Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rakes, Rogues and Romance

Henry Cavil, The Tudors

The rake is usually a romantic archetype found in historical writing. So what is a rake? He’s a man with few scruples and little honor. He’s had affairs with widows, married women, courtesans, and unmarried women. He’s got plenty of had habits which include drinking and gambling. He’s often shallow, has no ambition, and lacks integrity. So what’s the appeal?

The initial appeal might likely be his winsome smile and handsome features. Often one thinks of a rake as having a virile, chiseled appearance. Honestly, he’s drop dead gorgeous to women everywhere. He’s known to be exciting, dangerous, and virile – and if you’re the kind of woman that desire anonymity, the rake will keep your secret.

Yet, hidden behind his charming smile and affable demeanor is a man of complexity. There’s a “darker” reason for his selfish actions and lack of scruples. Did his father treat women with little respect and the rake is only following that example? Was he abused? Traumatized in some way? Is he rebelling against a strict upbringing?

What sets the heroine apart from the rake’s conquests is her desire to discover this “hidden” pain and redeem him. A rake’s journey is one of redemption and discovering his scruples. What proves fascinating to the heroine is the power it gives her knowing it’s her love that redeems him.

Writing a historical rake from a modern perspective can be a challenge. After all, might come to mind is that our rake might have an STD. Perhaps it’s the perception of the hero being a rake, even though he’s not, which gives the reader hope.

A rogue is an unprincipled, deceitful, unreliable, mischievous scoundrel. He’s always up to his elbows in a bit of mischief. So, if he’s deceitful, doesn’t that make him just like a rake? Not quite. When it comes to his virility and promiscuity, he may not have had a lot of affairs. He’s a rogue because he lies at the gambling tables, not because he’s prone to flings.

Both the rake and rogue have unattractive qualities which make them “unlikely” heroes, but a romance is all about the unlikely hero taking an adventure or going on a journey with the heroine and discovering those traits which will make him a better person and a true hero.

Question: Who is your favorite historical romance hero?  Book, TV or movie?  Why?


  1. Now I understand those charming boys better!

  2. I always though of the rake and rogue as the original bad boys of romance. I love seeing them better defined.

  3. It is a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing! Very helpful!

  4. Excellent post. Ladies love cowboys is a newer twist on this. Some women just love bad boys--the challenge, I reckon. :-)