The Romance Reviews

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bad boys. Bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

I was asked just recently why it is that so many romance novels seem to deal with the bad boy hero. I was taken aback by that question, because I can’t recall reading a true “bad boy” in a recent romance so I asked for clarification. The response I got was the bad to bone, genuinely bad person who is “redeemed” by the love and goodness of the heroine. I will readily admit that yes, there are the heroes who have donned the mantle of “bad boy” because circumstances or situations have demanded that role of the hero, but a real bad boy? I don’t think so.

That short conversation got me thinking about some of my favorite “bad boys” in books and in movies. The first one who came to mind was Rhett Butler. Rhett was a rake, a bit of a play boy, had no problems defying social customs, yet when he found the woman he knew was not only his match but his equal, the real Rhett Butler showed up.
The man who adored Scarlett, though as he said, “God help the man who ever truly loves you,” because he definitely needed divine assistance with her; the man who doted on Bonnie, and in both the book and the movie, appeared to genuinely care for Beau Wilkes, and the man who admired, respected, and deeply cared for Miss Mellie—that was the real Rhett Butler, not the fa├žade he wore most of the time.

Han Solo is another of my favorite bad boys. It didn’t help at the time I saw the first Star Wars movie, I was sixteen, and at the time, Harrison Ford was my definition of “HAWT.” I remember thinking the first time I saw Star Wars how disappointed I was that Solo was just going to take the money and leave the Rebellion to fight the Empire. I about leaped out of my chair when he showed up again, just in time to clear Luke’s tail so Luke could destroy the Death Star. And, who could forget the line in The Empire Strikes Back when Leia tells Han she loves him and he just says, “I know.” Really? You’re seconds away from being turned into a giant ice cube, possibly dying in the process, and all you can say to her declaration of love is “I know”? For inquiring minds, I did see the version where Han shot first...and I still have videographic proof. I still own a VHS set of the first three movies. So, yeah, Han most assuredly fits the definition of bad boy.

And then there is Zach Benedict in Judith McNaught’s Perfect. O…M…G…Zach was my first book boyfriend. He totally defines the “bad boy” hero. Accused and convicted of murdering his wife, Zach escapes prison, takes Julie Mathison prisoner and hides out in a remote cabin in the Colorado Rockies…I read Perfect in one night. I couldn’t put it down. Zach’s struggles with his conscience, with his desire (okay…make that lust) for the virginal Julie (this was first published in 1993), and his need to protect Julie from his actions had me laughing and crying and sighing. Even though it's a bit dated now with some of the cultural references (one of the pitfalls of writing a contemporary romance), this is a book I would recommend to anyone wanting a good read.

Colt Evans in The Devil’s Own Desperado is the “bad boy” I wrote. Forced to be a shootist at a young age, Colt is tired of constantly looking over his shoulder and worrying about the next hot-headed young gun wanting to make a name at Colt’s expense. He also knows that if stays with Amy, the woman he’s grown to love, he will put her in danger because it’s a question of when not if his past shows up. He's not really as bad as his reputation claims, but he isn't a knight in shining armor, either.

I had to think why it is we seem to like these “bad boys” as the hero so well. I never really came to a satisfactory answer, other than there is something endearing about seeing their carefully constructed walls come tumbling down and being able to see the genuine and caring person behind those battlements.  I also think we like the “bad boys” because they have hidden behind that constructed fortress for so long that the journey of discovery and their ability to finally be vulnerable to that special person is a journey we all take. Most of us hide our vulnerabilities because…well, it makes us vulnerable and hands others the capacity to hurt us. No one wants to be hurt and if that means we build defensive walls to hide behind, we learn how to construct those defenses. Tearing down those walls is harder.


  1. Rhett Butler and Clark Gable in particular were my first favorite bad boys. The look he gives Scarlett(Vivian Leigh) in our first glimpse of him in the movie version still can draw a sigh from me every time I watch it (many, many times). Clark Gable played so many bad boys in movies and always made them seem heroic at their core. I always love to study the bad boys in movies and books. My recent favorite was Sawyer in the series "Lost." I loved how he could go from saving someone one minute to stealing supplies or trying to outsmart Jack in the next scene.

    1. Sawyer in *LOST* was an awesome character. I loved how his character arced throughout the series, too.


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