Favorite Heroic Archetypes

We all have our favorite heroes and heroines. What makes them a favorite is completely subjective and often hard to explain. To make things more complicated, favorite characters often represent archetypes and sometimes characters can include the features of several.

My favorite type of hero is one that many readers are extremely vocal in their dislike of – a combination between the playboy and the bad boy hero.  I enjoy other characters as well, including the alpha hero – but not the alpha-jerk, even though I have a hankering for one from time to time, too.

When I think of the playboy/bad boy, I imagine one who is self-absorbed, seeks pleasure, and flaunts society’s rules. That is, until he meets the heroine, of course. And, if you throw a little self-torture into the mix, my fantasy hero is created. However, once my ideal hero meets the heroine he must change, though he may struggle against it or even be unconscious of it. Once this happens, she must be his central focus and he should be protective of her regardless of his resistance.

Though I’ve read tons of books featuring protective heroes, I can’t think of too many that do this without spoiling the fantasy for me in some other way, such as making the character extremely jealous, manically controlling, or just plain cruel – especially for extended periods of time. However, there is one historical romance character who perfectly fits my ideal: Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent.

Yes ladies, I consider myself firmly on Team St. Vincent. As a matter of fact, I’ll be the captain. Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter features my favorite hero, who to me is all the qualities that I’ve described above, though he does have problems and comes across as a jerk from time to time. However, from the time Sebastian meets heroine Evie Jenner, his actions speak for themselves. He’s cruel with his words at first, mainly because she knows his weaknesses and he uses callousness to cover his vulnerability. But even from their first contact, the playboy/bad boy’s actions are those of protector – he makes sure she’s fed, warm, and as comfortable as possible in their extended carriage ride across England.

Much to his extreme aggravation, he gives her what she wants in their hasty wedding, even though it’s not within his nature and is largely unnecessary. He takes her to her father’s and stays with her, but wants her to be careful around him when he realizes the risks. He protects her from her family and even gets a little jealous around Cam Rohan. He learns her father’s business and finds his niche. He takes a bullet meant for her and comes close to death. Finally, he realizes how much he loves her and how vulnerable that makes him. Though he’s flawed, he is the perfect romance hero in my opinion.

There are other heroes and archetypes that I’m partial to as well and they’re often easier to explain because they are so obvious. This group includes Mary Balogh’s Wulfric from the Slightly series, Jo Beverly’s Rothgar from the Malloren Series, and Julia Quinn’s Anthony Bridgerton from the Bridgertons, Lisa Kleypas’ Sir Ross Cannon from Lady Sophia’s Lover, and Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ Wulfgar from The Wolf and the Dove. There are other heroes and archetypes that I’m partial to as well, but these are my favorites.

What hero types are your favorites?

-Heather Brooks

20 thoughts on “Favorite Heroic Archetypes

  1. I’d agree with all of the above (except for Wulfgar as I haven’t read that book). I’d also add Rupert Carsington from “Mr Impossible” by Loretta Chase.

  2. I don’t think I have a “type” of hero that I love more than any other, but gosh do I LOVE Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent and Sir Ross Cannon. And they could not be more different from each other. Sebastian is the consummate layabout rake, and Sir Ross is all work, all the time. But Kleypas sure knows how to create a good hero.

  3. I like dark heroes. Wounded, conflicted, guarded, noble. They tend to be more theta than alpha, living lone-wolf style outside the pack, although they share some of the same traits. Dark heroes can have very strong personalities and don’t always chose to abide by society’s dictates, but they tend to be less domineering than alphas, I think, because they aren’t trying to lead or prove anything. Plus, dark heroes tend to have a very wry side; their outsider status can make them very clear eyed. It’s the classic Beauty and the Beast taming story with the heroine leading her man into the light.

    Would a dark hero be a pain in the butt to live with in RL? Probably, like the alpha. But I don’t read romance for real life :)

    Kim Lenox’s Lord Archer in Night Falls Darkly is a good example.

  4. I don’t really have one type of hero that I adore. I do tend to gravitate toward the dark heroes, though. Night Falls Darkly is on my TBR pile, and I love the darkness that lurks within some of Anne Stuart’s plots and characters.

    I’m also a sucker for the quietly thoughtful ones. I think that’s one reason why I like Carla Kelly so much. Some of her heroes are so thoughtful of others, and they convey it in a way that isn’t designed to draw attention to themselves. I find that very attractive in a hero.

  5. I don’t seem to have a type of hero either. Favorites include Tucker Longstreet from Nora Roberts’s Carnal Innocence, Cyn and Fort from Jo Beverley’s Mallorens, Seth in Long after Midnight and Sean Galen in several other books by Iris Johansen (I know, not really romance but they always fascinated me), Adrian Kane in Teresa Medeiros’s After Midnight and Jack Devlin from Lisa Kleypas’s Suddenly You.
    When I thought about it some more, though, I noticed that a lot of these favorites stem from the first book I read by that author. Anybody else has this?

  6. I’ve always liked the reformed rakes, but I do like those honorable, duty bound Heroes as well. Like Magnolia wrote, Ross Cannon and St. Vincent are opposites, but both are worthy of being romance heroes. Another rakish character that I really enjoyed was Gaelen Foley’s Lucien from Lord of Fire. I had forgotten about him earlier.

    Carla Kelly is a new author for me personally, but her hero in Marrying the Captain (Oliver Worthy) would be another one that now ranks high on my list.

  7. My favorite hero is still Jamie from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. In so many ways he was the anti-hero, like being younger than the heroine and being the one that was the virgin. I find it refreshing when the hero is not so experienced. The formula where the hero has made love to hundreds of women before he finds his one true love is not that appealing to me. That being said, I also like a lone dark hero, with inner demons to slay. I like it when he doesn’t think he’s good enough for the heroine (as long as it doesn’t go on too long) and some event teaches him to believe he is worthy of her love.

  8. Karin: I don’t know if I should admit this, but I’ve never read Outlander. I guess one day I should break down and read it, but I’m a little scared to.

  9. Heather: Reading Diana Gabaldon is such an experience, she is in a class of her own, for a while you are spoiled and think no one can compare. And then you recover and move on :-) Jamie matures over the series and is interesting throughout, but no one beats young Jamie in the first book (IMHO). He is the hero I compare all others to. Take the plunge and at least read the first book (but I bet you can’t stop after just one!)

  10. I can’t believe you named exactly the same set of heroes that I love. Well, except for the Wulfgar from The Wolf and the Dove which I never read because I’m not a big Woodiwiss fan. But Jo Beverley’s Rothgar, OMG. And Wulfric from Balogh’s Slightly Dangerous…I read sections of that book a few times because I enjoyed him so much (the scene where his family talks about seeing him up in the tree:-) Sir Ross Cannon, Anthony Bridgerton… So, I guess now you’ve talked me into reading Devil in Winter! Thanks!

  11. I love a dark hero, the more tortured the better. The bad boys, the rakes, the ones who keep all their emotions bottled up, the loners, the too-clever-for-their-own-good…
    Men like St. Vincent, Clay from Bitten, Japhrimel from the Dante Valentine series, Lymond, Nicholas from Jo Beverly’s Rogues, Kit from Lady Gallant, Suzanne Robinson, Jack from Brockway’s All Through The Night, Sebastian from Gaffney’s To Have And To Hold, Hardy Cates from Kleypas…
    If they need reforming, then I want to read ‘em!

  12. For me, it depends on my mood which kind of hero I prefer. Generally, I like it when they fall for the heroine really fast – and they have to realize it too. I’m rather fed up with the “Oh no, I don’t want to fall in love”-type. My favourite hero would probably be Ken Karmody from Suzanne Brockmann’s Out of Control. – Regarding Jamie from Gabaldon’s Outlander…SPOILER ALERT!!…

    I don’t like him at all! In fact, I couldn’t bring myself to read more than this first book of the series, even though everyone was raving about it. Jamie is a pervert. Remember the scene when he gave Claire a beating with his belt? I do understand why he did it, and in fact, he explained it to her at length, but he hurt her badly AND IT TURNED HIM ON! That is one of the most disgustings scenes I ever read, and a man who gets turned on by hurting his wife is definitely not hero material.

  13. My heroes begin and end with Jamie Fraser. No one can beat him as far as I’m concerned. I’m patiently waiting, well not so patiently, the next book in the series, due out in 2009. After Jamie, I tend to agree with your heroes.

  14. I am mostly a fan of beta heroes or even ones that rather gravitate towards omega at first – Will from LaVyrle Spencer’s “Morning Glory” is a very good example for the sort of hero I like to read about. Sadly, these heroes seem to be outnumbered by the entirely-too-alpha-for-my-taste-and-proud-of-it type.

  15. Here’s my two cents on Jamie Fraser, who is one of my favorite heroes. SusiB, you mentioned the beating that Jamie gave to Claire in the first book of the “Outlander” series. Generally speaking, I find scenes where the male protagonist abuses another character (whether it’s physical or emotional abuse) very distasteful. However, the story takes place in eighteenth-century Scotland, and unfortunately, wife-beating was acceptable in that time and place, when it was understood that the man ruled the household, and if a member of the household (wife, child, servant) disobeyed the man’s rules, then severe punishment ensued.

    My other favorite heroes are the gentlemen who populate the “Fallen Angels” series by Mary Jo Putney. In varying ways, they’ve had to overcome difficult situations in their lives, and they manage to do it with women who are smart, perceptive, and NOT simpering fools! I would say that my favorite Fallen Angel is Lord Michael Kenyon, who is really nasty when he appears in the first book, “Thunder and Roses”. Through the forgiveness of his friends, he becomes a terrific hero in “Shattered Rainbows”.

  16. I like the beta hero the best. Clay from Always to Remember is a favorite. I also like the dark hero too. I think the alpha hero is my least favorite but there are some exceptions I am sure. :)

  17. One of my favorite “playboy turned hero” characters is Lord Edmund Waite from Mary Balogh’s “The Notorious Rake”. He’s developed a very hard shell indeed and is totally bewildered by Mary’s effect on him. Watching him slowly reveal the injured soul underneath that shell and how Mary provides the balm needed for him to heal his psychic wounds is quite wonderful. I don’t think of him as an alpha because he’s too independent and too isolated in his life to care about being a leader.

    Another favorite is Sebastian in Patricia Gaffney’s “To Have and To Hold”. I know he’s quite a controversial character, but I think the book is an exhilarating portrait of the redemption of a true rake. Far too many of the Dukes of Slut are what I like to think of as “wallpaper” rakes — shown in chapter 1 acting quite studly with a mistress and whose prowess is talked about constantly by everyone else, but somehow it all feels fake. Sebastian, however, is the real thing, and his redemption at the hands of a woman he first sought to use as heartlessly as he’d used all other women is a true soul-change. Gaffney is a wonderful writer who seems to understand the many twists and turns of the human heart.

    But I also agree with those who love Carla Kelly’s heroes. They are usually classified as beta, but I think they’re actually alpha in all the ways that count: they’re intelligent, usually leaders of men (sea captains or army officers, for example), and once they determine the right path necessary to care for the heroine, they are unswerving in their care for her. They may question themselves and their choices (to me, that’s often a sign of intelligence as none of us are infallible and it helps to periodically do such checks), but they embody the word Honor even as they come before us, flaws and all. Her heroes are all the more romantic because they are so human.

  18. Hello RobinB, well, let’s just agree to disagree on the topic of Jamie Fraser, but my point is – I can understand why he beat Claire. He was absolutely sure that he had to do it. That’s not what I despise so much about him. It’s the fact that hitting Claire turned him on. I absolutely can’t sympathize with a man who gets sexually aroused by hurting another person.

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