Everyone loves a good hero, but what about the bad hero? The anti-hero? The criminal hero? A hero who not only walks the dark side, but enjoys the journey. According to Wikipedia, an anti-hero is a “protagonist who is lacking the traditional heroic attitudes and qualities, and instead possesses character traits that are antithetical to heroism.” The anti-hero is drawn to power and insatiable greed. They are the materialistic, power hungry, tyrannical side of our natures; the side that wants to possess everything it desires, without limit, and control everything it needs. Usually a no-holds-barred alpha, this anti-hero makes no excuses for his behavior. He doesn't care what you think of him. He’ll steal, kill, and terrorize; it’s all in a days work for him. They are always motivated by a lower, primordial nature. Money, power, sex....the list is endless.
In the beginning, we despise this person. We don't want our heroine to be attracted to him. We don't want to be attracted to them. We are united in our mutual hate. They go against everything we have ever been taught about what a “real hero” should be. They are atypical. They disregard the black and white rules in which romance is based upon. Yet, an attraction forms, eliciting both lust and disgust as we find ourselves beginning to trust and eventually fall in love with our anti-hero. They embrace both the good and evil dualities to expose us to something we can all relate to; the ambiguities of life. With these characters, we love to hate them and hate to love them.
My first ever criminal hero love was Han Solo from the movie Star Wars. A handsome albeit greedy capitalistic man pig who would sell his own mother for a buck and helps Princess Leia because she’s a princess. Other criminal heroes who have stolen my heart include Rhett Butler, Jay Gatsby, Michael Corleone, Robin Hood, Batman, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Regardless of their past crimes and/or intentions, by the time the book or film was over, they each possessed a portion of my heart and soul.
J.D. Robb’s In Death series is based upon a former criminal turned businessman. Roarke is considered the epitome of beauty with the face of an angel, a body made for sin, and searing blue eyes. Born in the slums of Dublin, he spent his younger years involved in thefts, cons, and murder. He meets his soon to be wife, Lieutenant Eve Dallas, when he is considered a murder suspect in book #1, Naked In Death. From the minute they meet, Roarke finds himself wanting more then money and power; he wants Eve. Though Roarke turns over a new leaf once he and Eve are married, Eve respects his talents and every so often uses his dubious skills to help her fight crime.
Black Ice by Anne Stuart has a scary criminal hero in her Bastien. Bastien is a ruthless covert agent whose humanity is questionable. He will lie, cheat, steal, and kill to achieve his objective. He's a violent sociopath who is smart enough to know while he is considered one of the good guys, he hasn't actually been one for a very long time. He meets his possible chance at redemption only to continue with his anti-heroic ways. At the end of the book, we are left with no real answers...only a faint hope that he may be able to continue his relationship with the heroine.
Kresley Cole’s Lothaire is and always will be, the ultimate all around anti-hero to me. Thousands of years old and more than slightly insane, Lothaire, the Lore’s most vicious vampire, is the monster that is used to scare kiddies into bed and most adults into hiding. Tortured for centuries, his madness has him on a quest to bring his supposed bride back to life by sacrificing a human. He’s pure evil. He lies, cheats, steals, tortures, abuses, and kills for what he wants. It’s only after he meets a young human woman he has spent years terrifying and torturing does he realize that maybe, just maybe, he has made a mistake in his quest for vengeance.
One of the most delish criminal heroes is Charming Mickey O’Connor from Elizabeth Hoyt’s Scandalous Desires. Mickey is the most ruthless river pirate in London. Devastatingly handsome and fearsomely intelligent, he clawed his way up through London's criminal underworld. He lies and steals with no conscience. Mickey has no use for tender emotions like compassion and love, and he sees people as pawns to be exploited. It’s only when he attempts to manipulate a young woman who has custody of his child does he begin to realize that true love cannot be bribed, manipulated, or stolen.
Of course, no criminal hero list would be complete without a mention of the ‘heros’ from Stacia Kane’s Downside series, Terrible and Lex. Terrible is the enforcer for a drug dealing pimp. Muscular, ugly, and filled with combustible violence, Terrible will tear the skin from your bones if you cross him. Lex is a rival drug lord’s son who, while very handsome, is just as dangerous as Terrible. More so, in my opinion, because of how easy going and beautiful he is. With Terrible you know what you get. With Lex, you are never quite sure when he will demand payment for his services. It’s very easy to underestimate both men. It’s only when they meet the heroine do their actions begin to take on a more intimate and contrary nature as they both strive to be the only man in her life.
So tell me: What criminal hero has you contemplating a life of crime?