Good Boys: The Underrated Romantic Resource

I have noticed lately in romance novels that Good Boys have been losing out in favor of their antithesis. Note I am speaking chiefly of YA paranormal as it is the main romance genre I read, but I believe this conversation could be applied across adult genres as well. This observation made me wonder—why? While I understand that there is a certain appeal in a damaged leather-studded rocker, I find myself with a rather soft spot for the likes of Sam Roth from Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver and Edward Ferrars of Sense and Sensibility.

There seems to be a highly popular base storyline in romances which can be widely recognized. It involves an innocent young girl becoming involved with a not-so innocent man which culminates in him realizing that he would rather have her than any of the scores of women he’s had. While I have no problem with this story and many of my all-time favorite love stories follow this formula, I do wish we could see more romance literature about honest young men finding love with girls who appreciate them for who they are.

To me, the ideal romantic hero is the type one would want in real life—humble, forgiving, intelligent, respectful of women (not just his ladylove), considerate of others, and (this one is going to be unpopular) chaste.

While Jace of The Mortal Instruments is endearing in his own way (not sure he squarely fits the Bad Boy archetype, just an example of cockiness), I do not find arrogance to be an appealing trait in characters any more than in real life people.

Yes, revenge tales can be riveting, but the truth is that this world would be a far better place if more people learned to stop counting wrongs.

Intelligence is a given trait for heroes in general as beauty without brains makes for a buffoon (The Big Bang Theory’s Zack being a perfect example).

Bad Boys by their nature tend not to respect women, usually employing a “use and lose” policy toward their partners until they meet the One. This is usually in part the result of not thinking about the emotions of others—who they hurt, etc.—a form of selfishness.

And finally—I know some might consider this one extremist—it seems for the most part male characters must have at least one requisite relationship prior to that with the love of their life. In YA, the girl is almost always untouched while I would say that about two-thirds or more of the time the hero is not. The heroine doesn’t get to be the hero’s first nearly as often and that hardly seems fair, does it?


I hope to see more of the Good Boys in future, though I do enjoy a Bad Boy love story every now and again. So what do you think? Do you go for Bad Boy or Good Boy heroes? Do you think we could use more of one than the other? Do you have a favorite story with a Good Boy hero?

  1. I have been thinking the exact thing of late. Where did all the good guys go? 😀 I do love a good guy hero every now and then, though I can totally understand the appeal of the, ‘bad boy’, even if in writing the bad boy isn’t really generally all that bad! Great post 🙂

  2. I have noticed this as well. Personally, I find myself more inclined to like (and “LIKE”) the “Good Boys.” Character growth is important, but arrogance is unappealing to me – like you stated – both in real life and fiction. Characters like Steve Rogers are compared to their more “Bad Boy-esque” co-stars (i.e. Tony Stark) and disliked for their “virginity.” It is a bit frustrating.
    *steps off soapbox*

  3. Another great post! Yes, we need more good boys. I’ve actually got one planned for the series I’m working on (spoiler! spoiler!), pretty much for the same reasons you’ve mentioned above. And because, if all our book loves are bad boys, it doesn’t bode well for the lenses we use in looking at our own lives and the relationships we value and pursue. I mean, really, between George Wickham (P&P) and Edward Ferrars (S&S), there’s no question of who would be the better life partner. I also think that, while the bad boy reforming himself for his ladylove is a nice storyline, it’s really dangerous to ever expect to achieve such a thing in real life. If a guy doesn’t change for himself, he’s not going to sustain it and more than a girl would. And no girl (or guy) should go into a relationship thinking they can change their partner. That’s just a recipe for disaster and/or heart ache. Sigh. *end rant*

    1. I actually thought about touching on the real life repercussions, but decided I didn’t want to open that can of worms just yet. 😉 I agree that stories where someone changes because they want to be better for another person can be great, but there’s a reason those stories are in the “Fiction” section 90% of the time. (And now I’m trying to puzzle together just what you’re working on.)

  4. I completely agree with you, especially about the chaste part. And being each others’ first. The professor doesn’t really read romance (more adventure) but if I did, that’s what I’d be looking for.

  5. I hate when they make the good guy lose or make the bad guy look so much cooler than the good guy. I also want to root for the good guy or the underdog but, I usually like how the bad guy looks or how cool he or she is.

  6. Elizabeth, I agree! Plus, it’s pretty unrealistic that the “bad boy,” “big player,” “center-of-the-party” guy would have a huge change of heart. Yeah, it’s possible, but it happens way too often in books.

    If you haven’t started reading “Embassy” yet, then I think you’ll find it appealing in this regard XD he’s actually a flawed MC who doesn’t get all the girls (by his own doing)

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