Do Good Girls Love Bad Boys? Uh, Yeah
The other night, while watching an episode of Girls, my husband turned to me with a look of such concern and disgust, I immediately clicked out of Pinterest and focused on my distraught betrothed.
“Why,” he sputtered, “do nice girls think they like bad guys?”
I refrained from delivering some smart-mouth remark, but instead of returning to pinning other people’s pictures, I gave his question a moment’s thought. The Good Girl-Bad Boy axiom is older than the reclaimed hills we live on. Drooling over bad boys isn’t just a rebellious need to overthrow our Electra complexes. It’s more to do with the Alpha male so inherent in bad boys. Which is why, as writers and readers, we love our fictional bad boys. They’re swimming with Alpha pheromones, and we can dip our toes in their testosterone without actually getting wet. Theoretically.
I decided to distill some classic bad boys into three camps. The Troublemaker. The Brooder. And the Unknown Quantity.
We all knew a troublemaker in school, didn’t we? Some of us even tried dating them in high school. These were the guys that made mischief, but could sweet talk their way out of it or were clever enough to never get caught. Think Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind. A smooth talking Charlestonian, Rhett had no problem selling guns and butter to the north. He got by on his good looks and charisma and could even charm the pants (or giant hoop skirt) off a wily schemer like Scarlett O’Hara.
In my mystery Portrait of a Dead Guy, my artist heroine, Cherry Tucker, finds trouble with three bad boys. She has recently annulled a Vegas wedding with Todd, who appears to be a nice guy, albeit not the sharpest hammer in the sack. However, Cherry suspects Todd may be using a dumb blonde act to lower her prickly defenses. He has a gift of inserting himself in Cherry’s life before she realizes what’s happening. Todd is my troublemaker. An amateur poker player and faux-leather pants wearing drummer, he’s got a few aces up his sleeve that tips him into troublemaker territory.
I picture Rochester from Jane Eyre as the classic brooder. Brooders like to play hot and cold with a gal’s heart. Not because they can’t fall in love, but because they have mysterious pasts they must never reveal. Like a crazy Jamaican wife locked in the attic. Don’t we just love the strong and silent brooder? They keep us wondering what they’re thinking and feeling, setting our little over-analyzing hearts on fire.
In Portrait of a Dead Guy, Cherry’s old college flame, Luke Harper, has secrets he keeps buried beneath a dry sense of humor. Brooder may as well be tattooed to his forehead beneath his unruly dark curls. Testosterone wriggles out his pores. His tight jeans could cause flash fires. He’s a man of little words, smoky eyes, and deep dimples. His motives are suspicious and his lips are dangerous…
And then there’s the Unknown Quantity. Is he actually dangerous or just loves to walk on the wild side? Ranger from the Stephanie Plum One For the Money series comes to my mind. The man is dangerous and sexy as the dickens. He’s not one to settle down, but seems to like having Stephanie around, whether in his bed or fighting bad guys. Like the brooder, we’re never certain of his feelings and like the troublemaker, he enjoys getting her into sticky situations. However, the brooder and the troublemaker eventually will reveal their intentions (or lack thereof), whereas the unknown quantity… well, maybe he’ll never be Mr. Mom, but he sure is a lot of fun.
The number three bad boy in Cherry’s life is the mysterious Mr. Max, hailing from an unidentified ex-Eastern Bloc country. He struggles with English, but happily finds our streets paved with gold. Besides running a den of illegal gambling, Mr. Max knows French, art, and Civil War history. He’s a man of exceptional taste with a ruthlessness simmering beneath his robust frame. Is he toying with Cherry to throw her off the trail of his illicit pursuits or is he entertaining other feelings for the scrappy artist?
Who are your favorite fictional bad boys? Do they fall into one of the three categories of The Troublemaker, The Brooder, or The Unknown Quantity? Or do you have a category of your own?
Thanks for joining us today, Larissa! Readers, weigh in on bad boys or anything else for a chance to win an advance reading copy of Portrait of a Dead Guy. — AP