Dirty little secret time - I secretly love to read romances with jackass heroes. You know the ones. The catch (and you knew there was one didn't you?), is that the only way I can "enjoy" a jackass hero is if he's paired with an equally headstrong heroine. No mealy-mouthed, afraid of her own shadow types. No, I need the chick who's going to tell the guy to his face that he's a jackass and for good measure knee him in the nuts (although this never seems to happen - romance authors must think it's a "mood killer")
And that's pretty much what I got with my latest dip in the Harlequin Historical pool - Her Dearest Enemy by Elizabeth Lane. The hero has a precious, pampered 17-year-old daughter who is in lurve with the schoolmarm's dirt-poor 18-year-old brother. Daddy is unthrilled about this, but so is the heroine (said schoolmarm). She was saving money for her brother to go to college back east, not hitch his wagon to some spoiled princess. So hero storms in to meet heroine, says awful things, tells her to control her brother (ha! he's 18!!), then proceeds to act like a jackass. Brother and Pampered Daughter are actually pregnant, and run away to get married. They come back to town, move in with heroine, while hero proceeds to cut them out of his life while secretly trying to "help" them (he hides money in her clothes when he ships them over to this daughter etc.)
Hero and heroine end up spending time together because of this new predicament. He says awful things, she says awful things, they bicker a lot, then (naturally) the sexual tension hits the red zone. I know I'm making it sound hideous, but it really works - trust me.
Unfortunately, it all takes a dive in the final 100 pages or so. Instead of the hero groveling (which is the only reason to read about jackass heroes in my opinion) the heroine is the one to apologize (oh honey, he's the one who should have bloody knees) and there's this big, unnecessary melodramatic ending involving the hero's daughter giving birth in a cave and a kidnapping. Completely unnecessary and tacked on. It's like someone told the author that internal, character driven conflict wasn't enough - that she had to punch it up with a "villain." So what started out as a B+ read, slips down to a B-.
Still love me a good jackass hero though.