Much has been made of the lure of the bad boy. It is an enduring feminine fantasy that we can reform the rake, redeem the sinner and remold a man in accordance with our wishes.
Sadly, it ain’t necessarily so.
In real life, if a guy’s a player when you meet him, the likelihood that he’ll remain a player is astronomically high. And if you meet a fellow who stands by his word, he’ll stand by you as well.
That’s why I’d love to see more men who live by an involate code of conduct in fiction. Last weekend, my daughter and I watched The Man in the Iron Mask. D’artagnan is the quintessential man of honor. His words to Louis XIV, “I believe it is possible for a man to love one woman his whole life and be the better for it,” warmed my heart. When he learns one of his sons had been imprisoned in an iron mask for six years, he would have gladly worn it for him. And he gives his life to save another.
We bawled our eyes out.
Self sacrifice is the most attractive quality a hero can display. And if a hero subscribes to a code of honor, a plot that challenges his devotion to that code is riveting.
Now this doesn’t mean our upright hero has to be a self-righteous prig. He’s all man. D’artagnan had an affair with the queen which resulted in twin boys, after all. But he loves her all his life, whether they can be together or not and sticks to his vows as a Musketeer, even when he must oppose not just his enemies, but his friends!
Have you read a book with a honorable hero? What did you love about him?