Where’s the line between arrogant stranger and abusive nutcase? A fair number of books I’ve read recently have been leaning a little far to the abusive nutcase (yes, Patch, I’m looking at you — you scared me), and I’m trying to identify the line to draw. I like romantic heroes who aren’t all sweetness and light. Actually, I can’t think of a single “nice” romantic hero who really made me go “oooh!” (and I do, in fact, go “oooh!” when I truly love a romantic hero).
So my top 10 romantic heroes. Possibly in ascending order of niceness (but let’s not hold me to that). And in case you’re wondering, Heathcliff is nowhere on this list. He’s a barking lunatic well beyond Patch, and I’ve never understood why anyone would like him.
10. Mr Rochester (Jane Eyre). Oh, Mr Rochester, you are fabulous in your allure, you cross-dressing, manipulative bigamist. And yet, despite all your questionable activities, you really love Jane, and I really see why. There’s no alarming stalking her down corridors and no emotional blackmail (well, not much).Plus Jane is more than capable of telling you where to stick your dishonest wedding ring. So what if her principles mean she narrowly avoids dying on a moor and even more narrowly escapes the significantly worse fate of marrying a pompous wuss like St John? (Plus, you’re lovely in The Eyre Affair).
9. Rath Roiben Rye (Tithe). Murderous, tortured (handsome). At least you’re forced to it. And vulnerable. Why is that so sexy? (and while I’m in the area, a little mention to Ravus from Valiant, who deserves to be further up the list, with the nice guys. Except his spell hurts Val. So maybe he’s okay down here).
8. Captain Wentworth (Persuasion). Truly, Captain, you are an arrogant git at the start, and you say many things that poor Anne should not have to hear. But for all that, you are honestly devastated that the woman you loved rejected you, and you appear to distinct advantage compared to the alternatives, especially the awful William Eliot, but also the drippy Benwick. Also, the letter you wrote made me weak at the knees, and I’ll forgive a lot for that kind of eloquence.
7. John Thornton (North and South). Honest, hard-working and only slightly prejudiced, Mr Thornton’s one of my favourite heroes. You could never imagine him trying to murder the girl he fancies, and if it takes the risk of penury to rid him of some of his arrogance, you can probably understand why.
6. Mr Darcy (Pride and Prejudice). Handsome, arrogant and rich. Well, aren’t you a catch. But at least you’re above dishonesty and scary sneakiness. I like you because I’m not afraid for Lizzie. She’s smart enough to reject a proposal when it’s an insult — and there’s no messing around, either. If you were interested in Jane, it would be a catastrophe, but luckily you’re braver than that. Your transformation when it comes demonstrates that beneath the thoughtless snobbery, you were always trustworthy and noble and… goodness, now you’re worthy even of Lizzie.
So, Mr Darcy, you must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
5. Alan Ryves (The Demon’s Surrender). Alan, Alan. You’re a lying murderer, who would put anyone second to your brother. You’ve run away and tried to leave him, you’ve doubted yourself, and you’ve never loved a girl enough to stop lying. You’re broken and vulnerable and lovely. I did not see you coming as the romantic hero of the third book in the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy but it is by far my favourite, and that’s because of you.
4. Valek (Poison Study). I can’t help it. I was hopelessly in love with you from the start. Leader of assassins, poisoner and manipulator of the doomed. I have no idea why, but I like Michael in Nikita as well. You’re not a very nice man, but then Yelena’s not very nice, either. I’m afraid you deserve each other.
3.5 (Yes, all right, I forgot him when I was writing the list) Corlath (The Blue Sword). You deserve to go next to Valek, because you’re a kidnapping, honour-impeaching bully (well, maybe not a bully, or not always). And yet, like him, you’re wonderful. Actually, you’re a lot nicer than Valek and an excellent example of good-man-in-bad-situation, which puts paid to my theory that (slightly) mean men are more attractive. So I think I’ll suggest that guys who do or say nothing wrong are not as interesting as those who do (I’m looking at you, Mr Knightly, and most especially you, drip of drips, Edward Ferrars).
3. Thomas Lynn (Fire and Hemlock). Well, let me see. You find a young girl, try to train her to depend on you, and willingly endanger her in your attempt to escape your ex-wife (who, admittedly, intends to have you murdered). And yet, yet… you’re basically a decent person, you never lay a finger on her, and all it takes to warn you off is a talking to from her grandma. You allow her to leave you, which means you’re facing death. Yes, I love you, but I’m not sure I should.
2. Severn (Cast in Shadow, and the rest of the Chronicles of Elantris). You’ve done awful things. Yet you’re honourable and loyal, honest and — most of all – sensible. Plus, you truly love Kaylin. You’re not a crazy stalker boy, you have too much sense and self-respect.
1. Mordion (Hexwood). You’re honourable, courageous, honest and kind. You’re also a mass-murderer, but didn’t want to be so I’ll let you off. A bit.