This post first appeared on Mary Hughes blog June 11th, 2013.
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BAD BOY HEROES
We know who they are.
They appear in as many guises as there are writers and dreamers.
They are the Bad Boy Heroes of Romance. As a group they are far-reaching and encompass a wide variety of characteristics. Your favorite may be tortured and dangerous. Or roguish and charming. A rebel with a cause, or a man motivated by demons from his past. He may be the wolfish shifter who hunts in the night, the rich playboy who cares only for himself and the pleasures he can explore, or the man who rides at the edge of society.
No matter what form he takes, we all know him by a few specific traits:
– He is an unrepentant rule-breaker.
– Beneath his harsh blackened outer shell, he is as vulnerable as a lost child.
– And when he finds that one woman who manages to convince him he is worth it, he would give up his soul to keep her.
So, what is it that holds us so enthralled when it comes to these men who are “mad, bad and dangerous to know?”
Why do we agonize over their pain and wish for one of these devastating heroes to have as our very own?
I think we have all heard the theory that girls go for the bad boys because they want to change them, fix them, heal them.
Do we yearn to nurture the tortured soul of a devastatingly handsome, recklessly deviant and wonderfully bad man, proving ourselves worthy of his unending devotion?
Of course we do! (I mean the heroines. That is what we want the HEROINES to do. Geesh!)
But I believe it is also about so much more than that.
Whether the heroine is an innocent, pure and naïve, or a tough chic out to get what’s hers, there is something liberating in being in the presence of a rogue who has no concerns with reputation, consequences or the polite expectations of others. Bad Boys give even the most pious little good girl the unspoken permission to be a little bit (or a lot!) wicked themselves. The sexy thing about not following the rules is that it allows us to see all the potential that exists outside the bounds of what others have deemed as appropriate. We are freed to explore things we may not have had the courage to do before meeting Mr. Dangerous. Boundaries drop away, life is newly exciting and love… well…
Don’t forget, these men typically know exactly what to do when they’ve got you alone and they don’t tend to hold back. A man like that can easily release a girl’s inhibitions because she knows there will be no judgment if she goes a little wild or completely loses control. The Bad Boy will continually challenge his lover to see just how far she is willing to go.
Leif Riley, the hero of Reckless Viscount is like that. He accepts that he is notorious amongst polite society and he feels no shame for it. He has his reasons for the wicked path he has taken through the richest boudoirs of England and that is enough for him. Until he meets a woman who seems to see beyond the façade he created for the rest of the world. An innocent from the Irish countryside, there should be nothing about her to tempt a man as jaded as he is, but he cannot seem to chase her from his thoughts.
For Abbigael Granger, Leif is a man to be avoided at all costs, but he accepts the shadows in her soul as no one else has ever done. His easy acceptance of things she tried so hard to conceal, allows her to see herself in a new way. And he encourages her to explore a rich sensuality she had no idea she possessed.
Excerpt from Reckless Viscount
The curve of his mouth turned devilish and his voice took on a cavalier tone. “I’d make a dreadful husband, probably the worst that ever existed, but you would never be bored.”
“There are things that frighten me far more than boredom,” Abbigael countered.
She desperately tried to ignore the delicate little thrills that chased over her skin in reaction to his suggestive tone and his overwhelming nearness and the way the warmth of his hand holding hers seemed to spread throughout her entire body.
“Like what?” he asked in a low murmur.
Stray bits of moonlight filtered through the patterned leaves and danced over the sharp planes of his face, accenting the stern line of his jaw, the aristocratic length of his nose, the masculine width of his forehead. He was truly stunningly handsome.
And he was fully aware of it.
An inexperienced girl could become ensnared in his attentive gaze. Abbigael was unwilling to look away in fear she may miss some deep revelation in the swirling colors. Her brain was softening, as was the curve of her spine. She felt herself leaning in to him, enjoying the caress of his thumb as it pressed into the flesh of her palm.
He watched her intently, waiting for something. Oh yes, he had asked her a question. What did she fear more than boredom?
“Loneliness,” she breathed.
The black centers of his eyes dilated. She wondered at it, but her mind couldn’t seem to find purchase on any solid thought at the moment. Her lungs felt heavy and restrictive.
“You’re not alone right now.”
Abbigael suppressed a gentle shiver. She loved the sound of his voice when he lowered it like that. It twisted around her like a silken snake, tempting and teasing a personal truth she had buried long ago. As much as Abbigael yearned for the simple, quiet joy of a loving family, a part of her was undeniably attracted to the more intense emotions within herself. Emotions she constantly repressed in fear of losing control.
Almost everything about this man called to that part of her.
“You’re not going to kiss me again,” she muttered with trembling conviction.
His lips twitched.
“No,” she replied more confidently. “Because even as you are not what I want, I know I am not at all what you want.”
“I doubt you have any idea a’tall what I want, Irish.” Weary arrogance rode along the crests of the deeper sensual undercurrent flowing through his voice.
There was something else as well. Something that begged to be defined.
Abbigael shifted her position to face him more fully. She tried not to think too long on the heady warmth that spread from her belly when her side pressed against his chest. She lifted her hand to the side of his face. It was a bold move, but Abbigael was beyond the point of concern for propriety. He grew very still at the unexpected contact, and Abbigael almost smiled at the idea that she had managed to shock him, if only a very little.
The subtle growth of hair along his jaw was rough beneath her hand. She enjoyed the unexpected humanness of the texture. Not a god or fairy prince then.
He lowered his eyelids to half-mast, perhaps as a means of shielding his thoughts. But the action lent his expression a distinctly seductive appearance, and Abbigael’s blood pulsed swiftly in her veins. In spite of her body’s distracting reaction, she remained focused on his face. There was something there she needed to understand, something out of place in the world-weary angles and planes that defined his features. The short lines between his brows were too deep for a man his age.
On impulse, she extended her thumb to press it firmly against the center of his bottom lip. There was far too much tension there.
At the touch of her thumb against his lips, his breath drew in sharply, audibly. She lifted her gaze back to his. The myriad color scope of his eyes was bright and intense.
She took a deep and quiet breath, slowly filling her lungs. Then she spoke, the words falling softly from her lips before completely clearing her mind.
“I suspect you want far more than you lead people to believe.” She watched as the blue and green sparks faded into the golden glow of his eyes. Pulled in by the sudden heaviness in his gaze, she murmured under her breath, “I wonder if your refusal to please the world is a way to hide the fact that you cannot please yourself.”
His countenance darkened as she spoke and the muscle in his jaw grew taut beneath her palm. Abbigael worried she may have angered him with her thoughtless speculation.
Then he smiled. A wide and reckless grin that instantly chased away the soft haze of emotional intimacy that had clouded her perception.
“Oh, I know very well how to please myself.”
He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her against his chest as he laid back. He dropped his other hand to the outer curve of her hip and pressed his fingers possessively into her sensitive flesh.
Who is your favorite Bad Boy Hero?