his past. Yet a man who didn’t take out his dissatisfaction on others. He was still, at core, a decent man, though he’d be the last person to think so. Even when he believes his actions are tainted by selfish need, he behaves with honor. And I loved him for that!  As Tahir became alive on the page the more I wanted him to find the happiness he’d been cheated of. I couldn’t wait for him to discover the one woman who could redeem him and help him lay the ghosts of his past.

Fortunately for him, he finds that woman even in the most unlikely of places. Stranded in the desert after a chopper smash, he’s saved by a woman who doesn’t fit his glamorous world. Yet Annalisa brings out feelings he’d thought long buried. She makes him long for what he’s denied himself – love. Even when he returns to the ‘real’ world – to life in a palace, he discovers Annalisa has changed his life, as he’s changed hers.

I love romantic heroes of all sorts, especially if they’re one of the strong alpha heroes we find in Presents. But there’s something about a wounded hero that really grabs me. Maybe it’s my nurturing instinct, wanting to protect him from past and present hurts, even though he’s the epitome of the strong, capable man we all admire. Or my delight in cheering someone who’s survived bad experiences and yet keeps going, refusing to be bowed. Maybe too there’s something about having a soft spot for a bad boy, and wanting to be the one who helps him change his ways.

What about you? Do you enjoy stories about wounded heroes? Do you triumph when they overcome the odds and find happiness? Do you have any stand out favourites?

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Comments ( 36 )
  1. Vanessa Barneveld
    July 1, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Happy birthday, Annie!

    I love heroes who don’t let their painful pasts embitter them. So I know I’m going to love Tahir. I think there’s a lot to like about a person who remains honourable and kind after going through rough times.

  2. Christina Hollis
    July 1, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Tahir sounds the like the perfect Presents hero – a man with a past who isn’t afraid to go out and grab the future. He has integrity, but also enough of the devil to make a heroine want to tame him. Great post, Annie!

  3. Sharon Kendrick
    July 1, 2010 at 6:32 am

    It’s interesting how descriptions of men and women vary, isn’t it?
    If a man is damaged we think of him as a challenge, whereas “damaged goods” has a very different connotation for a woman….

    Tahir (great name) – the latest Dark Hearted Desert man sounds WONDERFUL, Annie!

  4. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Hi Vanessa, thanks for the birthday wishes. I thought it such a treat that the book’s official release date is the same day. I think you’re right – someone who’s stoic through the tough times really appeals to me. I hope you enjoy Tahir too.

  5. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Thanks, Christina! Hey, I like that – integrity but with enough of the devil to make a woman want to tame him. Why couldn’t I have just said that? That’s exactly how I see him. Thank you.

  6. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Hi Sharon,

    Now that’s a thought provoking point! So true too. I wonder how much those perceptions have changed.

    I like the name Tahir too. It apparently means ‘pure’ but my poor hero views himself as anything but. Of course his heroine is able to see what he can’t. So glad you like the sound of this. It was a great experience being part of the series with Carol, Jennie and Trish.

  7. Karen
    July 1, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Hi Annie
    I adored Tahir, he was so jaded with life, but Annalisa soon brought him round.
    I loved the book, it will prove to be one of my fave Sheikh books, you never disappoint. I love your skills in being able to weave a story then you invite us to enter it.
    You are such a clever writer.
    xx Karen

  8. Francine Howarth van Roche
    July 1, 2010 at 7:59 am


    It’s rather poignant that you’ve written a desert (sheikh) man theme in which he’s involved in an air crash, especially as Sheikh Ahmed indeed died in a plane crash in Morocco.

    Brief: Ranked 27th on the Forbes list of the most powerful people in the world, Sheikh Ahmed was only forty-years old and half-brother of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s ruler and the president of the United Arab Emirates.

    To be honest I’m not a fan of sheikh themed novels, but I can see the attraction in “Desert Men” after having met a couple of sheikhs within the world of thoroughbred equines. I just wish the art department realised sheikhs have goatee beards (of varying shapes) even the young sheikhs as soon as youthful bum-fluff turns to bristle: it’s a sign of manhood to sport a goatee!


  9. Sharon Archer
    July 1, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Hi Annie! I love your Tahir! That scene in the desert with Annalisa is just fabulous. When he stumbles in to her life… (happy sigh) I didn’t want the outside world to have to have to interrupt – but of course it had to!


  10. Kandy Shepherd
    July 1, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Hi Annie, I think you have created a truly memorable hero in Tahir. The first chapter shows a man weary of life–the scene in the casino hooked me straight away. Boy, is he wounded, but you reveal to us why in a way that only makes us sympathetic to him and so deserving of the light and love that will be his with Annalisa. She, BTW, is interesting truly a heroine worthy of him. I liked the background you give her, too. They are both complex characters and it is a pleasure to see their story develop.
    A small detail–but I love the “save the cat” moment–in Tahir’s case, a “save the baby goat” moment.
    I really like your sheik stories, but I think this is the best of them all.
    Good luck with the US launch!

  11. Marilyn Shoemaker
    July 1, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Annie, Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child was the perfect ending to the series. Like Sharon said, I also didn’t want the rest of the world to intrude.

  12. Anna Campbell
    July 1, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Wounded heroes? Nah. Never go near ’em!


    Hiya Annie! What a great post. As you know, I absolutely love Tahir and Annalisa’s story. It’s one of your best – and that’s saying something. Right from that James Bondish in the casino opening scene to the gloriously romantic finale, this one’s an absolute winner. I’ve noticed that reviews have been fabulous too – obviously everybody agrees with me that this is a wonderful book! Congratulations!

    As a woman who regularly writes wounded heroes, I’ve got to say I 100% agree with you about the emotional stakes being high the minute you mention the words ‘tortured’ and ‘hero’! Some of my favorites from my reading include the Duke of Jervaulx from Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm and Dane from Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels. Oh, and who can go past Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester? Those Bronte girls sure knew how to do a great WH!!!!

  13. India Grey
    July 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Annie, I just followed your link and read the exerpt – BIG MISTAKE! Now I know I’m not going to be able to rest until I have the book in my hot little hands. It’s an absolute stunner of an opening.

    I am a huge, huge fan of the tormented alpha. Suffering with dignity is surely one of the truest tests of a hero, and knowing that the love of the right woman is the only thing that can heal him is, for me, the essence of Presents. (Big sigh…) Can’t wait to read the rest of Tahir’s story now!

    (my recaptcha words are ‘fulsome lance’. Must make a note of that for my next love scene…)

  14. Maisey Yates
    July 1, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Oooh…I love a tortured hero. I love to torture a hero. No, I don’t want to know what that says about my psyche. 😀

    Annie, I can’t wait to grab the book! You’ve totally sold me!

    India…Fulsome Lance could be the ‘manroot’ of the new millennium. 😀

  15. Kate Hardy
    July 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I love your Sheik books, too – so I’m looking forward to this one.

    India – you bad girl 😀 (And LOL at Maisey’s comment, too!)

  16. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Hi Karen,

    I’ve just logged on (morning here in Australia) and found your comment. Wow! What a wonderful way to start the day! I’m thrilled to hear you adored Tahir and his story. I’ve got a smile from ear to ear. Thanks so much for the feedback!


  17. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Hi Francine,

    Now that’s interesting news about Sheikh Ahmed. And how fascinating that you’ve met several sheikhs yourself. That would give you a whole new slant on the subject!

    As for the goatees, I’m afraid that in that respect all my sheikhs have bucked the trend, preferring to remain clean shaven. As I reader that’s what I prefer and that flows through to my writing. I love having artistic licence over such things!

  18. Sarah Morgan
    July 1, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Annie, I’ve just finished reading Tahir and he was absolutely gorgeous, despite being dark and tortured! I loved the book – in fact I loved the whole series!

  19. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Kandy,

    My grin is growing wider. Thank you for the lovely comments on this book. I think Annalisa is nicely complex too, and strong in a stoic sort of way, or she’d never be a match for Tahir. But of course I’m biased so it’s wonderful to hear someone else with similar thoughts.

    I’m particularly thrilled that you enjoyed the ‘save the goat’ moment! I did too – it made me warm to Tahir. A friend of mine insisted the goat should end up as skewered meat but I just couldn’t do it.

    Thanks for the good wishes on the North American release!

  20. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Hi Marilyn,

    Thank you. That’s such high praise. It was a real thrill being part of a series with Carol, Trish and Jennie – they’re such fabulous writers, and fun to work with too!


  21. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for dropping by. I’m soaking up your praise!

    I thought of your heroes as I was writing this piece. You definitely have a way of torturing your heroes! Poor Gideon in Captive of Sin – he so deserved his happy ending. And of course the Brontes came to mind too, though I’m not sure Heathcliff is my sort of hero. Dane in Lord of Scoundrels is another whose dark history has moulded him into a man who has a blinkered view of himself, a man who has to be saved by the woman who loves him.

  22. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Hi India, I’m chortling at the idea of ‘fulsome lance’ in your next love scene. Can’t wait to see how you manage it but I’m sure you will. What a test of ingenuity to bring that off! I was just thinking last night that surely it’s time for another one of your books here in Aus. Soon I hope.

    Hey, I’m chuffed that you enjoyed the excerpt so much! Like you I enjoy a hero who suffers with dignity. So appealing.


  23. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Argh Maisey, you mean ‘fulsome lance’ might appear in more than one book? I’ll have to keep an eye out when I read yours for that telling description (G),

    I think there’s something about being a writer that means we do appreciate it when our characters suffer. It makes them so interesting, don’t you think?

  24. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Hi Kate,

    How terrific to know you’re a sheikh reader too! Hope you enjoy the book. Wondering if FL might make an appearance in your work too…


  25. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    That’s terrific news, thank you! I’m so looking forward to reading the whole series too. I’ve started – Carol’s book is so wonderfully intense! – but I’ve had to stop to concentrate on my current story. Finishing them is going to be my end of book treat.

  26. Trish Morey
    July 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Annie, I’m three quarters the way through your fabulous book and I’ve forced myself to put it down because I don’t want it to end yet!

    I’m loving Scandal to pieces! Thank you for writing such a fabulous conclusion to our Dark Hearted Desert Men series. I do so love a tortured hero – I’ve got one on the boil right now and he’s coming on a treat, poor love. They come from such a deep, dark place. It’s fabulous to be able to bring them back to the light.

    (And I love that Tahir sports a goat instead of a goatee:-))

  27. Anna Campbell
    July 1, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Fulsome lance? Snort! I love it!

    Annie, what HORRRRRRRRIBLE person would suggest barbecuing the goat? I think you need to develop a better class of friend! Or perhaps less carnivorous friends at least. I’m shocked at the suggestion of cooking the kid (well, maybe after marinating…). SHOCKED, I TELL YOU!

    Mmm, rack of goat? A possibility?

  28. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Ah, Trish, thanks so much. I’m so pleased you feel the book does justice to the rest of the series. I’m jealous of you reading them all and trying to be strong until I get this ms in. The temptation is dreadful.

    Glad you approve of the goat in lieu of a goatee.

    Can’t wait to find out more about your next deliciously tortured hero. You do them so well!

  29. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Anna, I’m ignoring you culinary jibes. Only a very hard-hearted person would want the poor little goat to suffer, especially when they had plenty of food already.

  30. MichelleDouglas
    July 1, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Hi Annie,

    Wow, what a great post! You do wounded heroes so well and after reading the first chapter of Scandal:His Majesty’s Love-Child I am hooked on Tahir! Wounded and tortured – tick. Hot – tick, tick, tick!!! Can’t wait to savour the rest of the book.


    P.S. Ms Campbell – our local Indian restaurant does a mean goat curry if you’re interested 🙂

  31. Annie West
    July 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Oh, Michelle, don’t encourage her! If Anna had had her way that poor little goat would have been kebabs in no time!

    Great to hear that you think Tahir is hot as well as wounded. Hope you get time to savour…

  32. Melanie Milburne
    July 2, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Annie, I adore tortured heroes. They are so brooding and dark and live on in your memory for ages after you put the book down. But Sharon is right. Why does a heroine with a dark past appear damaged or tragic? It doesn’t seem fair. I have a few tortured heroines scattered amongst my books and I love them just as much as the tortured heroes. It’s the evolution of their character that is important. The moving on from the past that only the perfect hero or heroine can help them do.
    I’m off to read your excerpt. I will direct all complaints about no dinner being cooked this evening to you! Oh and goat is definitely not on the menu. Euew!

  33. Annie West
    July 2, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Hi Melanie,

    It’s great to see you here. I know your affinity with brooding and tortured – and it works so well! I love seeing that character evolution you mention. It makes the happy ending so much more satisfying!


  34. Kate Walker
    July 2, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Annie, I love to read about a wounded hero. It’s those painful experiences of life that he has known and that have shaped him, made him the man he is and given him such added depths that we just want to see his heroine dig deep into and expose that man, with those essential vulnerabilities that he has been trying to hide – but can’t conceal from her. It’s wonderful to watch hiom heal and become whole again through love.

    I think you have put it perfectly: Beneath the uber sophisticated gloss was a man suffering from his past. Yet a man who didn’t take out his dissatisfaction on others.

    I’m working my way through the Desert Men books- just finished Trish’s and now I can’t wait to get to yours. After reading your post I’m looking forward to it even more.


  35. Annie West
    July 2, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Hi Kate! Good to see you. I hope you like the finale to the Desert Men series. I like your reference to added depths and the heroine digging deep to expose that/him. I love that in a story – when his vulnerabilities are revealed bit by bit and then, as you say, he’s make whole again through love. That really makes for an ahhh moment for me.

  36. Joanne Dannon
    July 2, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Hi Annie – great post!

    Loved “Scandal”, not only was it fab but it was the perfect ending to the Dark Hearted series! Well done 🙂

    BTW – still chuckling over the stewed goat comments – Anna, love your wicked sense of humour 🙂