'He did what?': A list of cruel heroes in romantic books

Written by Silke, updated 08 Jun 2021

This list is not for the faint-hearted. Or, come to think of it, for those with good judgement... We have compiled a list of the meanest, most twisted, darkest and cruelest heroes (villains) in romance books. The ones, that really make you question whether you even want a HEA when reading the book. And one more word of warning, some of these books may contain scenes of emotional and physical abuse.

  • #1 Black Ice - Anne Stuart

    Black Ice - Anne Stuart

    contemporary tortured hero military enemies to lovers dark romance

    The job was a killer. Living hand-to-mouth in Paris, American book translator Chloe Underwood would give anything for some excitement and passion - even a little danger. So when she's offered a lucrative weekend gig translating at a business conference in a remote chateau, she jumps at the chance to shake things up. Then by chance Chloe discovers her employers are anything but the entrepreneurs they appear, and suddenly she knows far too much. Her clients are illegal arms dealers, and one of them is ordered to kill her. But instead, Bastien Toussaint drags Chloe away, and the next thing she knows she's on the run with the most terrifying and seductive man she's ever met. more

  • #2 Stirring the Embers - Mary Jo Putney

    Stirring the Embers - Mary Jo Putney

    contemporary abuse suspense

    Kate Corsi always dreamed of working in her family's world-famous demolition business—a wish her old-fashioned father denied until his untimely death. He leaves a fortune to Kate and the business to her ex-husband, Donovan—but only if they agree to live under the same roof for a year.

    Kate and Donovan married too young and stayed too long in a dangerously destructive marriage. Ten years later, surely they're mature enough to co-exist peacefully. But the embers of attraction swiftly flare into flame again.

    Now, they must confront the pain of the past if they are to have a chance for a future and save their business from a saboteur they're beginning to suspect of murder... more

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  • #3 Outlaw - Nicole James

    Outlaw - Nicole James

    contemporary erotic romance suspense cheating rape

    When outlaw biker, Cole Austin sees a young woman handcuffed and being dragged across the yard of the Dead Souls Motorcycle Club's remote clubhouse, he's stunned by the realization of just how dark his world has become. This scene is even more than his twisted soul can stomach. Compelled to intercede and save her, he has no idea his whole world is about to change. He believes he's doing the right thing until a secret she's hiding makes him question if saving her may be the biggest mistake of his life. The two strike a deal, a deal they may both come to regret. more

  • #4 Price Of A Bride - Michelle Reid

    Price Of A Bride - Michelle Reid

    contemporary enemies to lovers alpha male abuse angst

    When Mia Frazier agreed to her father's demand to marry Greek millionaire Alexander Doumas, she knew both men stood to gain from the deal--Alex would win back his family's island, and Mia's father would get the grandson and heir he so desperately longed for. But what about Mia?

    She had her own reason for agreeing to be Alex's wife--which was not financial gain, as Alex cynically believed. But how could the truth stay hidden, when she shared such intense passion with her new husband... more

  • #5 The Darkness of Perfection - Michael Schneider

    The Darkness of Perfection - Michael  Schneider

    suspense contemporary dark romance cruel hero / bully

    Nicholas comes from a world of darkness where women are no better than slaves. He believes the secret to true happiness is for his wife to be molded to perfection. He had the promise of perfection in the bright eyes and innocent smile of a childhood friend long since lost to his world. He never gave up his dreams of their perfect life together. An accidental meeting brings him face to face with his dream. Will he realize that true happiness can only be found in the beauty of imperfection before it's too late?

    Jayden escaped from a life of terror and found security in her new home. more

  • #6 Sinister Kisses (SKALS Book 1) - Adriana Noir

    Sinister Kisses (SKALS Book 1) - Adriana Noir

    contemporary erotic romance suspense bad boys military

    After a chance encounter in the woods leaves her shaken and reeling, the last thing Taylor McAvay wanted to do was accept an invitation to dinner. Then again, after seeing what Sebastian Baas was capable of, she felt she had little choice. The guy did just save her life, and the feel of his partner’s assault rifle pressed against her cheek still lingered in her mind.

    What she discovers surprises her. Beneath the armor and fatigues, is a smart, attentive, and sophisticated man. Unable to resist, Taylor finds herself drawn in by the Special Agent’s charm. Everything about Sebastian, from his imposing presence to his hypnotic eyes, pulls her under his spell. more

  • #7 Chelynne - Robyn Carr

    Chelynne - Robyn Carr

    historical cruel hero / bully cheating

    Orphaned and raised by her uncle, the feisty sixteen-year-old Chelynne resolves to show her gratitude by marrying the man of her uncle's choice. Bracing herself for a graying, sickly noble, the last man she expects for a husband is the dashing future Earl of Bryant, Chadwick Hawthorne—suddenly, being a loving wife doesn't seem too hard a task. But he spurns her affection and remains her husband only in name, never in deed. Tormented by unfinished business from his past and an uprising threatening his land, Chad resolves to keep his distance from everyone, including his young wife.

    Chelynne will go to any lengths to ignite her husband’s passion and save their marriage. more

  • #8 To the Ends of the Earth - Elizabeth Lowell

    To the Ends of the Earth - Elizabeth Lowell

    historical contemporary alpha male billionaire cruel hero / bully

    Photographer Cat Cochran has been to exotic places most people only dream about—but all she wants to do is settle down and get her life in order. One last assignment and she can put her past behind her—forgetting about her heart's disastrous misadventures as she loses herself in the natural beauty she has so far only glimpsed through a camera's lens. But first she must photograph the mysterious and elusive ship designer T.H. Danvers and his awesome creations.

    A man in a million Travis Danvers is dangerous—a millionaire with an athlete's body; an enigmatic charmer capable of breaking down Cat's well-constructed defenses with a buccaneer's arrogance and flourish. more

  • #9 Stormfire - Christine Monson

    Stormfire - Christine Monson

    regency historical bad boys tortured heroine tortured hero

    Abducted on her way to boarding school, a terrified Catherine Enderly was brought from England to the coast of Ireland, the prisoner of the angry and powerful young Sean Culhane—a man sworn to vengeance against her family.

    Frightened but defiant, the young countess met her captor with a strength that belied her fragile loveliness. But even as Sean vowed to have his revenge on Catherine, with each encounter he became more attracted to her. Her fiery innocence was a seduction that lured the passions of long smoldering hostility into a blazing inferno of desire. more

  • #10 Liberty (A Redemption Novel) - Ginger Jamison

    Liberty (A Redemption Novel) - Ginger Jamison


    A man she thought she knew. A passion beyond her wildest fantasies… 

    When Ryan Beecher returns home after a long deployment overseas, Lexy barely recognizes her husband. The man who left Texas for Afghanistan was cruel and abusive. The man who comes back to her is a badly injured stranger with amnesia—and no memory of their life together. 

    Lexy can't believe how much Ryan has changed. The wounded marine is now gentle, caring and tender. And his touch awakens yearnings she's never felt before. more

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