A Home for “Difficult” Heroines

NB: If the list below gives you hives because it has absolutely no organizing principles, I have also posted it by subgenre.

A couple of days ago, I tweeted a thread that began here:

It led me to further discussions and the reminder that while a lot of readers want their romance heroines to be “nice” all the time, there is a pocket of us (sometimes known among ourselves as “Hag Corner”) who really appreciate a prickly, “difficult,” abrasive heroine. Someone who will stand up for herself, or screw up, or get angry. Or all of the above.

So, because I wanted my mentions to be a complete mess, I asked for romance recommendations where the heroine is this type of woman. And oh, man, did I get them. So with joy and glee I present it to you, complete with buy links in case you too like a woman who doesn’t default to “nice.” Oh, and I’m including recommenders’ twitter links, too, in case you also want to follow some like-minded people.

Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I started with some of my favorites:

  1. Victoria Dahl, CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH – meet Grace “rage-nugget” Barrett.
  2. Sarah Mayberry, THE OTHER SIDE OF US – oh, Mackenzie, you guarded, scarred treasure.
  3. Courtney Milan, TRADE ME – Tina lets Blake know she’s having none of his shit from the jump.
  4. Alyssa Cole, AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION – Elle is too busy being a badass Union spy to have time for your nonsense.


  1. Roan Parrish, SMALL CHANGE – She’s absolutely bloody furious throughout. (Per KJ Charles, Zoe Ashwood, and KT Gilbert)
  2. Jennifer Crusie, AGNES AND THE HITMAN – Agnes keeps hitting people with her cast iron pan (it’s hilarious). (Per Zoe Ashwood)
  3. Lauren Dane, DRAWN TOGETHER – She is prickly, bitchy and full of sharp edges and the hero loves her just as she is. (Per Ana Coqui)
  4. Kate Canterbary, THE SPIRE – She’s difficult and so scared and I adored her. (Per Kini, who says the entire Walsh series also qualifies)
  5. Ruby Lang, PRACTICE PERFECT series
  6. Laura Florand, CHOCOLATE KISS – she’s really prickly (for good reason, too!) about Phillipe! (Both per Kate Clayborn)
  7. Alicia Rai, HATE TO WANT YOU
  8. Eliza Madison, INK OR TREAT (Both per Liz Lincoln)
  9. Molly Harper, THE ART OF SEDUCING A NAKED WEREWOLF – bites the hero in the ass when she’s a wolf. (Per Zoe Ashwood)
  10. Ainslie Paton, INSECURE – a big bank CEO candidate heroine (per the author)
  11. Mina V. Esguerra, LOVE YOUR FRENEMIES – Kimmy was the “evil girl” in My Imaginary Ex but she got her own book in Love Your Frenemies, where she remains her prickly self. (Per Chachic)
  12. Roni Lauren, BY THE HOUR – Elle’s the HBIC with a boatload of issues and i love her (Per Lisa, seconded by ally)
  13. Kresley Cole, KISS OF THE DEMON KING – She’s prickly, vain, and a powerful sorceress. Hands down my fav heroine. (Per Ainsley Wynter)
  15. Amy Jo Cousins, GIRL NEXT DOOR (Both per Tamsen Parker)
  16. Tamsen Parker, PERSONAL GEOGRAPHY and ON THE BRINK OF PASSION (Per the author who also says her entry in the ROGUE DESIRES antho qualifies)
  17. Sarah MacLean, DAY OF THE DUCHESS (Per Mary Lynne Nielsen)
  18. Talia Hibbert, THE PRINCESS TRAP – She’s just not here for your BS and I LOVED it. (Per Jen)
  20. Cecilia Grant, A GENTLEMAN UNDONE
  21. Julie James, JUST THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE (All per Jenny)
  22. Laura Kinsale, FOR MY LADY’S HEART – prickly, mercurial, and so brave (Per Sarah Howes)
  23. Elizbeth Kingston, FAIR, BRIGHT AND TERRIBLE
  24. Layla Rene, TEQUILA SUNRISE (Both per Cat Sebastian)
  25. L Setterby, BREATHE – a kinky romantic suspense with a sarcastic, prickly heroine. (Per Alexa Rowan)
  26. Penny Reid, BEARD IN MIND – Some of it is due to her OCD, but I think she’d be prickly and a bit antisocial in any case. (Per Karen Kiely)
  27. Mina V. Esquerra, BETTER AT WEDDINGS THAN YOU – So scarily competent and DGAF. (Per Geri)
  28. Joanna Bourne, THE BLACK HAWK
  29. Loretta Chase, THE LION’S DAUGHTER
  30. Nita Abrams, THE SPY’S BRIDE – (All per July)
  31. Mariana Zapata, FROM LUKOV WITH LOVE – It took me a while to get her. But I loved her in the end. Plus it’s about ice skating yey!
  32. Nalini Singh, BRANDED BY FIRE -Mercy has to fight for Riley and others to see her as an equal. She can get pretty ‘prickly’.
  33. Jewel E Ann, JACK & JILL series, (all per KT Gilbert)
  34. Cecilia Grant, A LADY AWAKENED – Martha “just nut and get it over with” Russel (per Kimberly Bell)
  35. Kimberly Bell, A DANGEROUS DAMSEL – Dierdre…the smack-talking, man-robbing heroine. Difficult for sure, though Hannah, the heroine of the preceding book, isn’t exactly a shrinking violet either. (Per CL Polk)
  36. Kit Rocha, BEYOND PAIN
  37. Kate Pearce, SOUL SUCKER
  39. Kristen Callihan, WINTERBLAZE
  40. Lauren Dane, GODDESS WITH A BLADE (All per Lillie)
  41. Laura Kaye, HARD TO LET GO (Per Alexis Daria)
  42. Dorothy F. Shaw, DEFENSIVE HEART – Review quote: “Sonja is uptight, a work-a-haulic [sic], a single mother, and quite a few years older than James. She tends to shut down people and be very standoffish.” (Per the author)
  43. Julianna Keyes, IN HER DEFENSE (Per the author)
  44. Courtney Milan, THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY (Per Katie M)
  45. Lexxie Callahan, THE FALL OF THE RED QUEEN – She is the villainess in books 1 and 2 of the series and gets redeemed here ( with a hero who is willing to look below the surface)
  46. Juliana Keyes, TIME SERVED – She’s an accomplished surgeon who comes across as cold and unemotional (to protect herself from getting attached to patients and due to a bad marriage) and meets a man who is the opposite (Both per Christine Maria Rose)
  47. Jennifer Hallock, UNDER THE SUGAR SUN – People hated my heroine of Under the Sugar Sun, Georgina Potter, when she got single-minded and driven (aka stubborn). (Per the author)
  48. Sandra Antonelli, DRIVING IN NEUTRAL – I wrote a heroine who did a not very nice thing when she was angry. She regretted doing it: made apology, but I still got flack for writing her that way–even though her rection was utterly human. I like unlikable, imperfectly mannered heroines. (Per the author)
  49. Katherine McIntyre, FORGED ALLIANCES – Sierra, the wolf alpha in my shifter series. Relentlessly dominant. (Per the author)
  50. Molly O’Keefe, BURN DOWN THE NIGHT –  one angry, prickly lady that needs to be your list.
  51. Molly O’Keefe, BETWEEN THE SHEETS
  52. Molly O’Keefe, INDECENT PROPOSAL (All per Ellie Reads)
  53. Karen Ranney, THE LASS WORE BLACK (Per Elle Keck)
  54. Kristin Cashore, GRACELING (Per Suzanne Krohn)
  55. Sandhya Menon, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI (Per me and Suzanne Krohn)
  56. Nicola Yoon, THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR – The heroine doesn’t believe in love (she prefers science) and is so great. I cheered for her so hard. (Per Suzanne Krohn)
  57. Miranda Kenneally, THINGS I CAN’T FORGET and STEALING PARKER, Both heroines get slammed for very different reasons (one is too preachy, one too slutty). (Per Elizabeth Bright)
  58. Elizabeth Scott, HEARTBEAT and BLOOM (Per Elizabeth Bright)
  60. Maggie Wells, PLAY DATES – the heroine chooses a “non-traditional route” (Per the author)
  61. Laura Lee Guhrke, SCANDAL OF THE YEAR – Julia is difficult prickly and I loved her so much (Per Lisa Lin)
  62. Heather Rose Jones, THE MYSTIC MARRIAGE – Histrom with alchemy, f/f, and you get two incredibly difficult heroines for the price of one! Antuniet is cold and obsessive, Jeanne is manipulative and shallow, and it’s *perfect*. 🙂 (Per KJ Charles)
  63. Ilona Andrews, BURN FOR ME – 1st in the Hidden Legacy series. So determined to make her own way, she only accepts help from the hero when she absolutely needs to. (Per Chachic)
  64. Ilona Andrews, CLEAN SWEEP, ON THE EDGE, BAYOU MOON, and FATE’S EDGE – I tend to consider their kind of interaction a different trope, anti-damsels. Hero wants to rescue and they aren’t here for that. (Per Ana Coqui)
  65. Carolyn Crane, BEHIND THE MASK – She is tough and determined, taking not sh*t from anyone. Not sure difficult is the right word for her though. (Per Ellie Reads)
  66. J.D. Robb, NAKED IN DEATH – Eve Dallas is like the patron saint of difficult heroines. 40+ books and she’s still her glorious cranky self. (Per Tabs)
  67. Jessica Clare, THE TAMING OF THE BILLIONAIRE –  In which a disabled sarcastic cat lady heroine is EVERYTHING. There’s some great stuff about her personality having nothing to do with her disability. (Per Tabs)
  68. Shelly Laurenston, BITE ME – Vicious. Mean. Loves honey. Is sort of apologetic for hiding naked in your cupboards and falling asleep but not really. It’s comfy in there. (Per Tabs)
  69. Olivia Dade, DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION – She’s prickly and determined and sure of herself, and she’s not willing to compromise her most crucial values. (Per the author)
  70. Deborah Wilde, THE UNLIKEABLE DEMON HUNTER – Its right in the title! (Per Jocelyn Adler)
  71. Andie J. Christopher, DUSK UNTIL DAWN and BEFORE DAYLIGHT – Maya from Dusk Until Dawn threatens to light the hero on fire in scene one. And Laura in Before Daylight is super mean. It’s not a coincidence that they’re my favorites. (Per the author)
  72. Mary Balogh, SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS (Per Maida Maltby)
  73. Sherry Thomas, PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS (Per Maida Maltby)
  74. Lisa Kleypas, IT HAPPENED ONE AUTUMN (Per Maida Maltby)
  75. Stephenie Meyer, THE CHEMIST (Per Jezz de Silva)
  76. Nora Roberts, CHASING FIRE (Per Jezz de Silva)
  77. ML Buchman, TARGET ENGAGED (Per Jezz de Silva)
  78. JR Ward LOVER MINE & LOVER UNLEASHED (Per Jezz de Silva)
  79. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, AIN’T SHE SWEET (Per Jezz de Silva)
  80. Thea Harrison, SERPENT’S KISS & KINKED (Per Jezz de Silva)
  81. Suzanne Brockmann, BORN TO DARKNESS (Per Jezz de Silva)
  82. Sharon McKenna, ULTIMATE WEAPON – Tamara is a former femme fatale assassin who makes jewelry as weapons. She’s prickly af. Love her. (Per Ainsley Wynter)
  83. Lois McMaster Bujold, PALADIN OF SOULS – Ista is cranky and acerbic. Also smart and a great leader. (Per me)
  84. Maisey Yates, SMOOTH-TALKING COWBOY – I knew…I had to do some work to make her likeable because she just appeared so PRICKLY. So I had to figure out why. (Per the author)
  85. Nicole Helm, NEED YOU NOW
  86. Megan Crane, EDGE OF CONTROL (Both per Maisey Yates)
  87. Six de los Reyes, FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Jett is sarcastic and commitment-phobic and can’t do relationships because she’s outwardly ~emotionally closed~ but she falls in love and she’s my favorite (Per Amanda)
  88. Talia Hibbert, A GIRL LIKE HER –  Prickly autistic webcomic artist heroine, hot cinnamon roll hero (Per Alexa Rowan)
  89. Alyssa Cole, A PRINCESS IN THEORY – Ledi is both guarded and vulnerable in the best possible ways, and completely consistent with her history. (Per me)
  90. Lisa Berne, THE BRIDE TAKES A GROOM – She’s prickly, he’s a cinnamon roll (Per Suzanne)
  91. Ada Harper, A CONSPIRACY OF WHISPERS – “Olivia is like a feral cat who suddenly catches feelings” (Per Ellie)

And as a bonus recommendation, I’ve read an ARC and can highly recommend Lucy Parker’s MAKING UP – Trix is guarded and prickly and all kinds of wonderful. Go forth and pre-order!

If you want to recommend more, please do so either in the comments or on Twitter!

ETA: Also, lordy. This is getting long. A more organized list coming later today (2/20/2018)!

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