Thanks so much for all the wonderful discussion in response to last week’s post on “Bad Girl” Heroines. That post was inspired by Rike’s post on AAR on “Bad Girl” Heroines and the ensuing discussion, and Rike’s post in turn was inspired by Sandy’s post on “Bad Boy” Heroes.

One of the most interesting things to me about both discussions is simply defining what a “bad boy” hero or “bad girl” heroine is. The AAR post had a wonderful picture of the endlessly fascinating Don Draper from Mad Men. And yet some of the posters said Don seems more like a “bad man” than a “bad boy.” To me, there’s something not-quite-grown-up about a “bad boy.” Their actions often seem driven by a need to rebel or to get attention. They can be a lot of fun to read about, but they often lose my sympathy, not because of the things they do so much as because of their lack of maturity. I found Vidal in Heyer’s Devil’s Cub very romantic as a teenager, but he annoys me as I get older. I still like the book, and I even like him, and I believe in the happy ending. But I’m more inclined, on rereads, to say “oh, for heaven’s sake, grow up.” Don Draper, by contrast, is a grown up, flaws and all. He’s driven by his own demons, but not, I think, by a need to get attention (though Sandy made a good case in the discussion for Don as a “bad boy”). And though some of his behavior is arguably worse than Vidal’s, he’s more likely to intrigue me than to annoy me (though I certainly wouldn’t want to be married to him).

I think my favorite literary Bad Boy is Damerel in Heyer’s Venetia. Like Don, he’s really more a Bad Man. Like Don, Damerel has a great deal of self-awareness about his own flaws. Also an ability to laugh at himself, a quality I find very attractive.

I won’t even try to pose a parallel question about Charles to my “would you call Mélanie a ‘bad girl?'” question from last week. I don’t think anyone would define Charles as remotely close to a “bad boy.” But Quen and Val from Beneath a Silent Moon both are, in different ways. Both are struggling to grow up, both rebelling against and trying to live up to the expectations of their father, the Marquis of Glenister (whom I’d classify as a “bad man”). I’m very fond of Quen, and I like to think he gets a happily-ever-after that will work. Val intrigues me as a character, and I actually think he grows a bit in the course of the book, but he has a long way to go before I’d see him as happily-ever-after material.

What do you think of “bad boy” heroes? What makes you find them sympathetic (or not)? Do you differentiate between “bad boys” and “bad men”? What are your favorites of either type?

I’ve just posted a new letter to the Fraser Correspondence, an originally-coded letter from Mélanie to Raoul.