The best romance novels for lovers of grouchy, brooding, broken book boyfriends (aka the tortured hero)

Who am I?

The tortured hero was my first love, and I’ve never been able to shake him. He never fails to crush me, and there’s nothing more rewarding to a masochistic reader than being completely annihilated, then put back together again. These heartbroken heartbreakers are easy to love (usually), easy to forgive (hopefully), and always keep you coming back for more (definitely). My character, Darian, was born of my search for the perfect tortured hero, and although I’ve moved on to a different kind of hero for my follow-up novel, Magnolia May, he’ll forever own my heart.  

I wrote...

Waiting for the Sun

By Robin Hill,

Book cover of Waiting for the Sun

What is my book about?

Francesca’s a grieving daughter who promised her late father she’d come out of her shell. Darian’s a grieving widower, content to remain in his. When the lonely pair meet by chance at an Austin, Texas music festival, they find solace in each other’s company. What follows is an unexpected friendship…and the toll it takes when the lines begin to blur.

Waiting for the Sun is an angsty, emotional friends-to-lovers romance about what happens when love finds you after loss—whether you’re open to it or not.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Mists of the Serengeti

Robin Hill Why did I love this book?

Once in Africa, I got my @ss handed to me by a king…” That’s a direct quote from my review, and it will make a lot more sense once you’ve read the book. Jack is the epitome of the tortured hero—angry, terse, godawful at times—but you accept it because, Oh my God! Think of what he’s suffered! And then you get to that part where said hero begins to soften toward the heroine and shut up! This book absolutely gutted me, and the pain was physical. No, seriously. My chest and stomach literally ached. I felt tingly, overheated, exhausted, and drained. And that was just from the prologue! 

By Leylah Attar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mists of the Serengeti as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Leylah Attar, comes a compelling, emotionally resonant novel, set against the lush backdrop of the Serengeti.

An Indie Reader Discovery Award Winner

Once in Africa, I kissed a king…

“And just like that, in an old red barn at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, I discovered the elusive magic I had only ever glimpsed between the pages of great love stories. It fluttered around me like a newborn butterfly and settled in a corner of my heart. I held my breath, afraid to exhale for fear it would slip out,…

Book cover of Rush

Robin Hill Why did I love this book?

Oh, Noah. Noah, Noah, Noah. Ask any old-school Emma Scott fan their favorite tortured hero of hers, and their answer will likely be Noah Lake. This one is broken emotionally and physically, which makes it hard to hold a grudge when he lashes out. Not that I even had a grudge to begin with. I mean, think of what he’s suffered! One of the best parts of the angry tortured hero trope is all that delicious groveling, but with Noah, I didn’t need much. (Alright, fine. I didn’t need any.) FYI, Rush is a standalone that’s only connected to the other books in the series by its city setting.

By Emma Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rush as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable. --John Milton

Charlotte Conroy, Juilliard-trained violinist, was on the cusp of greatness when tragedy swooped down on dark wings, crushing her hopes and breaking her heart. The music that used to sing in her soul has grown quiet, and she feels on the verge of setting down her violin for good. To pay the bills, she accepts a job as a personal assistant to a bitter, angry young man who’s been disabled by a horrific accident…

Noah Lake was an extreme sport athlete, journalist…

Book cover of The Man I Love

Robin Hill Why did I love this book?

As far as tortured heroes go, Erik Fiskare is more of the brooding, quiet, suffer in silence type. The torturing happens on page, in a scene that will send your heart to your stomach. I suggest carving out time for a trilogy; it’s imperative you read book two to get the full impact of book one, and by then you’ll need book three just to heal. Lastly, be sure you’re stocked with Kleenex…and perhaps some antacid. I’m here if you need me. 

By Suanne Laqueur,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man I Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A watershed moment exists in every man's life—the moment he stops being his mother's son and starts being his lover's man. When he transitions from protected to protector.

Erik "Fish" Fiskare is only a college junior when a gunman walks into the campus theater, intent on stopping the show. From the lighting booth, Fish sees his girlfriend, Marguerite "Daisy" Bianco, get caught in the line of fire. Everyone runs away from the stage but Fish, in a watershed moment, runs toward it.

Spanning fifteen years, The Man I Love explores how a single act of violence reverberates through a circle…

Book cover of Ghosted

Robin Hill Why did I love this book?

Jonathan isn’t your typical tortured hero, as much of his brokenness is self-inflicted. But that doesn’t make his journey to redemption any less painful or heart-twisty. We follow his progress in real-time while simultaneously discovering everything he did to fall from grace in the first place. You equally love him and hate him in the most soul-crushing way. And if that little bit of catnip didn’t sway you, give five-year-old Maddie a chance.

By J.M. Darhower,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ghosted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new second chance romance standalone from USA Today bestselling author J.M. Darhower.

He's a troubled young actor, Hollywood's newest heartthrob, struggling with fame as the star of the latest superhero franchise. Through scandal after scandal, addiction on top of addiction, a flurry of paparazzi hunt him as he fights to conquer his demons.

She's a single mother, assistant manager at a grocery store, existing in monotony with her five-year-old daughter. Every day when she goes to work, lurid tabloids surround her, the face of a notorious bad boy haunting her from their covers.

A man and a woman, living…

Book cover of Fifty Shades of Grey

Robin Hill Why did I love this book?

I can’t deny this is where my love of tortured heroes began. I wasn’t a big romance reader at the time, but curiosity got the best of me. I waited until I had a weekend to myself, then proceeded to download my first ever e-book. I didn’t expect to like it—I didn’t even expect to finish it, but two days later, I’d read the entire series and was ready to start it again. Christian Grey is my OG and, in many ways, inspired my Darian. 

By E L James,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Fifty Shades of Grey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"And in this quiet moment as I close my eyes, spent and sated, I think I'm in the eye of the storm. And in spite of all he's said, and what he hasn't said, I don't think I have ever been so happy."
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana's quiet beauty, wit, and independent…

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The Romantics

By Isabel Jolie,

Book cover of The Romantics

Isabel Jolie Author Of Cloak of Red

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Nature lover Rower Reader Ad guru Dreamer

Isabel's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Some endings deserve a second chance.

In The Romantics, Dr. Harrison Ramsey's meticulously planned life collides with the ex he swore to forget. A prosperous plastic surgeon, Harrison is a member of an elite, exclusive Houston club, while Zuri faces professional ruin after a messy breakup. When circumstances force them back into each other's lives, old emotions resurface, and they find themselves retracing past steps in the plastic surgery practice where they both work. The two explore the complexities of letting go and evaluating life’s choices and expectations.

The Romantics is a grumpy billionaire, sizzling second chance romance between two doctors who once upon a time loved each other. Some things belong in the past, but maybe not everything.

The Romantics

By Isabel Jolie,

What is this book about?

Some endings deserve a second chance.

Dr. Harrison Ramsey has it all.

A flourishing plastic surgery practice, close friends, and a coveted membership to one of Houston's most elite and secretive clubs.

His life has followed the plan.

Dr. Zuri Lennox's life is a literal dumpster fire.

Thanks to a cheating ex whose Ferrari ran into her baseball bat, she's unemployed, at risk of losing her medical license, and maxed out on medical school loans and legal fees.

Nothing in her life has gone as planned.

When she left a decade ago, he had one request. A simple thing. For…

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