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  • Cristina Merrill 5:00 pm on 2018/01/08 Permalink
    Tags: a girl's guide to moving on, , curmudgeons, , , , , , , , lovable grumps, , , ,   

    Our Favorite Sexy Curmudgeons: 8 Guys Whose Frowns We Want to Turn Upside Down 

    No one wants to be tied to a grump, but once in a while we come across that brooding kind of man we wouldn’t mind cheering up. You know the type. He doesn’t give the best first impression, but once you get to know him, it’s easy to look past his gruff exterior and appreciate the wonderful man within. (And you just know all of that seriousness and pent-up longing will release itself in some very pleasant ways!) Guys like these may not always make the best Plus Ones at dinner parties, but they’ll definitely make you remember dessert.

    Here are 8 of the sexiest curmudgeons in romance who can brood all they want!

    Hareton from Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
    No, we are NOT going in the Heathcliff direction! (True, he had it rough, but he was still awful.) Instead, let’s focus on Hareton. He wasn’t raised under the best of circumstances, to say the least, but throughout his harsh life he managed to show an innate sweetness. As he grew older he displayed a loyalty that would bode well for his upcoming marriage to young Catherine. A guy like that may not make the best impression on society, and he might curse in your presence upon your first meeting, but he’ll ultimately stay faithful to you and he’ll always be honest about his feelings.

    Sir William of Miraval in Candle in the Window, by Christina Dodd
    Sir William of Miraval is not the happiest of knights. He was blinded in battle, and his caretakers are growing frustrated with his awful attitude and poor hygiene. (Dude’s quite depressed, so he gets a pass at being curmudgeonly.) He meets his match when Lady Saura of Roget is summoned to help him get his act together. She’s blind, too, but this is a woman who know how to run a house and keep everyone in line. William soon falls in love with her, and he displays a fierce loyalty that would make any woman sigh. William, we knew that beneath that rugged, filthy, muscled exterior was a tender-hearted man yearning to break free!

    Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    There are many mighty good reasons why Mr. Darcy ALWAYS comes up in romantic conversations. He didn’t always have the best manners, and he could hardly be called the life of the party, but when a guy is willing to help your crazy family by keeping your nutty sister on the straight and narrow, well, there’s a lot to be said for that. (Imagine a guy who stays with you even though your extended family posts weird things on social media on an hourly basis.) Mr. Darcy, you practically invented the smolder, so you can smolder all you want!

    Wulfgar from The Wolf and the Dove, by Kathleen Woodiwiss
    To be fair, this Medieval knight had an exceptionally harsh life. He was a bastard, which wasn’t easy in those days. (He and Jon Snow of Game of Thrones would probably have a great deal to talk about.) You’re also under a lot of pressure when William the Conqueror wants you to, well, help him conquer England. This attitude of his mostly changes, though, when his posse conquers Darkenwald, the home of the very proud and beautiful Aislinn. It takes a very long time until they actually get along, and boy it’s fun to read that roller coaster of a relationship. Carry on with your growling ways, Wulfgar, and flex your muscles while you’re at it!

    Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
    Love him or hate him, Mr. Rochester was a curmudgeonly curmudgeon who needed some major intervention—and lots of time to soul-search—before he could find some inner peace and have his happy ending with Jane. True, he’d been through a lot in his life—bad marriage, saddled with a kid he wasn’t even sure was his, lost his eyesight, lost his hand, and more—but that doesn’t excuse some of the things he did. (Buddy, you might want to consider taking up poetry writing!) Still, he had some good qualities, and he ultimately changed for the better thanks to Jane. Mr. Rochester, brood as you please, and please make sure you show Jane your appreciation as often as humanely possible!

    Rocco from A Girl’s Guide to Moving On, by Debbie Macomber
    Poor Rocco’s a little bit in over his head. He’s the macho-est of macho men, and he has a teenage daughter with whom he doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye. Fortunately he meets Nichole, the modern-day equivalent of a gently-bred lady who recently ditched her cheating husband. Rocco may be more at home in a biker bar than, well, in many other places, but he’s solid, muscly proof that surprises can come in the most unexpected of packages. Rocco, bring on the cranky. We know that inside you’re really just a marshmallow with nothing but love for your woman!

    Rhys Winterborne in Marrying Winterborne, by Lisa Kleypas
    Welshman Rhys Winterborne worked extremely hard to get to where he is. He owns a major department store, and even though he is supremely wealthy, his modest background means that society doesn’t have much room for him at their social gatherings. He’s determined to win over his lady love, and what’s more, he knows he’s not always the most pleasant man to be around. You can’t go wrong with a guy who admits his faults and is eager to prove his devotion. That said, he also shows an exceptionally sweet and caring side. Rhys, no one is fooled! Admit it. You’re a softie.

    Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades series, by E.L. James
    Christian makes all of the other guys on this list seem joyful by comparison. He spends a lot of time brooding over Anastasia and his dark past. (Christian, buddy, you should seriously consider volunteering at an animal shelter. Giving your time just might help!) And he certainly knows how to, ahem, release his frustrations. Whether his dark ways turn you on or off, no woman can deny that life with Christian would never be boring!

    Who are your favorite fictional curmudgeons?

    The post Our Favorite Sexy Curmudgeons: 8 Guys Whose Frowns We Want to Turn Upside Down appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Cristina Merrill 8:00 pm on 2016/08/22 Permalink
    Tags: a girl's guide to moving on, , , last one home, new beginnings series, starting a new chapter   

    In-Laws Unite in A Girl’s Guide to Moving On 

    Falling for a man who is not your usual type is a major theme of Debbie Macomber’s A Girl’s Guide to Moving On, but what will really steal hearts is the relationship between the two leading ladies.

    The second book in Macomber’s New Beginnings series features Leanne and Nichole, a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, respectively, who stay close as they navigate the uncertain road of divorce and life after divorce. Leanne’s ex-husband of 30-plus years, Sean, cheated on her for the vast majority of their marriage and she knew it. Nichole, on the other hand, asked for a divorce as soon as she found out her husband (and Leanne’s son), Jake, was cheating on her. Together, they have a 3-year-old son, Owen.

    As the title suggests, the book includes suggestions for ways to move on, one of which is to volunteer—which is how Leanne’s love story happens. She volunteers to teach English as a second language and makes a connection with Nikolai, a Ukranian student in her class. His and Leanne’s love story would probably inspire the most debate in any group of girlfriends, due to the issues he and Leanne encounter.

    Nikolai is a widower, and meeting him is kind of like meeting an older version of Peeta from “The Hunger Games.” Instead of being the Boy with the Bread, he is the Man with the Bread. He is a baker and, bottom line, he bakes Leanne a lot of bread, because that’s the best way he can express his feelings for her. Nikolai has basically worshipped Leanne from the moment he saw her. After the passionless existence Leanne went through with her husband for so many years, it’s really nice to see her being so actively adored.

    That said, Nikolai is no pushover. A major test of his relationship with Leanne is when Sean gets some scary medical news. Nikolai prays for Sean and expresses his support, but he also gets angry with Leanne for doing too much for a man who showed her zero love when he was healthy. Another test of their relationship is that Leanne feels the need to go on dates with other men to make sure she really likes Nikolai and is not interested in him simply because he gives her the time of day. Nikolai definitely makes Leanne feel like a natural woman, but Leanne still thinks she needs to get more of a sample of what’s out there. This may seem a bit ludicrous to some readers, considering how wonderful Nikolai is to her. True, no one can fault Leanne for wanting to tick her boxes, but Nikolai ticks all of her boxes in the best possible way. (Leanne, get it, girl! Life is too short!)

    As for Nichole, she meets Rocco, a towing company owner who pulls her car out of a ditch. He’s immediately drawn to her, and tells the financially struggling single mom that he won’t charge her for the tow if she helps his 15-year-old daughter pick out a decent dress for a school dance. Nicole does so, and from there she and Rocco start to see more of each other.

    The differences between Rocco and Nichole’s ex-husband, Jake, are almost comical. Jake is polished, suave, and had a privileged upbringing. Rocco was incarcerated for a bit during his younger years and has tattoos up and down both arms. He didn’t want to acknowledge his daughter until a paternity test proved she was his. Unlike Jake, though, Rocco grew up. His wayward past is far behind him and he’s focused on making sure his daughter doesn’t make his same mistakes. This is a far cry from Jake, who barely makes a minimum effort to be a good father to his son.

    Throughout all of this drama, Nichole and Leanne turn to each other for support. This is part of what makes Macomber’s story so refreshing. Forget about the villainess mother-in-law stereotype who thinks her son can do no wrong and blames the wife for not being enticing enough; Leanne is a realist who is under no illusions about Jake, her only child. She realizes that he’s grown up to be a cheater just like his father, and she’s impressed with Nichole for standing up to him and leaving him right away. Throughout everything, she happily continues to babysit her grandson, and she introduces Nichole to Nikolai as her daughter. She and Leanne respect each other’s post-divorce relationships and are supportive without prying.

    As for Sean and Jake, they both actually display somewhat redeeming qualities in the end, and this is where Macomber really nails it. She gives readers closure about both heroines and their relationships with these two particular men in a way that won’t leave readers wanting more proof.

    There are plenty of other characters who help move the story along and provide balanced levels of drama and comic relief. There’s Shawntelle, for one, a feisty, outspoken woman Nichole meets through her own volunteer gig. Rocco’s daughter is also a trip. And then there are Nichole’s various family members, including her sister, Cassie, whose story was told in Last One Home.

    Friends and allies and lovers can be found in the most unlikely places, and that is what our heroines discover in this story. It’s not to say that Leanne and Nichole were ever enemies, but it’s nice to see what happens when a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law truly respect each other the way these two do. Readers will also appreciate the men Leanne and Nichole find who enhance their lives in ways they never thought possible, but the loving relationship between these two women, and the way Macomber shows rather than tells, are what ultimately steals the show.

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