In her heart of hearts, every woman loves a rake, a bad boy, a pirate. These are men who play by their own rules, living untamed lives. Over the years, dozens of titles have celebrated these heroes. Fabio himself glorified this type of hero in his books Pirate, Rogue, and Comanche. We’ve read about reluctant rakes, notorious rakes, and even perfect rakes. But no matter how wicked (and such heroes are rarely anything less than wicked), a rake is not a boor. His appeal does not lie solely in his blatant sensuality, it is rooted in a deeper integrity.
The heroine recognizes this underlying honor, which the romance hero himself either cannot admit or actively works to deny, and she sets out to reveal it to the world. Without the decency at the root of his character, the rake would be merely another roué. He would be irredeemable.
And, as any woman knows, the whole point of seducing a rake is to reform him.
So if you want to become a romance hero, you have to walk a fine line. You need to show off your masculinity and give in to your wild side while remaining true to a core set of values. For Fabio, as for his heroes, those values are very clear: honesty, integrity, and family. Although Fabio has moved away from his native Italy, he retains the principles he acquired living there as a child. His heart is as strong a muscle as any of the more visible ones in his body, which is what makes him a true romance hero.
Having a heart doesn’t mean becoming an emo boy, but once you recognize your heroine, you must make her the center of your world. You don’t have to give up beer with your buddies, but for goodness’ sake, learn to fold your own clothes! The historical hero usually has a valet to dress him (except the Scottish lairds–it doesn’t taken them long to dress given their lack of undergarments), but he is still an independent, forward-thinking fellow, more than capable of taking care of himself. In other words, he doesn’t live in his mother’s basement or let her do his laundry.
Although the concept of a rake conjures up the classic English aristocrat leading a life of leisure, the same type of man can be seen in plenty of contemporary romance novels. From the fatally sexy vampire who loves ’em and slays ’em until he meets his match in a demon-hunting temptress to the Greek tycoon who heats the sheets with numerous mistresses before falling for his virgin housekeeper, the bad boy is a standard of every sub-genre of romance.
But how can you, the Average Joe, the Man On The Street, tell whether you have the capacity to get out there and attract women? You don’t have fangs or a mansion in Crete, you’re not independently wealthy and you still have twenty-eight years left on your thirty year mortgage. Does that mean you lose out?
Not at all! In fact, in the modern world, there are many things more important than either the ability to fly at night (especially when accompanied by the corresponding need for blood) or a huge home in a crumbling economy. Here’s a checklist to get you on your way:
- You have a job. Yes, a job. Even the wealthy romance hero works. Whether he secretly spies on behalf of his government or merely runs a charitable organization, something worthwhile fills his days.
- You must have your own living space and vehicle. They don’t have to be grand, but if you can’t afford your own space, you probably have more to worry about than your status as a rake. Of course, there are exceptions: if you’ve recently returned from war only to find that a villainous former friend has stolen everything from you, you’re excused.
- You have a few not-too-bad habits that you don’t mind losing when you meet the woman of your dreams.
- You have hobbies. What else are you going to talk about?
- You’ve been places and seen things. If you live in a rural area, that’s fine, but get out of town once in a while. See where the road less traveled takes you. Rakes have experience!
Of course, some jobs and experiences are worth more than others on the bad-boy attraction scale. Are you in law enforcement or military service? Are you a major league sports professional? Do you run your own successful business? Are you…a spy? Bingo! You get double points! You hardly have to do a thing; the hyper-masculine aura of the rake pulses off you in waves and women likely flock to your side.
On the other hand, if you work in middle management, slave away in a cubicle, or spend most of your time hunched over a computer, you’re going to have to actively nurture your inner rake. A few ideas on improving those roguish qualities:
- Ride a motorcycle. Stop if you find you hate it, though.
- Take flying lessons.
- Sign up for your local volunteer fire department if your town has one.
- Dress well. You don’t have to wear a suit all the time, but make sure your clothes flatter you. If you need help, ask.
- Be ambitious. If middle management is your highest aspiration, you’ll never make it as a romance hero.
- Learn things. It doesn’t matter what. Pick up a book on a topic that interests you. Once you’ve explored that, choose another subject.
- Practice flirting. No, not at the office! Test it out when it doesn’t matter, so you’ll be ready when it does. Flirt with grandma. You’ll both get a kick out of it.
- Participate in office fun, fantasy leagues or office pools. No rake can resist a bet.
- Get out! Camping, rock climbing, fishing, river rafting…try out activities to recharge day-job-drained body and mind. These are also apt to improve your physique, which will help you attract women, and your stamina, which will help you keep them.
- Do something that makes you uncomfortable. It will broaden your horizons and rakes have notoriously broad horizons.
The historical hero is an incomparable horseman and a first class fighter. His clothes always show off his (near-perfect) physique, even when his valet has to pick them out for him. He works hard, even when it appears he is resting on his laurels (a rake lets people believe him lazy), takes his politics seriously, and is constantly improving himself. Not only is he–by very definition–the consummate flirt, but he is comfortable flirting with any woman, no matter her age or station in life.
Indeed, probably the most outstanding characteristic of the bad boy hero of any era, ancient, modern or futuristic, is that he is comfortable in any situation, primarily because he’s already encountered most of them a time or three. The only thing that can knock him for a loop is the heroine. It may take him a little while to come around, but once he recognizes his soul mate, his raffish ways cease.
Given that so many heroes cloak themselves in the garb of rakes before finding true love, how’s a girl to know whether the dashing young fellow she meets is heroic material or not? Here’s a quick quiz to help you determine whether your bad-boy boyfriend can be redeemed:
We can all be blinded by pure sex appeal. But if you’re looking for more than a one night stand, you’re going to have to examine the depth of your partner’s character.
- Does he flirt with other women even when you’re together?
- Does he show up late to your dates, cancel at the last minute or stand you up?
- Does he try to separate you from your family and friends?
- Does he correct your behavior, claiming to have your best interests at heart?
- Do you hear him talking about you to others in a negative way, even in jest?
If your boyfriend exhibits any of these habits, he’s a cad, not a rake, and you should drop him. Go ahead and look him up in a few years, so you can congratulate yourself on your good judgment in knowing the difference between a bad boy and a genuinely bad man. And, romance hero wannabes, take note–never engage in any of the above behaviors!
Now you know what to look out for, how can you identify those who will treat you right once you get their attention? That is, of course, the most difficult question. There’s an old adage we can start with, however: “never wed the man whose marriage you broke up; he cheats on his wife.” Look at how the man who interests you treats the women around him. Don’t worry if he’s a serial monogamist, that’s a prerequisite for a rake, but if he’s cheating on his current girlfriend, stay away!
If he’s single, and we all hope he is, check out whether he has female friends. Does he respect the rights and opinions of the women around him? Does he have a sister he cares about? Women often congregate around a true romance hero because they sense that he appreciates them and will treat them well even if they don’t perceive him as a potential mate.
Also, examine how his male friends treat their significant others. There’s a reason so many romance novels come in trilogies: romantic heroes surround themselves with others of the same quality. If his friends trash talk about their girlfriends and wives, chances are he will, too. On the other hand, if many of them are paired off in stable, strong relationships, you’ve probably found yourself a winner.
Heroes are looking for heroines who can stand up to them, who have their own strength and self-confidence. Creating a satisfying life for yourself will make you stand out in a crowd and will keep him coming back.
 Nando Pelusi, Neanderthink: The Appeal of the Bad Boy, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200901/neanderthink-the-appeal-the-bad-boy (January 2009)