I recently read the first books in Ilona Andrews’ and Jeaniene Frost’s new urban fantasy series, and I loved both BURN FOR ME and ONCE BURNED. Both have spunky female protagonists–a must for urban fantasy. And both have love interests who are, of course, stronger and badder than anyone around–another must. On top of that, it seemed to me that both authors ramped up the “heat” index until the chemistry between heroines and heroes sizzled. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Both Vlad and Mad Rogan are sexy as sin. And both break rules to follow their own codes of honor. Which brings me to the question: how bad can bad boys be?
I signed up to read BURN FOR ME as part of Goodreads, but I’m so slow and got so far behind, I ended up reading the comments other readers made and didn’t add any of my own, because by then…what was the point? But it interested me that a few readers agreed with the book’s heroine, that Mad Rogan is a sociopath–a tempting, I’d throw myself at him, gorgeous, smart, intriguing sociopath–but still….
Since I’d read the two books close together, it made me wonder why Vlad didn’t get the same comments, but then, he’s a vampire. And everyone knows that vampires do whatever they please, so being called a sociopath is the least of their worries. Mad Rogan is a mortal with massive amounts of magic, so I’m guessing readers expect him to show more restraint. It got me thinking, and I was surprised by the heroes who have been my favorites lately. Jorg, from Prince of Thorns, is no nice guy. Mad Rogan would gladly eliminate you if you got in his way. And Vlad–well, his magic is fire. You’d probably be a crispy critter. The thing is, to me, they’re NOT sociopaths, because in their worlds, they’re probably better than anyone else who has the same powers they do. It’s all relative. They have a reason–to find and protect usually–for the things they do; whereas, the bad guys only strive to promote self-serving interests.
A true sociopath lacks empathy, but Vlad and Mad Rogan have that. They don’t follow normal social rules because they don’t live in a normal, social world. Their friends and enemies possess lots of power. The bad guys use power to do evil. The good guys use power to battle them. They risk their lives to fight villains. The conflict in the stories is usually good vs. evil. Jorg, he’s a little more ruthless than the norm, but so is his world. In Prince of Thorns, it’s hard to feel sympathy for even the ordinary citizens. They’re not very nice either. And the rulers? They tend to be violent and power-hungry. Jorg just does it better.
I’m shaking my head at myself. It’s hard to believe I went from doting over Mr. Darcy, Deerslayer, and Harry Potter to cheering for Vlad, Mad Rogan, and Jorg. But they’re all heroes, in their own ways, who defy the norm of their social worlds to see beyond it. The one rule a bad boy might get in trouble for breaking? Cheating on the heroine. I’m a fan of Faith Hunter’s, too, and when Rick cheated on Jane Yellowrock–even though, technically, he was a bit coerced–readers weren’t happy with him.
Who are your favorite heroes? And why? Are you hooked on any bad boys?
4 thoughts on “Writing: How bad can bad boys be?”
Sorry to take so long in commenting- i read this and ran out of time! What an interesting distinction- sociopath vs just plan bad! I enjoyed your post and always learn something new!
Can’t help myself. I always make distinctions. And I tend to see the potential in almost everyone. Makes it interesting for me to write villains.
Not keen on bad boy thing. Can’t work up the empathy.
If they have hearts of gold, I can empathize:)