The grumpy boss is a popular leading man in romance. He stomps around like a bear with a sore head and his PA spends her days dodging his temper tantrums. All the while, tolerating his barking orders so that she doesn’t get fired.
We’ve all read about that character who we love to hate but are too intrigued not to read on.
If only he wasn’t so hot, especially in his power suit, which seems to emphasize every hard edge and bulge of his muscular frame. With those thick, heavily veined arms he could wrestle a tiger and sign a winning contract simultaneously.
But he’s also a chauvinistic pig and his hard-working PA does her best to ignore the way he stares at her breasts or how his jaw tightens when she speaks.
Then one day, he crosses that line and requests, ok demands, she shows him her panties.
But we fervently turn those pages with bated breaths. Will she? Won’t she?
Her cheeks burn and her panties start smoking… the feistier her response the more determined he becomes. Until they cross that line. Maybe it’s a fake date, or some corporate function where he needs a quick stand-in. The champagne flows and by the end of the night she’s left wearing his silk tie and his penis is covered in lipstick.
It becomes a habit, this little fling with her boss. By day he’s a tyrant, by night he’s insatiable.
Then one day he explodes into a tirade, and she cracks it. It could be his coffee’s not warm enough, or there’s a typo in the minutes, or something trivial, and so she tells him to stick his job up his ass and storms out.
He rakes through his carefully disheveled hair. Her feisty response leaves him gobsmacked if not a little aroused.
How the hell does he work the coffee machine? And who’s going to get those documents printed and ready for a meeting he’d only just heard about?
As the weeks pass, he misses her pretty eyes, and it’s not just how well she fills her clothes but her smart mouth too, and how she can massage away his headache with just a tender touch.
He has not only lost interest in hooking up with strangers, but his food has lost its flavor. He’s just no longer himself. All because this intelligent, sexy woman told him to take his head out of his ass.
Suddenly he’s kind to old people and remembers his mother’s birthday. He no longer yells at the windscreen cleaner dude, who he now tips generously instead of a one-finger salute.
He begs her to meet with him and asks for her forgiveness. His husky voice falls to a tender whisper as he admits that he can’t live without her. His eyes glisten with emotion, looking deeply into her eyes, he even asks her to marry him.
“Yay!” we all scream from the sidelines. She tamed the beast, and he’s no longer a jerk.
Then there’s the brooding hero.
Romance is filled with these enigmatic men who burn with a mysterious passion and drive women wild with lust.
What is it about him that makes women swoon? Is it his intense stare? Or that rare smile? Or the way he can reduce a woman to a puddle of quivering desire with nothing more than a few words?
These brooding heroes with their tormented souls have been tantalizing romance readers forever. Romance novels wouldn’t be the same without these males whose burning gaze can make a heroine’s libido sizzle from across a room.
Maybe she just wants to get a glimpse of his soul, in the hope of unraveling his mysteries. Or something more superficial, like seeing what’s beneath that tailored shirt.
All it takes is a comment about some benevolent foundation he sponsors and, in no time, she’s rolling over his silky sheets, sighing in ecstasy. It helps that his eyes shine with a hint of untamed mischief and wickedness, and his voice is like dark chocolate, smooth and rich and irresistible.
Scars soon appear. Beneath those coiled muscles and deep limpid eyes lives a complex man, harboring secrets. Running from the shadows of his past, he’s unwilling to admit the pain beneath his forced smile, why his ex is suing him, or any other serious plot thickener gate crashing their moment of bliss. Eventually, she becomes so frustrated by his secrecy she runs away.
He discovers he can’t live without her. She’s sexy, yes, but there’s more to her. His life’s now brighter and fuller with her around. He’s found his soul mate in this smart, sexy woman, who can wax lyrical about Marcel Proust, beat him at Scrabble, and is a goddess in the bedroom. She’s also not afraid to call him out when he’s being full of himself.
He empties his heart and shares his life story—one that he’d never told anyone. In doing so, he becomes a new man. He learns new things about himself and wants to shine for her. To be a better man for the woman who has finally done what no therapist could ever do—shine a torch on his soul.
Of course, this subject on romantic heroes or anti-heroes, if you like, wouldn’t be complete without the bad boy.
The player, the rake, and the cad all share one thing in common: they’re synonymous with the playboy—a handsome rogue who chases skirt and charms his way into woman’s panties.
He’s the hot guy with the devilish grin. The shameless womanizer who’s steamy and knows it. He has a sense of style and can fight off a bunch of beefy assailants without messing his hair or breaking into a sweat.
A bad boy is too sexy to resist. The moment you see him, you’ll be smitten and won’t be able to take your eyes off him. Possessing magnetic charisma, he can woo any woman with his flirty banter, witty comebacks, and sweet compliments. But he lacks the depth and emotional intimacy to sustain any real relationship.
That is until this playboy meets our bookish, smart-mouthed heroine, who doesn’t even bat an eyelid at his decadent charms. She puts him in his place, and is immune to whatever flirtatious trickery he pulls, challenging him at every turn. To the seasoned player, part of the fun is the chase, so that her put-downs act like an aphrodisiac for the bad boy.
Despite respecting her for turning up her nose at his silly womanizing ways, we can’t help but secretly wish she’d let him go down on her. Our hard-working, self-sacrificing heroine deserves some toe-curling pleasure, doesn’t she?
He starts to reveal a vulnerable side, which is equally surprising for him as for her. His tenderness stuns her. She can’t help but respond to his kiss that is hot against her skin. The firmness of his lips makes her melt into a puddle and forget her own name.
The air becomes electrified between them, and a hot, hooded gaze is all it takes for her G-spot to burn. For that impossible feat alone, he deserves a cheer from the sidelines. For the first time, he wants more. He is willing to change for her.
This ordinary, clever girl has finally turned him into a better man. He even sits through The Notebook without as much as a snigger.
Suddenly our favorite bad boy is happier at home, sipping a fine sifter of brandy, rather than shots at some late-night bar, discussing baby names with the love of his life.
And there you have my brief take on romantic heroes, in all their alluring masculinity. Our literary libidos crave some danger in our romantic leads. And it’s sure as hell fun watching their mystery unravel as they reveal their vulnerability to our feisty heroine.
I originally wrote this essay for http://www.deannasworld.com/2022/03/the-grumpy-boss-brooding-hero-and-bad-boy-by-jj-sorel.html