Bad boys are easy to love and fun to create. Despite their flaws, they flirt and fascinate more than the average Joes we meet, date and marry. Every female with a pulse harbors a missionary’s zeal to reform the beast and find gold beneath those rippling muscles and chiseled abs. After all, smoldering charm and lethal hobbies are a major turn on!

Literature is replete with bad boys who make us tingle. Rhett Butler inflamed even the flinty Scarlett O’Hara, although she lusted after willowy Ashley Wilkes for far too long. Anyone who read Gone With the Wind (or saw the movie) has only one question for Scarlett: Girl, what were you thinking?

Millions of readers adore Jack Reacher, a good guy with bad boy vibes. He’s a big brawny lad who thrills female fans every time he defies convention and does the right thing despite the risks. (Author Lee Child is no slouch either, ladies. British charm at its best.)

Hawk, loyal sidekick to Robert Parker ‘s Spenser, is the ultimate bad boy/villain oozing with sex appeal, menace and the fastest gun in New England. Small wonder he’s besieged by lusty females of every race, color and creed. You might not take him home to Mama, but why bother? Keep him for yourself.

Fans of the Stephanie Plum series know all about hunky bad boys. Women from eighteen to eighty gasp every time RANGER appears on the page. He’s smart, uber-masculine, and a skilled practitioner of the erotic arts. Ranger also protects Stephanie and vanquishes any villain in her path. He’s the type of edgy character who straddles the hero/villain fence quite neatly.

On the small screen, Jack Bauer kept us enthralled for 9 seasons of “24” despite (or because of), his unfortunate tendency to kneecap any really bad guy who got in the way. Actor Chris Noth is the ultimate bad boy in every role he plays. That’s part of his considerable charm as his partners in “Sex and the City”, or “The Good Wife will attest. “

My personal favorite, however, was the pulse pounding Michael Samuel (Roy Dupuis), of La Femme Nikita. Good Lord! Who knew that frigid Quebec could produce such a hot commodity? Even today there are tributes to him all over the Internet.

As writers, we are urged to create characters with depth, ones who embody some of the elements of normal life. When I first described Dr. Patrick Fong (based on the glorious Russell Wong), readers said he was too perfect. I thought hard, and gave him a flaw or two. In subsequent books, Patrick yielded to temptation —frequently—even though he loved only his wife, Grace.

This caused quite a conundrum. Male readers were envious, but many females thought Grace was a wimp, a pathetic dishrag, and worse for not kicking Patrick to the curb. My position remains unchanged: life is a game of tradeoffs, and trust me, no sane woman would arbitrarily discard a sizzling hunk of beauty, brains and bucks without making extraordinary efforts to reform him.

Bottom line, what makes a bad boy/villain an acceptable risk? If we exclude all the absolute taboos (cruelty to animals, violence against women/children), a few bumps in the character road are seldom fatal. Patrick Fong is a wonderful father and tender husband who made a clear distinction in his own mind between the love he felt for his wife and the casual sex he engaged in. He played relationship roulette until he risked losing everything he valued in life. Then he saw the light.

To keep us interested, bad boys must have the capacity and willingness to ultimately reform. Taming one of these rakes is a daunting task. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!

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