William Hogarth A Rakes Progress Plate The Tavern Scene
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Quite often, romance novels feature “bad boys” as male protagonists. While I read these novels and often enjoy them, I have reservations. Of course, romance novels are almost always essentially fairy tails (Freudian slip) tales. Viewed as such, they’re analogous to stories in which the heroine kisses the frog and it turns into a prince. Ummm…ugh.

Because my stories are set in the 1740s, I think of this species of male protagonist’s flaws as follows: criminality (card sharper, highwayman, pirate), promiscuity (seduces every female in sight; worse if he seduces innocent young ladies), anger management problems (excessive dueling), socially irresponsible behavior (excessive risk-taking or gambling, ignoring the responsibilities of his title and estates).

When I began to think about the “bad boy” thing, I realized that what bothered me most was the assumption that love would cure the rapscallion. Romance novelists tend to believe in the healing power of love, and that’s a good thing. I’m happy to endorse the sentiment…within reason. Love will not negate gravity, however. You need duct tape for that. Love may or may not fix character flaws. If the problem is minor, I’m willing to suspend disbelief, because no one’s perfect, including characters.

Major faults, the ones that go deep, need more than the love of a good partner. That’s why, in my novel, Captain Easterday’s Bargain, the “bad boy” does not get the lady. On the other hand, I liked Ambrose Hawkins, former pirate, art connoisseur, and sneaky son-of-a-gun. So eventually, I wrote A Duke’s Daughter, in which he is the male protagonist.