Theme: Bad Boys

Motorcycles and leather jackets are the modern-day fetish symbols of the "Bad Boy." Think of James Dean (or even George from "Seinfeld"!). But Romance's Bad Boys aren't restricted to leather jackets, jeans, motorcycles and T Birds--historicals offer a variety of "dangerous" heroes, too. These Bad Boys are often defined by their career rather than their gear, but be they outlaws, pirates, highway robbers, lawmen, mercenaries, drifters or rakish noblemen, romance readers know that Bad Boys always offer that intangible "something" so attractive that we women just can't resist. In fact, if you ask any romance reader to name their favorite Bad Boy romance, they literally growl out the answer. Just the thought provokes a gutteral response. Try it!

Romance readers shudder with delight when they hear the words "Bad Boy." They know these dangerous men are misunderstood by everyone except the heroine. Danger is her business...and adventure is her game. Because she is willing to take a risk, she is able to win the ultimate prize: the bad boy!

What's The Appeal?

"Mad, bad and dangerous to know" is the motto of romance's bad boys. But just what is it about those tough, dangerous, non-verbal and terribly misunderstood men that appeals to romance readers? Why don't readers throw down their books and say "no more of these loutish, abusive, no-talkers--we're sick of them"?

It's the challenge! Without a woman's love, these men are hopeless. Doomed to be misunderstood by the law, society, even their own families, they are lost without that special woman's vision and love to transform them into good guys.

Bad boys are trouble with a capital "T." They find it, they make it and they can't pass it up! Usually, circumstances have molded the bad boy; he's born on the wrong side of the tracks (misunderstood by birth), falsely accused of a crime (misunderstood by the law), or spent his youth unwisely (simply misunderstood). But sometimes the bad boy hero just has a chip on his shoulder and is personally responsible for his misunderstood status.

In either case, he has given up on himself and operates outside of society. He doesn't play by the rules and he teaches the heroine to break them. She has a chance to become a thrill seeker, but can maintain her "good girl" status by saving the hero from himself!

The bad boy isn't a bad man. He's a combination of raw vulnerability and tough machismo. He's magnetic and virile, appealing to the heroine's subconscious sexual identity. The promise: a transference of powers. She learns to express herself sexually and he, emotionally. Danger is a powerful aphrodisiac! And the heroine puts herself at risk just by loving the hero.

The bad boy romance offers wonderful lessons in love. The heroine learns that she doesn't always have to play by the rules to win and the bad boy learns the power of transformation through love. Both learn that appearances are deceiving. And readers love to be reminded that you can't judge a book by its cover.
-Kate Ryan

 

Recommended Reads

(Note: The list below was compiled at press time: Romantic Times Issue #153, December 1996)

Medieval Historicals

Western/Indian Historicals

Regency Historicals

Medieval Historicals

Miscellaneous Historicals

Mainstream Contemporaries

View more themes >>