Top Five: Literary Bad Boys

Top Five: Literary Bad Boys

I love a bad boy hero. In my latest novel, Some Kind of Wonderful, my hero Zachary Flynn is living down his bad boy past, and on a small island where people have long memories, that isn’t an easy thing to do. So why are bad boys so enduringly popular in fiction? From brooding Heathcliff to wicked Rupert Campbell Black, bad boys have set pulses racing forever but why, when there are so many nice guys out there do we lap up a hero who could break your heart? These are characters most women would actively avoid in real life but meeting them through the pages of a book we’re transported into an exciting, unpredictable world with no long-term consequences. Life with a bad boy is never boring and in romantic fiction the process of falling in love is all the more delicious to observe when the bad boy is forced to temper his wicked ways. We can’t wait to see the heroine win his love, which is what keeps the reader turning the pages. Below, in no particular order, are my favourite bad boy heroes (and no, Heathcliff isn’t amongst them. There’s bad, and there’s psychotic….)

Some Kind of Wonderful by Sarah Morgan is out now (Harlequin, £8.99). 

  1. 1

    Riders by Jilly Cooper

    Bad boys and horses (a winning combination), Riders was published thirty years ago and they’ve recently produced a special anniversary edition with a new cover, proof that bad boy Rupert Campbell Black is as popular as ever. By his own admission Rupert is driven, ruthless, and selfish and yet somehow a man who would be a nightmare to be with in real life becomes irresistible on the page, his behaviour so wickedly appalling that closing the book before the end becomes impossible. Every woman with a pulse thinks she could be the one who could save him. One woman does, but that is in a later book...

  2. 2

    These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

    I read my way through the works of Georgette Heyer as a teenager, barely coming up for air. The hero of These Old Shades, The Duke of Avon, is ruthless and without conscience, traits reflected in his nickname Satanas. He is a cold, unsympathetic, unforgiving hero apparently incapable of redemption until he meets the heroine, Leonie. Her charm and wry observations on the world gradually penetrate his cynical, steely exterior, seeping through all barriers in an emotional osmosis that leaves him if not exactly changed, then at least determined to channel his energies into ensuring her happiness and protection. It is the mark of a skilled writer to make the reader like a character no one should like. Heyer succeeds and it’s one of my favourite stories.

  3. 3

    Sea Swept by Nora Roberts

    This is the first book in the "Chesapeake Bay" series and confirmed my serious addiction for stories written by Nora Roberts. The hero, fast-talking, fast-living, outrageously sexy Cameron Quinn, relinquishes his globe trotting life when his father dies in an accident. Fulfilling a deathbed wish, he returns home to care for the boy his father was on the verge of adopting. Watching this tough guy turn domestic is perfect reading, as is the romance between him and the social worker. It’s perfectly pitched and the developing relationship between the man and the boy is as captivating as the one between the hero and the heroine.

  4. 4

    Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

    The devilish Daniel, who mouthed such memorable lines as "`f*** me, I love Keats’, set plenty of hearts racing and neatly divided readers into two camps. Should Bridget choose bad boy Daniel or good boy Mark? Pitted against Colin Firth as Mark Darcy he never had much of a chance. The clumsy fight scene is one of my favorites and the final scene when Bridget says "Nice boys don’t kiss like that" and good boy Mark Darcy replies "Oh yes they f****** do" is a delicious reminder that perhaps the perfect partner is a good boy who can be bad when the moment demands it.

  5. 5

    The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

    Shakespeare wrote plenty of bad boys (I think we can be confident that Hamlet would never offer to give you a foot rub or ask about your day), and Petruchio, from The Taming of the Shrew, is one of my favorites. His total disregard for social decorum is part of his appeal. Selfish and mercenary, he finds his match in Kate who gives as good as she gets, proving that the bad boy is most fun to read when he is teamed with a woman who is equally strong.