Today H&H is joined by author Tess Oliver, who asks the hard-hitting question of why do we love Mr. Darcy so much—and not Mr. Bingley? Tess's latest release, Freefall, is a New Adult romance where the bad boy hero has to rescue his best friend from a bad situation—sound familiar? Thanks for being here, Tess!
Why Mr. Darcy and not Mr. Bingley?
Aside from the obvious, of course— twice the income and the awesome estate of Pemberley. After all, Mr. Bingley was handsome, wealthy, attentive and much more fun at a ball than his arrogant friend, Mr. Darcy. The Regency period was filled with dandified, polite men, but in the midst of fancy clothes and less-than-masculine quadrilles, Jane Austen managed to create a breathtaking bad boy hero—although, admittedly, Darcy has far better manners and far fewer tattoos and piercings than today’s bad boy. Still, he has attitude and we love him for that.
The Bronte sisters had it a bit easier because the Victorian period just lent itself better to dark, brooding characters. Mr. Rochester is mean, gruff and not all that handsome, and yet what reader can resist falling in love with him right along with Jane? Charlotte’s sister, Emily, conjured up the ultimate bad boy character, Heathcliff. And this will probably spark some controversy, but I’ve actually always felt that Bronte sort of crossed the line with him. In my opinion, some of his actions made him somewhat irredeemable as a hero.
John Thornton of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South has a terrible temper and he’s a harsh boss, but he’s hard to resist. And, yes, I am one of those members of the crazy about BBC’s North and South movie cult. I own two copies. The second one is unopened and waiting on the shelf in case some catastrophe befalls the first copy. My point here, though, is it seems that even 19th century women like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte recognized the appeal of the bad boy.
My sister once recommended a book to me called Heart of the West by Penelope Williamson. We have very similar taste in books and she assured me I would love it. The couple, Clementine and Gus, were well-suited to each other, and the description, setting, and historical details were fantastic. Gus was handsome, humorous, and kind—everything a girl could want in a guy. But as much as I enjoyed the first chapters, I still couldn’t understand go crazy about this particular book. And then it happened—Gus’s brother, Zach, showed up in what I still consider to be one of the best bad boy introductions ever written. I couldn’t put the book down after that.
Barbara Michaels, whose recent death has left a giant void in the writing world, was notorious for keeping a reader guessing about who the true hero would be. She gave her secondary male characters just enough appeal and her main male character just enough flaws, that, for me, at least, I would be halfway through the novel before I figured out who would end up in the final kiss scene. Michaels was brilliant at unfolding and revealing details through a drawn out timeline that would slowly peel away the layers of shine on the secondary male and add layers of cool to the guy who would eventually win the girl.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why these tough, cocky sometimes even downright mean guys drive us nuts. Maybe it’s their insatiable need for trouble. Maybe it’s the easy, laid back way they face danger. Or maybe it’s just those damn lazy smiles. One thing is certain though, every bad boy, no matter how many flaws and faults, will do anything and risk everything for the girl they love. And I guess, in the end, that’s why we love the bad boy.
Tess Oliver is a teacher and writer who lives in California with her husband, kids, a small pack of pampered dogs, and the recent addition of three ridiculously cute pygmy goats. She loves horses, chocolate and Jane Austen books. She has a BS of Nutrition Science, and a MA in Curriculum and Instruction. She is also an author published by Barron's Educational Publisher.