Tidying Up the House at Hag Corner

Okay, so yesterday’s FESTIVAL OF LOVE FOR “DIFFICULT” HEROINES has spilled over into today and the librarian in me is looking at the list in all of its jumbled, dysfunctional glory and thinking, “This needs to be organized. Now.” So, now! New and improved! Subgenres! Ordered by author’s last name, then title if there are more than one!

NB: All recommendations are tagged with the name/Twitter handle of their recommender. If one person seems to have the same taste as you do, you can control-f search to see if they’ve rec’d more than one. One of the conversations that was spawned on Twitter off of this is how, as with any subjective judgment, different people have different definitions for “difficult” (which I’m using as a sort of helpfully vague term for a list of characteristics that result in certain readers see the heroine as “being mean” when other readers see her as enforcing her boundaries, taking no shit, or other similar actions). Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The long (and getting longer), non-exhaustive list of difficult, prickly, cranky, etc. heroines of romance:


  1. Jewel E Ann, JACK & JILL series, (Per KT Gilbert)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  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. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. Jennifer Crusie, AGNES AND THE HITMAN – Agnes keeps hitting people with her cast iron pan (it’s hilarious). (Per Zoe Ashwood)
  9. 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)
  10. Victoria Dahl, CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH – meet Grace “rage-nugget” Barrett. (Per me)
  11. 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)
  12. 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)
  13. Mina V. Esquerra, BETTER AT WEDDINGS THAN YOU – So scarily competent and DGAF. (Per Geri)
  14. 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)
  15. Laura Florand, CHOCOLATE KISS – she’s really prickly (for good reason, too!) about Phillipe! (Per Kate Clayborn)
  16. Nicole Helm, NEED YOU NOW (Per Maisey Yates)
  17. Talia Hibbert, A GIRL LIKE HER –  Prickly autistic webcomic artist heroine, hot cinnamon roll hero (Per Alexa Rowan)
  18. Talia Hibbert, THE PRINCESS TRAP – She’s just not here for your BS and I LOVED it. (Per Jen)
  19. Julie James, JUST THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE (Per Jenny)
  20. Laura Kaye, HARD TO LET GO (Per Alexis Daria)
  21. Julianna Keyes, IN HER DEFENSE (Per the author)
  22. 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)
  23. Ruby Lang, PRACTICE PERFECT series (Per Kate Clayborn)
  24. Roni Lauren, BY THE HOUR – Elle’s the HBIC with a boatload of issues and i love her (Per Lisa, seconded by ally)
  25. Sarah Mayberry, THE OTHER SIDE OF US – oh, Mackenzie, you guarded, scarred treasure. (Per me)
  26. Tamara Morgan, CONFIDENCE TRICKS and THE REBOUND GIRL (Per Lillie)
  27. Courtney Milan, TRADE ME – Tina lets Blake know she’s having none of his shit from the jump. (Per me)
  28. Molly O’Keefe, BETWEEN THE SHEETS
  29. Molly O’Keefe, BURN DOWN THE NIGHT –  one angry, prickly lady that needs to be your list.
  30. Molly O’Keefe, INDECENT PROPOSAL (All per Ellie Reads)
  31. Lucy Parker,  MAKING UP – Trix is guarded and prickly and all kinds of wonderful. Go forth and pre-order! (Per me)
  32. Tamsen Parker, PERSONAL GEOGRAPHY and ON THE BRINK OF PASSION (Per the author who also says her entry in the ROGUE DESIRES antho qualifies)
  33. Roan Parrish, SMALL CHANGE – She’s absolutely bloody furious throughout. (Per KJ CharlesZoe Ashwood, and KT Gilbert)
  34. Ainslie Paton, INSECURE – a big bank CEO candidate heroine (per the author)
  35. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, AIN’T SHE SWEET (Per Jezz de Silva)
  36. Alisha Rai, A GENTLEMAN IN THE STREET (Per Tamsen Parker)
  37. Alicia Rai, HATE TO WANT YOU (Per Liz Lincoln)
  38. 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)
  39. Layla Rene, TEQUILA SUNRISE (Both per Cat Sebastian)
  40. 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)
  41. Maggie Wells, PLAY DATES – the heroine chooses a “non-traditional route” (Per the author)
  42. 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)
  43. 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!


  1. Nita Abrams, THE SPY’S BRIDE – (Per July)
  2. Mary Balogh, SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS (Per Maida Maltby)
  3. 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)
  4. Lisa Berne, THE BRIDE TAKES A GROOM – She’s prickly, he’s a cinnamon roll (Per Suzanne)
  5. Joanna Bourne, THE BLACK HAWK (Per July)
  6. Loretta Chase, THE LION’S DAUGHTER (Per July)
  7. Alyssa Cole, AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION – Elle is too busy being a badass Union spy to have time for your nonsense. (Per me)
  8. Jenny Frame, COURTING THE COUNTESS (Per Jenny)
  9. Cecilia Grant, A GENTLEMAN UNDONE (Per Jenny)
  10. Cecilia Grant, A LADY AWAKENED – Martha “just nut and get it over with” Russel (per Kimberly Bell)
  11. Laura Lee Guhrke, SCANDAL OF THE YEAR – Julia is difficult prickly and I loved her so much (Per Lisa Lin)
  12. Jennifer Hallock, UNDER THE SUGAR SUN – People hated my heroine, Georgina Potter, when she got single-minded and driven (aka stubborn). (Per the author)
  13. Elizbeth Kingston, FAIR, BRIGHT AND TERRIBLE (Per Cat Sebastian)
  14. Laura Kinsale, FOR MY LADY’S HEART – prickly, mercurial, and so brave (Per Sarah Howes)
  15. Lisa Kleypas, IT HAPPENED ONE AUTUMN (Per Maida Maltby)
  16. Sarah MacLean, DAY OF THE DUCHESS (Per Mary Lynne Nielsen)
  17. Courtney Milan, THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY (Per Katie M)
  18. Karen Ranney, THE LASS WORE BLACK (Per Elle Keck)
  19. Sherry Thomas, PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS (Per Maida Maltby)
  20. Maggie Wells, PLAY DATES – the heroine chooses a “non-traditional route” (Per the author)

Paranormal & Dystopia/Post Apoc/Fantasy & SF

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. Suzanne Brockmann, BORN TO DARKNESS (Per Jezz de Silva)
  4. Lois McMaster Bujold, PALADIN OF SOULS – Ista is cranky and acerbic. Also smart and a great leader. (Per me)
  5. Kristen Callihan, WINTERBLAZE (Per Lillie)
  6. Kresley Cole, KISS OF THE DEMON KING – She’s prickly, vain, and a powerful sorceress. Hands down my fav heroine. (Per Ainsley Wynter)
  7. Megan Crane, EDGE OF CONTROL (Per Maisey Yates)
  8. Lauren Dane, GODDESS WITH A BLADE (Per Lillie)
  9. Ada Harper, A CONSPIRACY OF WHISPERS – “Olivia is like a feral cat who suddenly catches feelings” (Per Ellie)
  10. Molly Harper, THE ART OF SEDUCING A NAKED WEREWOLF – bites the hero in the ass when she’s a wolf. (Per Zoe Ashwood)
  11. Thea Harrison, SERPENT’S KISS & KINKED (Per Jezz de Silva)
  12. 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)
  13. 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)
  14. Katherine McIntyre, FORGED ALLIANCES – Sierra, the wolf alpha in my shifter series. Relentlessly dominant. (Per the author)
  15. Kate Pearce, SOUL SUCKER (Per Lillie)
  16. Kit Rocha, BEYOND PAIN (Per Lillie)
  17. Nalini Singh, BRANDED BY FIRE -Mercy has to fight for Riley and others to see her as an equal. She can get pretty ‘prickly’. (Per KT Gilbert)
  18. JR Ward LOVER MINE & LOVER UNLEASHED (Per Jezz de Silva)
  19. Deborah Wilde, THE UNLIKEABLE DEMON HUNTER – Its right in the title! (Per Jocelyn Adler)

Romantic Suspense

  1. ML Buchman, TARGET ENGAGED (Per Jezz de Silva)
  2. 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)
  3. Stephenie Meyer, THE CHEMIST (Per Jezz de Silva)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. Nora Roberts, CHASING FIRE (Per Jezz de Silva)
  7. L Setterby, BREATHE – a kinky romantic suspense with a sarcastic, prickly heroine. (Per Alexa Rowan)

Young Adult

  1. Kristin Cashore, GRACELING (Per Suzanne Krohn)
  2. 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)
  4. Sandhya Menon, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI (Per me and Suzanne Krohn)
  5. Elizabeth Scott, HEARTBEAT and BLOOM (Per Elizabeth Bright)
  6. 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)
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