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What makes a bad boy too bad?


July 20, 2011

by Kat Latham

In real life, I’m not attracted to bad boys. I’m a habitual rule-follower; I’m allergic to getting in trouble. If I were a romance novel heroine, I’d be destined to end up with a bad boy.

Bad boys make me nervous. They’re unreliable—if you can’t trust them to follow society’s rules, how can you trust them to follow the unspoken rules of a committed relationship?

But in romance, I can suspend my own standards and believe that bad boys can be good boys when it comes to the woman they love. That said, I have very strict standards they have to stick to.

1. No talking down to the heroine. Ever.

Ever.

This chaps my ass like a slap. My sympathy will never lie with a man who demeans a woman—whether it’s with words or a fist. He can misspeak, and get upset, and be occasionally rude, and say things he regrets. But no talking to the heroine like she’s beneath him or an idiot.

2. No cheating on the heroine. Or anyone else.

Zero tolerance. This is a crime against trust, and if a hero breaks a heroine’s trust this way, then he’s broken mine, too.

3. No committing a felony—unless there are mitigating circumstances.

The exception probably wouldn’t have been there until a few weeks ago, when I read Brenda Novak’s gut-twisting romantic suspense INSIDE. The hero, Virgil Skinner, spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But while inside, he did commit crimes—horrible crimes—though I could understand why. And I wouldn’t have believed his character if he’d been able to survive prison without committing them.

But I can’t think of many other heroes who’ve done something heinous and still gained my sympathy.

Looking at my rules, I wonder if my definition of a bad boy is wrong. Maybe I’m getting bad boys mixed up with jerks. What do you think?

What’s your definition of a “bad boy”? Do you like bad-boy heroes? What are your standards for bad boys in romance? Comment and enter to win a copy of Christie Ridgway’s CAN’T HURRY LOVE.


Kat Latham has been reading romance for a couple of decades. With degrees in English lit and human rights, she loves stories that reflect the depth, humor and emotion of real life. When she’s not writing contemporary romance novels, she can usually be found blogging or tweeting overly personal information. She loves meeting other readers and writers online, so follow her on Twitter or check out her blog and say hello!

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23 Comments

  1. I am a sucker for a bad boy hrto as long as they are not too alpha.

  2. love those alpha bad boys!! I agree with your rules however! if only my real life past loves had followed those! LOL

  3. I like to read all kinds of stories and like the bad-boys depending on how they react to their challenges.
    Your book sounds really good.

  4. I do like bad boys but I have two rules about what they can’t do: like you, no cheating and two, being a jerk/mean to the heroin.

  5. No, I am not a fan of the ‘bad boy’ – which to me is the one who still acts as if he is in high school and there are no consequences for his actions, and even if there are, he doesn’t much care. He’s the guy that has a bar stool named after him down at the local watering hole, he is on a first name basis with the local police cause they are always bringing him in to ‘visit’, he loves his mama – well cause she comes visits him in jail…now a reformed bad boy – those are the ones that draw me in – he’s been there, done that, still has a reputation about that, but he’s grown up, gotten a job, can handle some responsibility – now he needs a woman to smooth out some of those rough edges.

  6. Pretty much they do what they want and don’t think of consequences but are totally confident which is very sexy. I married a bad boy. It’s been 42 years but not easy lol. I do like reading about them though – they are very sexy!

  7. I like bad boys who break the rules for the good, like he will lie to save, deny to protect etc. However, I do draw the line when it comes to certain things like infidelity and hurting someone physically just for fun. He’s got to have a heart!

  8. I love bad boys. The only rules I have for them are that they have good morals and they treat their ladies right.

  9. I don’t like bad boys in real life. I dated too many of them way back when. I do love to read about them as long as they aren’t abusive, don’t commit a bad crime, and are true to their heroine. Of course, eventually they have to end up married or engaged to their heroine.

  10. I like bad boys as long as they still have respect for women and romantic relationships.

    Jcross719 at yahoo dot com

  11. I’m with you Kat…I’m not attracted to bad boys either in real life or in books…give me a hero that is a “good guy” any day.

  12. I do not like a guy who breaks the law to get what he wants. Take the high road, please.

  13. I like my bad boy to have a strong sense of what’s wrong and what’s right…even though he’s bad. =)

  14. Bad boys aren’t my favorite heroes in books, or in real life. I guess I can take them here and there, as long as they’re not too bad!

  15. I love a fictional bad boy, it’s exciting and save for me. But if he’s a cheating bastard that is awful to kids or animals I tear up the book and throw it out. Haven’t come across one of those yet, but one book was not for me.
    The hero cheats on his wife all the time, they get back together and try again. Then he has a kid with another woman…
    Cause the minute they had a fight he went off with someone else. Unacceptable!!!!!!

  16. Give me a bad alpha hero with a soft heart any day!

  17. Wendy P – that’s a great distinction between a bad boy and reformed bad boy. And your definition of a bad boy had me grinning. Has a bar stool named after him :)

    Catslady – I’m glad you love your real-life bad boy!

    Na – good point about a man who’ll break the rules for good reasons. I guess not all rules are good (though it pains me to say it!)

    Jackie – totally! Good guys rock and are underrated!

  18. I think a bad boy hero is someone who, at some point, broke rules, maybe the law and acted how he wanted without thinking about the consequences. For me, the fun of the bad boy hero is that during the story he realizes what he did wrong or that he can be himself without alienating everyone.

  19. I love a man with secrets, but has impeccable morals. He all repeats a woman.

  20. Some of my favorite heroes are bad boys … or at least good boys pretending to be bad. My only rule: They have to be devoted to the heroine. Not talking down to her or, God forbid, hitting her is a start. Maybe he *thinks * about walloping her, but he’d never do it.

  21. I think at heart “Bad Boys” aren’t bad in the sense of being mean or evil. They just tend to get into trouble. In so many books, they are the ones from the wrong side of town, the trouble maker at school, the one who bends the rules until sometimes they break. They have an edge to them and “good girls and boys” are in a way jealous because they don’t dare to do it once in a while.
    No jerks, or evil, mean men need apply.

  22. I think that bad boys have a tendency to bend the rules at times. I love to read about them as long as they are not really bad and don’t cheat on their girlfriends or wives.

  23. Hmm… your bad boy list sounds a bit of a jerk list. Or perhaps the terms are interchangeable in some circumstances?

    Bad boy heroes always break the rules, always talk down to the heroine (yet she keeps coming back for more), make me want to take a riding crop (and not in the good way) and beat the crap out of them for being “too bad”. Or perhaps I’m thinking about jerks. *sigh*

    It’s a fine line for me whether I’m a sucker for the the bad boy hero or not. The author has to make me believe that I WANT to root for this bad boy and his road to redemption. If there’s not enough redeeming qualities, then it’s time to put the book down.

    But then again, I might have to brush up on my bad boys. Let me get back to you on this… lol

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