Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bad Boys - And TheWomen Who Tame Them

Last month, I posted a tribute to bad boys. Judging from the comments, I was right - romance readers and writers love our bad boys. Bad boy characters are appealing on a variety of levels. They’re highly sexual, they thrive on challenges, including women who challenge them, they don’t run from a fight, and in a great romance, they harbor a protectiveness for the heroine that brings out the best in the man.

But what about the woman who inspires a bad boy to be a man? What makes a heroine who tames a bad boy, and does it in a way that doesn’t make me go, “Yeah, right, that would happen…what was the author thinking?”

A bad boy’s heroine is just as sexual a creature as he is. Often, though, she doesn’t know it yet. Grease’s heroine, Sandy, certainly wasn’t attracted to Danny Zuko for his brains. She may have been innocent, but there was an inner Rizzo, waiting to get out – in fact, Sandy might have been more sexual than Rizzo, the outwardly worldly character. She certainly seemed to know what she wanted with more clarity than the bedhopping leader of the Pink Ladies. In my novel, Destiny, Emma is a romance-loving innocent, longing to be swept away by a brooding lover like Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester. Her abduction changes all that. Her captor, Jack Travis, soon teaches her that an alpha-male with a heart is hard to resist, and that surrender to her heart can be very satisfying.

A bad boy’s heroine might have buried her desire, but it’s still there, presenting a challenge to the hero to bring it to the surface. In Claiming the Courtesan, the heroine, Verity, is noted as the most desirable courtesan in her circles, but she’s actually turned off her own responses. For Verity, sex is a skill, not a pleasure. Until Kylemore unleashes the power of love and with it, the pleasure of her sexual interactions with the hero.

Bad boys love challenges. Physical challenges. And intellectual challenges. Even Danny Zuko, who certainly wasn’t known for his brains, fell for the smart girl. At their ideal, the bad boy is as proficient mentally as he is physically. In Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey, Jr. essays a character who’s athletic and brilliant, so it comes as no surprise that the love of his life, Irene Adler, is as brilliant as he is. The fact that she’s chosen to put her brains to use as a thief rather than a crime-solver seems a natural pairing of opposites. A bad boy wants a girl who will match wits with him and spar with him, not simply nod in meek agreement.

To be believable, a bad boy’s heroine has to be strong, gutsy, and ultimately devoted to the hero. In Destiny, Emma Davenport, a powerful senator’s daughter, has lived a sheltered life, but that doesn’t stop her from running away to a forbidden marriage, matching wits with the arrogant captor who snatches her from a train, and ultimately, saving his life. Emma’s strong will, keen intelligence, ingenuity, and guts are irresistible to the alpha hero. Like Emma, Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark is courageous, strong willed enough to challenge the swashbuckling Indiana Jones, and smart enough to challenge his intellect when he’s morphed back into Dr. Henry Jones, the professor. She doesn’t rely on her beauty or flaunting her sexuality, but there’s no doubt of the chemistry between the hero and heroine.

Romance is filled with feisty heroines and the bad boys who love them. One of my favorite new heroines is Catherine Marks, Leo’s love in Lisa Kleypas’ wonderful Married by Morning. Her sharp wit intrigues bad boy Leo long before he realizes she’s actually a beauty who’s taken great pains to drab down her looks. Catriona Kincaid in Teresa Medeiros’ Some Like It Wicked is a perfect heroine for dissolute former war hero Simon as she challenges him and inspires him to be the man he’s meant to be.

Who are some of your favorite women who tame bad boys from romance and film? What do you love most about them? I’ll choose a random commenter to win a pdf of Destiny.


Clarissa Southwick said...

Great blog, Victoria. I have always preferred the silent, noble type, but you've given me something to think about. Who doesn't love Indiana Jones? Or Han Solo for that matter? Please count me in for the Destiny drawing. Thanks.

Colleen M. said...

Baby and Johnny from Dirty Dancing :) That is to this day one of my all time favorite movies -

Please include me in the drawing -

Colleen M.

Tori Minard said...

I love bad boys, too, Victoria. One of my favorites is Rory Frost from M.M.Kaye's Trade Wind. And I've recently fallen in love with Christian (a.k.a. Jervoulx) from Laura Kinsale's Flowers From The Storm.

Victoria Gray said...

Han Solo is one of my favorites...I have to admit, Harrison Ford could infuse just about any character with bad boy charm.

Ah, Johnny from Dirty Dancing...I'll never forget Patrick Swayze's protrayal...I hope they never remake that movie...no one could do that part justice.

I'll have to check out Trade Winds...sounds like a great character name. Very rugged...

Thanks for stopping by!


Cherie Le Clare said...

As one famous romance author once said: "We like the idea of a bad boy in our bed but we wouldn't want to live with one."
I'd add: At least, not without a whip and spurs to tame them into submission...

Cherie Le Clare

Victoria Gray said...

Great point, Cherie. I think a large part of the appeal of the bad boy in romance is the "reform" aspect in his character arc. Especially in romance novels, the "rake" is reformed and becomes a devoted husband. Ah, fantasy : )


Mary Ricksen said...

If only they could be trained huh?

Victoria Gray said...

How very true, Mary :)

Victoria Gray said...

Winner of the Destiny pdf - please email me at victoriagrayromance@gmail.com

Drumroll please:

Toria Dunford