Today we're joined by author Lia Riley, whose Upside Down is just out this month. Upside Down's hero isn't perfect, and he has his own issues to work through before—perhaps—finding his own HEA. Like Upside Down's Bran, Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester has a few issues of his own, but Lia still loves him, or perhaps loves him more because of them. She's here to talk about her book boyfriend, Mr. Rochester, today. Thanks, Lia!
Bless the book boyfriend, those dreamy larger-than-life guys who inspire us by the end of the story to try and crawl inside the page (or is that just me?). We all have our hero preferences. Maybe you adore a warrior—ready to defend his woman no matter the costs. Or perhaps your tastes run more toward down-to-earth betas, those sweethearts next door.
Me? Man, oh, man, the Byronic hero is my kryptonite.
Lord Byron, dubbed by his eventual lover, Caroline Lamb as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” lent his name to one of the most enduring classic hero archetypes. He’s often viewed as a protagonist but is also someone unstable and deeply conflicted. None of my many fictional crushes have been as long-standing as Jane Eyre’s brooding true love, Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester, the epitome of an excellent Byronic hero. You can keep Mr. Knightley or even Mr. Darcy. I’ll take a helping of misunderstood outsider.
Anti-social? Yep, pretty much.
Intelligent and keenly perceptive? Oh my yes.
What if we throw in passionate and darkly romantic?
Ermahgawd. . .siiiiiiiiiigh.
Oh, Rochester. I have lost hours of my life debating the best actor in the film role, narrowing the field to Michael Fassbender or Toby Stephens (Toby wins by a hair, basically for behaving like he wants to tear off Ruth Wilson’s clothes during 99% of their interactions). My love for Rochester is so epic that he influenced Bran Lockhart, the surly hero from my New Adult debut, Upside Down.
Fine, Jane Eyre fans have some explaining to do, after all, Rochester is bad-tempered, difficult, and a black hole of contradictions. Just when he seems like he’s going in the right direction—bang! Roadblock after emotional roadblock. But later, when hope appears lost, he fights for his own redemption with such passion that you can’t help but root (swoon) for him. I return to the Byronic heroes time and time again because on the surface they’re flawed—but look deeper and within those depths are dynamic characters with the potential for remarkably satisfying arcs.
So here are three of the zillion reasons why Rochester is my cup of Earl Grey.
1. He’s an outcast
The Byronic hero is a renegade who defines his own moral code. He’s often portrayed as an outsider, who, due to external circumstances or an inner struggle, isolates himself emotionally and/or physically. This guy is independent, world-weary and usually egotistical. A true Byronic hero often maintains a distance, or sense of ‘otherness’ – detached in some way from the values held by more conventional characters. Mr. Rochester rebels against his society’s belief systems (because of his troubled past) and is unimpressed by rank, though he is an aristocrat. He’s a lone wolf, yet tugs at the heartstrings because we can glimpse his craving for redemption.
2. Troubled Past
The Byronic hero is usually widely travelled, and has often got into trouble during these journeys, like Rochester’s experience in Jamaica. Unlike more traditional heroes who exemplify intrinsic goodness, valor, or selflessness, Byronic heroes often possess deep psychological wounds and would never define themselves as heroic. In other words, this is one complicated dude. In Upside Down, Bran even tells Talia, “I’m no knight in shining armor.”
3. Capacity for redemption
There ain’t no character arc like a Byronic hero character arc because the Byronic hero crawls over glass and through fire to gain his redemption (Yes, I attempted a clunky Coolio reference. Look away, look away from my shame). Mr. Rochester is literally purged through the blaze set by his mad, attic-locked first wife to deserve his forever with Jane. These are guys who truly earn their amazing, strong women by the end.
The Byronic hero carries an air of mysteriousness that people around him (or, ahem, reading him) find attractive — a fascination combined with a twinge of fear. Then comes the heart-wrenching vulnerability, those moments when the surly, gruff hero exposes his sensitive underbelly to the woman who’s found a way into his heart’s fortress. Despite the Byronic hero’s destructive tendencies, in the end, this outcast finds a place, with the heroine he so deeply and irrevocably loves.
Learn more or order a copy of Upside Down by Lia Riley, out August 5, 2014:
After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, LIA RILEY scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. When not torturing heroes (because c'mon, who doesn't love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about as-of-yet unwritten books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. She and her family live mostly in Northern California.