Bad Boys

Monday, February 13, 2006

"Bad, bad, bad, bad boy, you know you make me feel so good.
Bad, bad, bad, bad boy, I wouldn't change you if I could."

Mase's Feel So Good, off the Harlem World album.

So, I'm on a Bad Boy Glom. It started with Jeane Westin's Lady Anne's Dangerous Man.

From Booklist
Lady Anne Gascoigne would have done almost anything for her handsome fiance, Edward Ashley Carter, but she drew the line at becoming King Charles II's latest mistress. When Anne overhears Edward offering Charles her chastity in an attempt to gain the Merry Monarch's favor, she flees the palace for the safety of her own home. There Anne's father comes up with the clever scheme of placing Anne under the protection of notorious highwayman John "Gentleman Johnny" Gilbert, who, in exchange for his help in escaping the hangman's noose, promises Anne's father that he will keep Anne safe until her betrothal can be annulled. But once John gets to know the irrepressible and irresistible Annie just a little bit better, he quickly discovers that keeping his word may be more difficult than he ever could have imagined. In her dazzling debut, Westin deftly combines a cast of colorfully original characters with a richly detailed historical setting to create a vivid and satisfying tale of adventure, intrigue, and passion.

Haven't read a Restoration Historical Romance in awhile. This one reminded me a bit of Moll Flanders, and I really enjoyed it. Now while John was a 'bad boy', he was more a romance 'bad boy', that is, his honorable side was shown more heavily than his bad boy side. But the characterization never felt like a fakeout. I LOVE a dark (anti)hero, so next I picked up the latest release by a writer is knows how to write a mugnificent bastid hero: Anne Stuart's The Devil's Waltz

Boy does Ms. Stuart know about characterization. I loved this book. Two strong, and 'true' characters. Christian is absolutely 'a scoundrel'. He's charming, and we get enough background info on him to see why he is the way he is, and we see the growth/arc change in him. But to the end, he is essentially who he is: a true bad boy. Anne Stuart can be a hit or miss with me. With this book she hit bullseye. One thing I really loved about this was the sexual tension, it was so well done and when the one and only lovescene finally happened--page 287 of a 363pg book--it was just right, and just enough.

Christian Montcalm was a practical man, if a destitute scoundrel, but his plan to bed and wed the delectable Miss Hetty Chipple would take care of that sticky wicket. However, there was a most intriguing obstacle to his success.

Annelise Kempton desired nothing more than to come between this despicable rogue and the fortune (and virtue) of her young charge. Certainly, Annelise understood the desperation that comes from hard times, but Montcalm would fail -- she would personally see to it. All that stood in her way was a man whose rakish charm could tempt a saint to sin, or consign a confirmed spinster to sleepless nights of longing . . . to give the devil his due.

Well, by now I wanted more of the same, so I dug up my copy of Patricia Gaffney's TO HAVE AND TO HOLD.

(This one has been in my TBR for years! ::headdesk:: Why did I wait so long?) Sebastian Verlaine, for the first half of the book, could give Anne Stuart's Christian Montcalm, a few lessons. In fact, because of the characterization, I'd say this book almost read more of a historical fiction than a historical romance. Some of the dark romance hero tropes, that were a bit more evident in Lady Anne's Dangerous Man, were all but completely missing in this first half of Gaffney's book. I personally loved it. But I know many people/readers could never forgive Sabastian for what/how he treated the heroine Rachel.

Ironically, the second half of the book, where he changes/grows, wasn't so interesting to me, (although it was still far above the norm--a bad Gaffney, is still better than 90% of what's out there). I think the change was too 'absolute' for such a short period of time. When this guy realized he fell, he fell hard. And this is where Stuart's Christian trumps Gaffney's Sabastian. The '10 years later' epilogue, in THE DEVIL's WALTZ, still showed a 'recognizable' Christian. He was in love, a father, faithful, and yet that core essence of 'bad boy' characterization was still there. While we saw the change in Sabastian over the course of the book, he was a *totally* different man at the end compared to the character at the beginning of the book. I don't buy those types of total 180 degree changes. But, I'm quibbling. The book is now on my keeper shelf, along with the other two books mentioned in this post. Aside from the 'bad boy' heroes, all three were beautifully written with prose that just pulled me in from the opening sentence.

From Publishers Weekly
After spending ten years in prison for killing her husband, the newly released Rachel Wade is picked up for vagrancy and brought before the magistrate, Sebastian Verlaine, Viscount D'Aubrey. Bored, debauched, selfish and quite willing to admit it, Sebastian is intrigued by Rachel, who seems old beyond her years and beaten by the world. From the first, Sebastian admits that his attraction for Rachel has something a bit perverse about it?An odd theme that runs the length of this romance set in 19th-century England. To save Rachel from another jail term, he hires her as his housekeeper, a position, everyone assumes, that includes more intimate duties. After it becomes obvious that Rachel suffered at the hands of her husband, Sebastian continues to force Rachel to submit to his own selfish desires. Gaffney tries to justify this by the fact that he wants only "to give her pleasure," while her dead husband had found "pleasure in giving her pain." The explanation is not enough to take the bad taste from one's mouth, nor does it help endear a hero who in one scene allows his jaded London friends to spend an amusing evening in tormenting Rachel about her past. Gaffney may have written a different kind of romance, but it is also unsavory.

Now I'm scrounging around for more dark heroes to read, although the best thing I can do is probably get on with writing my own. Anywho, any suggestions/recommendations for bad boy reads, are welcomed. The more 'authentic' the better. Not really in the mood for the pseudo dark hero. I know I have Anne's BLACK ICE somewhere around here....
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riemannia said...

I'll have to look up those first two, especially as I like the Restoration period.

As for To Have and to Hold, yeah, Sebastian never quite worked for me. I found the book a failed experiement, but a very interesting one nonetheless. I know it works better for others.

Now I can't think of any other bad boys, well except for Lymond of the Lymond Chronicles. But Dorothy Dunnett quite definitely writes historical fiction.

My favorite Anne Stuart is the extremely flawed Into the Fire.

Jordan Summers said...

I have Black Ice and have been meaning to read it for months. I'm so behind.

Jaye said...

Jorie, I think it's the complete 180 degree turnaround in such a relatively short span of time that is the flaw in Sabatian's depiction. Ins some ways, you almost have two different books in the two halves-- before Sabastian falls in love, and afterwards. In The Fire is a book I held onto *only* because of the hero. I thought Ms. Stuart did a facinating portrayal of a anti hero and her take of modern gothic using the winter weather and hostile enviroment of the garage worked beautifully. Unfortunately, the last half with the eeeeeevil villian(s) just spoilt the whole thing for me and I decided not to keep it.

Okay, don't laugh, I have one of those Dunnett books around here somewhere, but the teeny tiny print stops me from reading it, or buying any others. :-/

Jordan, I've been meaning to read Black Ice for months also. :-/ Now I don't know where I shoved it in my tbr pile.

riemannia said...

That's it exactly. There's Sebastian1 and Sebastian2, which kinda interrupts my fictive dream.

Stuart is at her best and worst in Into the Fire.

Tiny print can be a real barrier. But if you ever get past that (not saying you should), I'd be curious to know what you think of Lymond.

Jaye said...

I may have to borrow Into The Fire from the library for a second read.

I've lurked during many discussion about Lymond. He's sounds like just my type of hero, but the tiny print defeats me. But now I wonder if the Library doesn't have Large Print issues? Yes, after dropping a fortune on books in the past 2-3 years--most of it unfortunately a waste, since only a small portion were keepers, I've decided to start utilizing the library again.

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