I freely confess to watching and loving the Sons Of Anarchy, Justified, Homeland,  Twenty-Four, Luther; Ray Donovan and any martial arts film featuring a certain Chinese-American actor. My literary favorites also include healthy servings from Nelson DeMille, Lee Child and Barry Eisler. What, you might ask, attracts an otherwise peace-loving mystery writer to a diet of unmitigated mayhem? It’s not the violence, although a man who can smite his enemies for a just cause is a major turn on. I hasten to add that neither the films nor the books contain any acts of animal cruelty, a non-starter for me and many other women. A few bodies fall in these adventures—Sons of Anarchy stacks them up like cordwood; Jack Bauer and Raylin Givens were never considered gun-shy—but for the most part, their hearts and biceps are in the right place.

There are two reasons that I adore these fictional tough guys: their willingness to pursue justice even when it imperils their own safety and the indisputable fact that they are major babes, big on biceps, brawn and brains. Intellect is important to me and although I have no proof about their IQs (Stanford-Binet where are you?), when it comes to survival these heroes rise to genius level.

Some of the same attributes appear in the stars of my mystery novels although the body count and violence quotient are considerably less. Movies, television, and novels sell the same thing—a respite from real world woes and a whopping dose of fantasy. Heroes are smart, sexy and audacious. Women are appreciative.

Lest you think I am hopelessly sexist, I also love The Big Bang Theory and never miss Benedict Cumberbatch’s version of Sherlock. I just don’t fantasize about them.



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!

Heroes, Hunks and Perfect Men

Heroes, Hunks and Perfect Men

“Men like that don’t exist in real life.” So say many guys when they flip through a Romance. Duh! Of course they don’t. If I want reality, I’ll stroll around a low-end shopping mall and stare. Writers sell fantasy and readers of Romance expect it. Our female protagonists often resemble an airbrushed version of our better selves. Attractive, smart, professional women populate every corner of the world and they buy and read the many variations of the romance genre. Our heroes, those gasp inducing hotties with great bods, muscular brains and bright futures, represent a female’s fondest dreams.

Take Dr. Patrick Fong, hero of my first mystery series. He’s self-assured, brilliant and breathtaking. (Think Russell Wong in Romeo Must Die). A man like him could have any woman but he adores Grace, a spunky take no prisoners mix of Irish wit and Italian fire who thinks she’s a detective. Patrick’s not without flaws— he’s catnip to any red-blooded she-devil within a fifty mile radius. He’s also a sophisticated hunk who loves a strong, smart woman despite her flaws.

Romance heroes are never threatened by assertive females. They know how to use tenderness , respect and exquisite love-making to make the fiercest lioness purr. SPOILER ALERT: Since poor but proud is the ultimate fiction, my heroes are also financially fixed or on their way to being so.
Lucian Sand the fiery Frenchman in INTRUSION (Mainly MurderPress, 12-11), falls head over heels for Elizabeth, a grieving widow who has absolutely no interest in him. This virile MIT grad knows that patience, fortitude and love can penetrate the hardest heart. He’s headstrong and impossibly stubborn, but a hero to the core.

One of the immutable laws of Romance writing requires a ‘happily ever after ‘ ending. Readers invest a lot of emotion in the lives of the protagonists. They want and deserve a payoff. So do the rest of us.
So here’s to the men of Romance fiction — those heroes, hunks and perfect men. We love you, yes we do!