Thursday, September 05, 2013

Mad, Bad, Wounded and Dangerous to Know - Why We Love Those Bad Boy Heroes




Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

 Raise your hand - everyone who thought Christine was an idiot to run off with Raoul when she could have had the Phantom.

Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!

I mean, he was a bit obsessive and controlling. And his taste in real estate was a bit Norman Batish. Okay, fine. He was a serial killer with boundary issues. But with the right woman at his side ....


    The great majority of romance readers (and romance writers for that matter!) love a bad boy hero. Make him a dark, wounded and brooding and you have a romance hero trifecta. But why is that? What is it about this growling, angry, rude, closed-off specimen with more emotional baggage than a Kardashian Family Reunion that makes us want to read about him, dream about him and wonder how on earth any heroine is ever going to drag him kicking and screaming into a happily ever after? 



Not me, you say? Really?



Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent
 How about a guy who kidnaps his best friend's fiancee, threatens to rape her into submission and eventually marries a mousy stuttering woman because he needs her money? Additional baggage - an inability to connect with women because his mother died in childbirth and he lost one of his older sisters the same way. The other two sisters he lost to cholera and all before he was a teenager.

"Lovely," he murmured. "I rarely like to bed a woman more than once. A crashing bore, after the novelty is gone. Besides, I would never be so bourgeois as to lust after my own wife. It implies that one hasn't the means to keep a mistress. Of course, there is the issue of providing me with an heir ... but as long as you're discreet, I don't expect I'll give a damn whose child it is."


Charming, isn't he?

 But you want to keep reading, don't you.
Hard to believe this same heartless rogue will take a bullet for the mousy stuttering woman he marries. Even harder to believe he will beg his former best friend, the man he betrayed, to look after said wife once that rather large bullet takes his life. What is not so hard to believe is the mousy wife's determination to save him from the bullet wound and then to save him from himself.



Ivan Thornton, the Gypsy Earl 

Then there is this dark-haired, blue-eyed criminally handsome heart-breaker. His Romani mother sold him to his aristocratic paternal grandmother when he was seven years old. His grandmother promptly shipped him off to a remote boarding school where she hoped they would beat the gypsy out of him and the decorum and stiff upper lip of an English earl into him.


 The glacial stare focused on her. The mocking smile thinned. The furious voice turned low and dangerous. "Unless you are here for some useful purpose, it would be better if you remove yourself from this discussion. This is my house not hers. The only guests I will allow are my own." The frosty glare moved over her, head to toe, taking a swift yet alarmingly thorough appraisal of her appearance. Then those bitter blue eyes met hers again. "Dare I hope your purpose here is carnal? And that it involves me?"She slapped him.    


  Apparently he missed a few of those classes on decorum.

Imagine the young lady's surprise when she finds herself attracted to, compromised by and married to this crude, insulting rogue in fairly short order. He hates his grandmother. She doesn't. He doesn't want children. She does. He has no intention of falling in love. She's already there. Imagine his fury when he discovers she is the woman hand-picked by his grandmother to guarantee an heir to the title he swore to let die. Things get ugly. He gets uglier. And until the last ten pages the reader wonders how in God's name this is ever going to end happily for anyone. Why would any woman want to spend the rest of her life with a man so full of hate?

Bad enough for you?

Lets add a little madness to the mix.

Lord Ian MacKenzie
Everyone in London society knows Lord Ian MacKenzie is mad. He grew up in an asylum and is only running loose about England because his brother, the duke, had him released once their father died. He is incapable of looking anyone in the eye. He spends hours doing complicated math problems and is obsessed with collecting Ming bowls. Oh, and it is believed he murdered a prostitute at his brother's love nest, but you know how those crazy aristocrats are! 

"Not won't. I can't love you.""I beg your pardon?"                                                          
"I am incapable of love. I will not offer it to you."
"Perhaps you simply haven't found the right lady, my lord. Everyone falls in love sooner or later.""I have taken women as lovers, but never loved them.""You make no sense, my lord. If you don't care about my fortune or whether I love you, why on earth do you wish to marry me?""Because I want to bed you.""Do you?""You were a vicar's wife, respectable , the sort to be married. Otherwise, I would offer a liaison.""Have I got this right? You want me to come to your bed, but because I was once a respectable married lady, you must marry me in order to get there?""Yes."

Wicked? Absolutely! Mad? Possibly. A murderer? Could be. Still interested? These are not the sorts of men our mothers would want us to bring home. And in real life heaven only knows what sort of havoc they would wreak in our lives. Hell, some of us have been married to guys like this. Some of us have been married to guys that make Freddy Krueger look like Tom Hanks! Why then do the bad boys top the best-seller lists week after week after week?

Because they call to us. Because in spite of every thing they have suffered, their soul is not yet conquered. There is something to be learned from a soul that will not break. And dear God, we want to learn it.

They call to something in us that makes us want to heal those broken souls. We want to believe it can be done. We may go through every day life dismissing people's ability to change, to rise above. We may look around us and see those broken by the things life has thrown at them or even the things they have thrown at themselves and in the real world we just assume there is nothing to be done. But what we read, especially those of us who read romance, lets us live in a world where anything is possible. Even the most wounded soul can be brought into the light. Even the most ragged heart can learn to love, can conquer old fears, old hurts and can walk out of the monster's skin they've donned to survive and become who they were always meant to be.

We read the Bad Boys because we can be completely free to love them without ending up in the looney bin or worse, on the next episode of Snapped. We can open ourselves to the possibility of leaping without a net into a place we know is dangerous, but frankly don't care because in spite of the risks, the rewards are just too great.

We read them, we love them, we can't get enough of them because in the end they teach us the one lesson we can never hear enough. And its a lesson that seeps into us and on really bad days allows us to go out into the world and maybe bring a little of that light with us.

Love hopes all things, believes all things, trust all things. And even with the Baddest of the Bad Boys 

   Love. Never. Fails. 
  So, why do you read bad boys? Why do you love them? Or if you don't why not? Who is your favorite bad boy hero and why? Share your deep, dark secret bad boy crush and I'll give a random commenter a $10.00 gift card to Amazon so you can have a bad boy delivered to your doorstep! 


Jamie Farrell said...

Oh, Louisa, you found the best of the bad boys! :) And I think I need to go re-read Devil in Winter. *happy sigh*

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Jamie! Is your copy of Devil in Winter as worn out as mine? LOVE Sebastian St. Vincent! Thanks for stopping by!

Naima Simone said...

I LOVED YOUR BAD BOYS!!! Louisa, you're going to make me go back and find every one of these books to read over or read for the first time! Oh wow!! And when I wasn't drooling and clapping--and drooling--I was laughing! LOL! See? There I go again! I love me some bad boys. The more complex, tortured and cold they are the better. Why? Because I can't wait to see that sensitive, wounded, honorable, loving core of them exposed. You've touched my heart with this post! Sigh. Love it!

Wanda said...

I do not know any of your bad boys, but I wouldn't mind getting to know all of them. I love them because in the end no matter how bad they are they all have a good side to them. Mixing the good and the bad together, is just an explosion of pure pleasure for you.
They can take you places that some of us would not dare to go on our own. I love Crixus from Spartacus, he can wield a sword for me anytime.

Lexi said...

Love, love, LOVE Devil in Winter! One of my absolute favs!

Katherine Bone said...

All you had to do was post a picture of The Phantom of the Opera, Louisa. You're so right. Half of a face is better than a sniveling cry baby Raol. Blech!!! Of course, the singing voice and machismo make up for the one side of his face that wouldn't be too hard to learn to love.

If you've never read Phantom by Susan Kay, please do. The BEST! It's been hard to find for a long time but I just found it on Amazon in paperback for 17.46! I bet you can get it in Ebook too. A Must read, y'all!

Great post, Louisa!

bn100 said...

Because they're more fun to read about

Like Zsadist

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Susanna Cornett said...

Excellent post, and while I've read some of those, you added a couple more books to my TBR list. Thank you! One teeny tiny request, though... please leave off the all caps next time, okay? I feel like you just screamed that entire post at me. :O

Anonymous said...

I think it's because we love to see them redeemed. I've read and loved two of those books, and the third (the R. Becnel book) is on my tbr pile. It may move up on my list. LOL
bonnieblue at wowway dot com

Mandy said...

I would add Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain from Lord of Scoundrels. Definitely a bad boy

Anonymous said...

I love Lord Ian - thanks for recommending that historical series to me.

I want a bad boy who loves only me and would do anything for me, I see a side to him no one else knows. :)

Debbie Herbert

Sharlene said...

I think bad boys are great heroes because there is always something good in them, and you are anxious to see that good take over for the bad. How about Dain in Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels? Major redemption in that story!

Shadow said...

I do love me some bad boys! There actually some of my favorite characters to read. I love how redeemable they are, there attitudes, how they react to the heroine, etc. Each one is different, yet the same. :) I have way to many favorites to choose just one! Lora Leigh has some of my favorites! ;) Thank you!

Christi Caldwell said...

What a fantastic blog Louisa!!! I adore the mad, bad heroes! And i loved the excerpts from some of my favorite reads! I personally like the appeal of a strong hero who doesn't realize he needs saving. We all need Saving in some way and I think there is something poignant in watching the hero's world unravel as he learns that.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks so much, Naima! And yes, seeing who they really are come to light is one of the great appeals of those bad boys!

Louisa Cornell said...

You are so right, Wanda! The mix of good and bad is so intriguing and it can be sexy as the devil!

Oooh! Crixus is another great choice!

Louisa Cornell said...

Isn't Sebastian St. Vincent to die for, Lexi !!!

Louisa Cornell said...

I agree, Katherine! The Phantom is such a better choice! And I will definitely check out the Susan Kay book!

Louisa Cornell said...


Zsadist! MMMMM! That is one delicious bad boy and he is definitely fun to read about!

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL, Susanna, sorry about the caps. I have dial up internet and I think it just takes over and does whatever it wants to my posts. It didn't look that way in the draft, but when I posted it I was horrified! And I couldn't fix it. Thank you to the kind soul who took pity on me and fixed it!

Louisa Cornell said...

Bonnie, you will LOVE the Bechnel book. It is so poignant and heart-breaking.

Louisa Cornell said...


Dain is definitely one of my all-time favorite bad boys. What a great redemption story!

Louisa Cornell said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed Lord Ian and all of his family, Debbie!

And I love your description of your favorite kind of bad boy!

Louisa Cornell said...

Another fan of Dain! Welcome, Sharlene. Yes, we always want to go on the journey that forces that good to the top in our bad boys!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hi Shadow!

Yes, Lora Leigh has some great bad boys in her books. And seeing the bad boy with the heroine and how he reacts to her is a definite plus!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thank you, Christi! And you are so right. Those bad boys who have no clue they need saving and then no clue what to do when it happens are some of the very best!

donnas said...

Because they are so much fun, and add just a great level of excitement. Barrons is one of my favorites.

Louisa Cornell said...

They definitely add a level of excitement to the story, don't they, Donna!

Juanita Decuir said...

My bad boy is not from the historical romance genre he is from a darkly erotic and paranormal world...The Fever Series 5-Book Bundle: Darkfever, Bloodfever, Faefever, Dreamfever, Shadowfever written by author
Karen Marie Moning...Mr. Jericho Z. Barrons!...Will have to re-read...Devil in Winter and definitely get...Dangerously In Love! Juanita

Ashfa said...

Love their brooding and overall hotness. Warner form shatter me is my fav!

Beth Trissel said...

Louisa, what a wonderful post. I so enjoyed it! And I totally thought Christine should have chosen the Phantom.

Louisa Cornell said...

Juanita, you are adding to my TBR stack! I will definitely check out the Fever series!

Louisa Cornell said...

"Overall brooding and hotness" what a great description of a bad boy hero, Ashfa! Awesome!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks so much, Pixie Sister! Another gal in the Phantom's camp!

Theresa said...

Bad boys are so much more interesting, and make great husbands!

Louisa Cornell said...

Definitely more interesting! And great husband material too, Theresa. Sounds like you know something about that too. :)

Anonymous said...

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