Some of my favorite romance characters are anti-heroes, and one of the best is Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery in the Maiden Lane series.
He sighed. “I confess, I find your naivete perplexing. How have you arrived at the advanced age of six and twenty without having anyone attempt seduction upon yourself? I’m of two minds on the matter: One, utter astonishment at my sex and their deaf disregard for your siren call. Two, glee at the thought that your innocence might signal that you are indeed innocent. Why this should excite me so, I don’t know–virginity has never before been a particular whim of mine. I think perhaps it’s the setting. Who knows how many virgins were deflowered here by my lusty ancestors? Or,” he said as he deftly unpinned and tossed aside her apron, “maybe it’s simply you.”
“I don’t…” Her words trailed off and then, interestingly, she blushed a deep rose. Well. That question settled, then. His little maiden was really a maiden. “What?”
“I think it’s you,” he confided, pulling the strings tying her hideous mobcap beneath her chin.
She made a wild grab for it, but he was faster, snatching the bloody thing off– finally, and with a great deal of satisfaction. She might’ve deprived him of a wife that it’d taken him half a year and a rather large some of money to entangle, but by God, he’d take off her awful cap.
“Oh, Seraphine,”he breathed, enchanted, for her hair was as black as coal, as black as night, as black as his own soul, save for one white streak just over her left eye. But she’d twisted and braided and tortured the strands, binding them tight to her head, and his fingers itched to let them free.
“Don’t!” she said, as if she knew what he wanted, her hands flying up to cover her hair.
He batted them aside, laughing, pulling a pin here, a pin there, dropping them carelessly to the carpet as she squealed like a little girl and backed away from him, trying frantically to ward off his fingers.
He might’ve taken pity on her had he not just spent an hour on a freezing moor, wondering if he was going to find her dead, neck broken, at the bottom of a hill.
Her hair came down all at once, a tumbling mass, tousled and heavy and nearly down to her waist.
“Wonderful,” he murmurred, taking it in both hands and lifting it .