Looking for Heathcliff: The Best Villainous "Heroes"

First came Emily Bronte's Heathcliff. Poor, uncouth, involved in what is one of the most dysfunctional relationships in history, he's not above kidnapping the daughter of his deceased lover (who married someone else because Heathcliff wasn't rich enough) in order to encourage a relationship that would allow him to gain more wealth and property.

The cover of Lothaire by Kresley Cole

And then there was Rhett Butler. Out only for himself, he was kicked out of West Point, alienated most of the southern aristocracy by pointing out that the Union was sure to win, forced kisses, stole Confederate gold, and in one of the most famous scenes in movie history, told the girl he'd been pursuing the whole time that he frankly didn't give a damn that she wanted him.

The cover of Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Bad boys. We love to read about them. And judging by the long-lived obsession readers have had with Heathcliff and Rhett, we really love when they don't have that moment of discovery when they suddenly turn it all around and prove they are sensitive kittens underneath that bad boy exterior.

So for those of us who don't want to discover that a hero needs nothing more than a little bit of therapy to become a teddy bear, what deliciously bad heroes make us swoon?

One of the baddest of the bad boys, Kresley Cole's Lothaire could win the title of "Most Villainous AntiHero." After being buried alive for 600 years, he is the Honey Badger of vampire romance leads. He gives no shits about anything but getting his revenge and getting to the person he believes is his mate, even if he has to kill off a human's soul to let his presumed mate's have the body. And best of all (or worst, depending on your viewpoint), even once he falls in love with the human who's fighting for control of her own body, he never once lowers himself to ask her forgiveness.

The cover of Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone

The antihero who's simultaneously most and least popular? Karen Marie Moning's Jericho Barrons, male star of her Fever series. With some calling him swoony and other calling him things I wouldn't repeat in a bar full of sailors, Barrons is a polarizing villain/hero. Giving up no information, trying to use heroine Mac to achieve his own ends, Barrons is the bad boy voted most likely to star in a book nerd's fantasies: tattooed, book-store-owning, and more aloof than Mr. Rochester.

And even young adult stories aren't left out when it comes to seriously evil guys. Leigh Bardugo's Grisha series. The Darkling is one point of the stereotypical love triangle, but then again, The Darkling is anything but stereotypical. The book's blurb describes him as "a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power. My friend Leiah describes him as "evil as %*$#." I'd describe him as the most compelling character over the course of the two books out so far. Even when other love interests are introduced, The Darkling makes his way to the forefront, and Alina is drawn to him even when she hates what he's done.

Did I miss your favorite swoon-worthy antihero? Let me know in the comments! For more love stories visit RT's Everything Romance page.