I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my reading choices of late.The women are the typical strong, smart, sassy kind, my favorite kind, who value their friendships and make time with their girlfriends. The men…the men are all leading candidates for the title of Captain Douchebag.
I’m talking about the hero who is arrogant, maybe a little controlling, seemingly careless and thoughtless when it comes to others and their feelings and even their safety, the guy who could give two shits about you…and then just when you need him the most, he comes through. Sometimes it’s grudgingly, sometimes he does it without being asked, in a move that’s so tender and almost sweet you think he’s got a split personality.
Jericho Barrons (of Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series) is the perfect example of an asshole hero. He’s smooth and charismatic, charming when he needs to be (and sometimes when he doesn’t), confident to the point of being irritating, and above all, dominant. Hoooo boy is he dominant. More like DOMINANT. He gets all caps. Something about Barrons has you drooling from the minute Mac sets eyes on him, and even after he treats her like shit, even while you’re silently cheering Mac every time she stands up to him and walks away, you’re secretly waiting with gleeful anticipation that moment when he stalks back into the frame and corners Mac, making her heart race and her mind turn to mush because he’s just so fucking hot.
The same could be said for Cabe “Hawk” Delgado, of Mystery Man by Kristen Ashley. Talk about a douche. He spent a year and a half stringing Gwen along, giving her the best sex of her life and nothing else. Nothing. No conversation. She doesn’t know his name until he breaks into her house in the middle of the day and confronts her. There are no dates. No cuddling. Certainly no spending the night. And then when she, during their very first daylight meeting, tells him to get the fuck out of her house because they are over, he smiles and mutters that he can’t believe he missed out on this for so long. And you know what? Gwen lets him come back. Lets him get away with not answering questions about himself, lets him assume possession of her, lets him into her heart and her bed. Despite the fact he gave her pretty much nothing for waaaay too long.
And don’t even get me started on Ruger of Joanna Wylde’s Reaper’s Legacy. He drives a Harley. He doesn’t leave justice to the legal system. He wants to ride when he wants and fuck whom he wants, but if Sophie wants to sleep with someone else, someone other than Ruger? Fuck that. Ruger really takes the cake here – he’s a fucking hypocrite. It’s okay for him to sleep around, but not for Sophie? He’s so full of himself that he simply thinks he’s just giving her “space” when she tells him that no commitment from him means she wants nothing to do with him. I devoured this book, and I loved Ruger. I know. I’m scratching my head over it, too.
So why do readers find these men so draw-droppingly hot?
My theory is it’s the fantasy. Most women I know are strong enough they wouldn’t tolerate that sort of shit in real life. But we read to escape, and in our fantasies, these men fulfill them to the extreme. They get off on not just pleasing a woman, it’s their goal to ruin them for all other men. When they pull out the grand gesture, they make every other grand gesture by every other man in the history of grand gestures look puny by comparison. They are, in short, so far outside reality that we know they don’t exist. We’re safe in these fantasies, where we don’t have to worry if we’re thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough to hold their attention. We are, and these men, these prime examples of the uber-alpha male, love us.
I doubt I could ever write a hero like Ruger, or Hawk (god, Hawk. Hawk is possibly an even bigger asshole than Ruger), or Barrons. I don’t know that I want to try. I’d probably end up clawing my eyes out or chaining myself to the laptop until I’d finished the damn story. And we all know that’s not healthy.
In all seriousness, though, I’m hoping this trend is not as big as I think it is, and that it’ll go away soon. Like the swoony readers who yearn for an obsessive relationship in real life, I’m worried there’s a faction of readers out there for whom the line between reality and fantasy will blur. Because the thing to remember is while a man like one of these might exist, there are far more of them who will possess certain traits like these heroes – and they’re all the bad ones. But she’ll convince herself she’s getting what she’s wanted for so long, and she’ll stay.
And that’s never a good thing.