You know, it would take one heck of a writer to turn anyone named Boris into a romance hero. Fair or not, some names work better for romantic heroes and heroines than others. For instance, I love my brother Dennis. But I have a hard time thinking of a "Dennis" as a romance hero. (I'd probably use his middle name, Lee, instead).
Gertrude would be a hard sell as a romance heroine. So would Doris. Or Gladys or any number of names that are no longer in style. Even in historicals, set in eras when those names might have been more popular, authors generally opt for names that have more lasting appeal, like Elizabeth, Anna, Chloe or Christine.
On the other hand, writers can go too far in their quest for new, different and sexy sounding names. Roman, Blake, Ridge, Thorne—eee! Run, run away! Or names chosen by Hollywood stars for their children—Rumer, West, Scout, Apple...need I say more?
Other names are so common among heroes that it's hard to avoid them, such as Jack, Nick, Rick, Luke, Josh, or Jesse. If we write long enough, we're probably all going to use at least one of those names for a hero. (I've used one of them already). And you'll probably have a Kate, a Maggie, a Sarah or a Rachel before it's all over.
The secret to making those well-used names work for you is to make the characters so real, so memorable, that nobody will ever mistake your Jack or your Kate for anyone else's. Or give them interesting surnames or first names. For instance, in one of my books, my heroine Maggie's full name is Marguerite, and the hero, who knew her back when she was going by that name, thinks of her as Naughty Marguerite when she lays on the flirty charm to get her way.
Last names as first names can work, too. In my current WIP, the hero's name is Maddox Wainwright. I wanted to convey the idea of a man who came from money—but who has an independent streak a mile wide. (Hence his oft-used nickname, Mad Dog). In FORBIDDEN TERRITORY (Harlequin Intrigue - June 2006), my hero goes by his last name, McBride, for reasons that are evident once you read the book and learn his first name.
Names that come in threes can work for series—Faith, Hope and Charity...Sarah, Rachel and Hannah...Lily, Rose and Iris (the three sisters in FT and following stories). I'd love to see someone make Tom, Dick and Harry work—or has someone already done it?
So, how do YOU choose your hero's and heroine's names?