Bad boys of romance

What’s with the bad boys of romance?

Okay, so I’ve been asked a few times: what’s all the hype about bad boy characters in romance novels?

Well, it’s not news. The ‘bad boys’ have been around for centuries and they are appealing for various reasons. According to the Oxford Dictionary online, a bad boy is “a man who does not conform to approved standards of behavior, especially in a particular sphere of activity.”

In fact, they’ve been in literature for a while, including the biblical times. Let’s take Moses; I mean, c’mon—the guy killed a man, talked to shrubbery, turned his staff into a snake, and divided the Red Sea! Now, that’s pretty badass and impressive, if you ask me.

Let’s skip centuries forward to Dorian Gray. He was hedonistic, vain (yup, that portrait!), indulged in debauchery (oh, poor Sibyl!), and yeah, he killed a guy.

Dorian Gray in a film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Okay, let’s travel to the twentieth century: Dirty Dancing. Wasn’t Patrick Swayze a dream? His character, Johnny Castle, makes me swoon. Who can forget the line “nobody puts Baby in a corner?”

Johnny Castle, played by Patrick Swayze, in Dirty Dancing.

Today, we have characters like Christian Grey from the Fifty Shades series, Massimo Torricelli from 365 Dni, and Kylo Ren in the Star Wars series (yes, I’m a Star Wars fan!).

The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Next Film, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. By Source, Fair use,

What’s the appeal?

A study led by Gregory Louis Carter of the University of Durham (cited in Psychology Today) provided insights, revealing that women found men with dark personalities attractive. The results of the study offered two possible explanations. First, sexual selection might be at work; women responded to signals of “male quality” when it came to reproduction. With respect to short-term mating, women may be drawn to “bad boys” who demonstrate confidence, stubbornness, and risk-taking tendencies. Secondly, sexual conflict may be at play. 

Stories with sexual conflict, risks, and a bad boy sounds appealing, right? It seems to work for many successful romance stories. The bad boys are exciting and fun, according to psychologist Robyn McKay, author of Smart Girls in the 21st Century (quoted in Good Housekeeping).

A short-term fiction fling?

Can the bad boys have their happily ever after (HEA) in romance stories? Or will they end up like Heathcliff, Dorian, or some other kind of roadkill?

Carter and his team reported that there were limitations of their study, indicating that the sample they selected were likely to be oriented toward short-term relationships.

Moreover, studies by Urbaniak and Kilmann (2003) and Herold and Milhausen (1999) (cited in Edward Horgan’s Harvard University project “Exceeding the Threshold: Why Women Prefer Bad Boys”) indicate that women adamantly claim to prefer nice guys. Horgan further states that there is an apparent discrepancy within current scientific literature on the subject of female attraction, with regard to the bad boys.

Is there hope for the bad boys?

There seems to be hope, depending on the circumstances. Psychologist Forrest Talley, Ph.D. (quoted in Good Housekeeping) stated that women desired to have someone in their life who was tough enough to face the world and punch back when necessary.

In other words, we don’t mind the tough guys who have a protective side, when they’re on our side. They have an even bigger chance of winning our hearts for good if they are kind, sensitive, and romantic. Interestingly, niceness itself is not an unattractive characteristic but is simply insufficient to garner female attention on its own, according to Horgan.

In my erotic romance novel Lessons on Seduction published by Black Velvet Seductions, my male MC, Julian—a guy who sold his body to pay off his college debt—takes his new girlfriend, Sapphire, for a wild ride before he realizes just how much he loves her. However, he makes some pretty big mistakes. Is it too late for guys like him, though?

Well, not if he’s brave enough to punch back at the world, show his sensitive and sweet nature, and fight for his lover. However, if Julian continues taking Sapphire for granted, then there is no hope for him.

I’m proud of Jules for one thing, though—he’s not an abusive man. I’ve met abusive men in my life, and I can tell you firsthand that it’s not a pleasant experience. Abuse comes in different forms: mental, emotional, and physical. That is one thing no one should tolerate from any person, bad boy or not, in fiction or real life.

Who’s your favorite bad boy in literature?

I’ll admit my weak spot: I’ve always liked the vampire Lestat from Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. The Lestat I read in her books has more appeal and sensitivity than the movie version played by Tom Cruise in the 1990s film Interview with a Vampire (sorry!).

I also don’t mind hot and charismatic Dracula, played by Gary Oldman in the Francis Ford Coppola film version. While others might swoon over Keanu Reeves, who played Jonathan Harker, I’m more interested in none other than Vlad himself. Why? He’s enigmatic, dangerous, mysterious, and yet, he’s protective of sweet Mina—with all his heart. It’s his capability to love (some may disagree, but I believe Irish author Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a love story as much as it’s a horror fiction), his vulnerability, his protectiveness, and his hungry passion for his true love that I liked.

I can honestly admit I’m a sucker for bad boys who are sensitive, protective, and loving—as long as they’re not abusive.

Over to you: Have you ever imagined riding off into the sunset with a bad boy (or bad girl) character in fiction?

If you’re looking for a hot romance with a bad boy, or a hunky good guy, check out the diverse range of romance books, from sweet to erotic, on publisher Black Velvet Seductions’ website:



  1. D. L. Croisette

    I’ve always been partial to Petruchio from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. He’s selfish, irreverent and has a way with words. But what makes him work is finding his equal in Kate. She gives as good as she gets. Bad boys can be one persons hero or villain. Two sides of a coin.

  2. I’m a sucker for bad boys, and I would totally run off with my characters Arsenio and Jarius, yup we’re having a threesome hehe. Seriously though my fictional bad boy I love and adore is Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries. Totally misunderstood in so many ways yet possess so much good deep under his layer of witty comments.

    A few misconceptions about a bad boy is, he has to be abusive and you can call me out on that if I’m wrong, so I’m really loving this article. Another one in the bag!💜

  3. Gibby Campbell

    I personally love bad boys. Heck, I even married one! As long as it’s not abusive, I love a man who is powerful and takes control.

  4. Suzanne Smith

    Love bad boys (but not abusive ones). There’s something very appealing about a man who isn’t afraid to test the limits, to be his own man .

  5. There are so many that I’ve found attractive in romance novels to name them all, so I’ll stick with four. Rowdy Mackay from Nauti Boys series by Lora Liegh, ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly from Maya Banks KGI series (who am I kidding almost all the men from the KGI series), Rowdy Yates from Lori Foster’s Love Undercover series. And I had to mention Patrick from my Risking Love series. As a child, he had to protect his little brother from bullies and from an abusive home life. He makes it his business later in life to protect the woman he loves from her stalker. These men would protect their partner and family with their life if they had to, but never lift a finger to their loved ones. That goes for the bad boy that I married. Their protective nature is so attractive to me. Especially, that they are sweethearts with the woman they love. Not to say they don’t piss her off now and then (like leaving the toilet seat up), but nothing she can’t handle and that he can’t fix with a bit of humor. Oh and not doing that same thing ever again. That helps too. Lol.
    Callie Carmen

  6. Very nice article Nicely researched. My favorite–Rochester in Jane Eyre–the brooding man who is so deep yet honorable and charismatic! As for real guys–Lord Byron–mad, bad, and dangerous to know! John Lennon–a modern mad, bad, and dangerous to know! Of course, when you talk about the Bible, David is the ultimate Byronic figure.

  7. Great post. I love a bad boy; I think vampires are the ultimate bad boys. I love Dracula in the recent BBC show and Spike in Buffy!

  8. Wattpad Billie

    I love your books, I enjoy reading them. I think they’re great Wattpad:Billie

  9. I think some of the appeal of bad boys in fiction is that they seem not to care. Love me? Fine. Don’t love me. Fine, too. Something about that is attractive to women–maybe they want the challenge to change him? Don’t know. I’m drawn to bad boys in literature but not in real life. Though, I did marry a die-hard trucker, so maybe I should rethink that! 😉

    Great blog post!

  10. GREAT blog, Estelle! Yep, it’s the ‘Dark Ones’ that seem to hold the most appeal. I really enjoyed how you dug into the psychology behind the various myths!

  11. I think people are attracted to the danger element, also the naughty. Who has not been attracted to the idea of doing something that they shouldn’t do? but the very idea they shouldn’t do it makes it all the more tempting.

  12. Oh, such a lovely topic – bad boys.
    I always loved bad boys in books, but never in real life. Why? Well, I don’t need a compete in badassness with my partner:D
    As for fiction male badass character I’ve been always a fan of Heathcliff, because he had certain reasons to become who he became upon return (not that I support his ways of revenge, but at least roots to it are quite clear).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *