Romantic Suspense’s Top Cops

FBI agent’s badge and gun Romantic Suspense’s top cops
Not all heroes wear a badge, but some certainly do.
As any romantic suspense reader worth her salt will tell you, some branches of law enforcement get more love than others when it comes time for hero building. But thanks to the magic of blogging, this reader can and will build her own all-star team of romantic suspense heroes. A team representing more than just the most popular branches of law enforcement. Because what are all-star teams for if not to give recognition to those players who toil tirelessly on the field, but don’t always get the glory they deserve?

Call the Sheriff!
First up, it’s the time-honored position of sheriff.  Let’s face it, there are a LOT of heroes to choose from here. There’s just something intoxicating about a man who oversees a small town with a fair hand and a gruff smile. I can think of several off the top of my head, including Jack Bowman of Laura Griffin’s Thread of Fear, and Zack Todd of Nora RobertsDance Upon the Air. Though I had a hard time choosing, I went with another Nora Roberts hero for this role. I’ve chosen Sheriff Cameron Rafferty, of Roberts’ 1992 classic, Divine Evil. Bad boy turned good guy, Cam is the perfect foil to sculptor heroine Clare Kimball. And when it looks like someone (or some people) mean Clare harm, Cam makes one helluva protector.

Another member of law enforcement who gets a lot of attention is the homicide detective. Thanks to the popularity of the murder mystery I think. I’ve got several favorites in this category, including Marc Chastain from Linda Howard’s Kill and Tell and Nathan Deveraux from Laura Griffin’s Untraceable. But my heart belongs to another hero altogether, a cop who hails from a family of cops, a hero who is a shrewd detective as well as smokin’ hot:  Chicago PD Homicide Detective Aidan Reagan, hero of You Can’t Hide by Karen Rose.  From the moment he smolders onto the scene, the reader knows that Aidan Reagan is going to be a tough nut to crack. He’s got definite opinions about his heroine, Dr. Tess Ciccotelli, and they aren’t good. And yet, when it comes down to it, Aidan is fair and when he realizes that he was wrong about her, he’s man enough to admit it. And when he realizes someone is out to harm Tess, well, let’s just say he takes her protection very seriously. 

Leslie Parrish’s Black CATs series star very special FBI agents
Some very Special Agents, indeed!
The FBI doesn’t always come across in the best light in real life. But in fiction, there is no limit to the amount of awesomeness this arm of the United States federal government can achieve. And do the FBI heroes ever know how to fill out a suit! Again, here, I had to turn aside some of my all time favorites, including Leslie Parrish’s Black Cats, and Suzanne Brockmann’s Max Bhagat. But my heart belongs to a new agent: Luke Dante, the hero of Cynthia Eden’s Deadly Fear.  A new romance hero with an old school feel, Dante isn’t afraid to give punishing kisses to his heroine. But he’s also not afraid to let her, fellow agent Monica Davenport, take the lead when necessary. These two are partners in the true sense of the word, and it’s Dante’s ability to be protective without being overbearing that makes him such a dish.

Maybe it’s because we’re not quite sure what being a CIA agent entails, but despite the popularity of James Bond and Jack Bauer, romantic suspense isn’t exactly teeming with CIA agent heroes. Fortunately for me, the only one I can recall happens to be one of my favorite heroes:  retired CIA agent, Matt Callahan, hero of Geralyn Dawson’s Never Say Never.  Once upon a time, he saved Torie Bradshaw’s bacon, and all he got to show for it was a gunshot wound.  Matt has reasons for disliking Torie, but what I love about him is that despite his misgivings about her, he does what needs to be done to protect her life. Because it’s the right thing to do.  What’s not to love?

Pamela Clare’s Breaking Point with hot CIA agent!
That’s a heck of a uniform.
And finally, we come to the least represented of all law enforcement heroes, though I’m not sure just why. It seems to me that U.S. Marshals could give any of the other hero types a run for their money. After all, Marshals are the ones who (Tommie Lee Jones style) hunt down fugitives. They’re also the ones who oversee all those Witness Protection folks (thank you, In Plain Sight). And they also provide security to the federal courts. Maybe because they are an enforcement agency rather than an investigative agency, they don’t get to play romantic suspense hero very often. But when they do, as Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride does in Pamela Clare’s Breaking Point…? Katie, bar the door, because this Marshal brings the sexy. He also brings the heroism and the courage as he endures countless cruelties and tortures at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel, and spirits investigative reporter Natalie Dupree Benoit out of Mexico with little more than a shoelace and a wad of gum. Okay, I exaggerate a bit, but just a bit. How could she possibly resist falling in love with him?

So, there you have it, this reader’s Top Cop All-Stars. Who would you name to your team? Can you think of any law enforcement agencies I’ve left out? Tell me about them! Inquiring minds want to know!


Manda Collins has been reading mysteries since her first Nancy Drew at the age of six. An academic librarian by day, by night she writes historical romance blended with mystery for St. Martin’s Press. Her first book, How to Dance with a Duke, is scheduled for release in February, 2012. To learn more, check out her webpage or follow her on Twitter @MandaCollins.


  1. Romance_junkie

    Totally agreed with all these. Would it be wrong to include a group for hott and noble mercenaries that are doing the same wonderful work without all the pesky red tape? My favorite recent example has to be Lori Foster’s new series and the fav. has to be Savor the Danger. And we should probably also include DEA agents like in “For Maggie’s sake” in the Real Men Do it Better Anthology. Just my opinon.

  2. Aly

    You can add the DEA, well represented in Pamela Clare’s Unlawful Contact. I don’t think I’ve ever seen ICE represented in romance. Such a pity, those guys protect our borders.

  3. Rachel Skinner

    Excellent list. Although I haven’t read all your fav’s, so can’t justly compare, my fav FBI man is Trever Cormier from the Bobby Faye series by Toni McGee Causey. He’s got it all: bad-boy undercover, dedication to the heroine even when she gives him reasons to walk away, steadfast in the face of his competition with ‘the other man’, and did I mention hot? Yes, well, that’s a given I suppose. 🙂

    And although not a cop, I’d say Bond Enforcement Agent qualifies as law enforcement, in which case is there really any competition? Ranger from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series takes the cake. MMmmm.

  4. Manda Collins

    Romance_junkie, I think you’ve given me an idea for another list–Romantic Suspense’s Best Just-this- Side-of-the-Law-Men;) I’m ashamed to say it, but I’ve never read Lori Foster. Though it sounds like I need to get busy with that!

    Aly! Great call on Unlawful Contact and the DEA! You and Romance-junkie both made great suggestions. I’ll put them on my list for next time.

    Thanks, Rach! You know I need to read Toni McGee Causey, because I’ve been hearing about her books forever but just haven’t checked them out yet. But since I love me some hot FBI agents I’ll check them out! And Ranger might belong on the Just-This-Side-of-The-Law list;)

  5. Mia

    Manda, what a fun list! I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense but I have read enough to agree with some of your choices (though as Brockmann FBI agents go, I prefer Jules Cassidy to Max). A minor correction you might want to make: the heroine in Clare’s Breaking Point is named Natalie Benoit, not Dupree.

    How about law enforcement heroes from other romance subgenres? I think Max de Rohan from Liz Carlyle’s No True Gentleman would be an excellent addition.

  6. Manda Collins

    Ooh! Thanks for that catch, Mia! I wonder who Natalie Dupree is…probably the heroine of some other book.

    Aww, I love Jules too. It was hard to choose a favorite really.

    And, my goodness if we moved into other subgenres we could have loads of fun. Lisa Kleypas’ Bow Street Runners–Nick Gentry, you have my heart! And there are a ton in paranormal, too. Lots of cops out there trying to control the shifters, vamps and other sundry supernatural beings.

  7. Sara Foehner

    what about Lora Leigh’s FBI series? Those men are seriously hot!!

  8. Manda Collins

    You know, Sara, I haven’t read Lora Leigh. You guys are terrible for my book budget;)

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