Who doesn’t like a bad boy? From Heathcliff to Jaime Lannister (debatable, kind of) their allure has always fascinated me- so Before We Fall was a perfect fit when it came to being a part of Accent Press’s blog tour!
Here to delve into the topic in more detail is, very kindly, Grace Lowrie herself:
What is the romantic appeal of a fictional bad boy?
In fictional love stories why is it that a rude, rebellious, bad-tempered, often foul-mouthed and even violent male protagonist can seem sexy, when in real life you’d probably run a mile? Some of my favourite characters spring to mind – Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy, Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat, Tate Langdon in American Horror Story, Daniel Cleaver from Bridget Jones’s Diary… I could go on. (Of course there are some amazing Bad Girls out there too – Stieg Larsson’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Lisbeth Salander, for example, but for the purposes of this post I’m focusing on the boys).
Putting aside the obvious fact that these characters are invariably physically attractive, there is an element of ‘cool’ associated with breaking the rules, and escaping into a made-up story is an easy way to flirt with ‘the wrong crowd’ without ending up in trouble. Even so, I don’t think the allure of the Bad Boy is just about a chiselled exterior and provocative behaviour, but rather what is hidden beneath it all – that’s the real draw.
When we are reading a story or watching a film or TV show, we benefit from insight into the motivations and emotions of the main characters because they are indicated for us by the author or screenwriter. What Bad Boys usually have in common is a few fundamental, well-disguised, redeeming features, which may not be evident if we actually met them in person. They might have a naughty sense of humour, a reluctant heroism, a sensitive nature, a deep-seated integrity or unswerving loyalty. More often than not they bear a vulnerable charm resulting from a tragic past. I think what all these anti-heroes share is a basic need to be understood, loved and ultimately rescued in some way.
Perhaps then the true appeal for the female protagonist (and indeed for you the reader, putting yourself in her shoes) is not the ‘strong’ man himself, but his contrasting weaknesses and the fact that he needs you. You specifically. It is the powerful, intoxicating and irresistible notion that you are the one person, who can take on the charismatic but potentially dangerous man, fix him, and save him from himself. I think it’s human to want to feel uniquely valued, and in real life we may not have the time or inclination to rescue a difficult man in order to feel good, so maybe that’s where romantic fiction comes into its own?
My latest book, the second in The Wildham Series, features Bay Madderson – a cross between Fight Club’s sexy, swaggering Tyler Durden, and Jane Eyre’s grumpy, tortured Mr Rochester. If you love a fictional Bad Boy why not give Before We Fall a try. 😊
Grace Lowrie’s Before We Fall is a really sweet book: I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, and I mean that in the best possible way. Unusual, heartfelt and with a real deftness of touch when it came to painting her two main characters, it’s the kind of book you find yourself returning to when you’re in need of a good, light read.
Our two heroes couldn’t be from more different backgrounds: Cally works in a call centre and lives outside London with her boyfriend Liam, and Bay is a painter who pretty much spends his time coked up to the eyeballs and drowning his sorrows with alcohol after a mysterious tragedy in his past. The first time we meet her, she’s being told that she has cancer; the first time that we meet him, he’s trying to commit suicide.
It sounds dark, but, strangely, it’s not, because for the rest of the book we get to watch these two characters grow, sometimes not in ways we’d expect them to. Cally is a great heroine: I loved how unapologetic she was about her new career as a stripper, and I really appreciated how her diagnosis actually gave her a fresh incentive to live life to the full. If you want to do that by moving to London and becoming an erotic dancer, who am I to judge? You do you! It’s not the most rational response- she does also dump her boyfriend and cut off ties with family and friends- but we’re all human, and her response does feel, strangely, human.
Bay, on the other hand, is a little bit more of a Heathcliffian cliché- though, weirdly, I quite like how dark and twisted he is, and the type of stuff that we see him do (breaking and entering, for instance). It gives you a much more rounded depiction of how low somebody can sink than I think you’d usually see in a romantic book; for that, I liked him all the more. Does that make me weird? Too bad.
The plot itself is great- there’s a lot of double entendres, misunderstandings and meet-cutes- and it’s unconventional. Watching the two slowly fall in love despite all of that is strangely touching, but readers beware! It does also get quite risqué. You have been warned, but all the stuff that you’re served alongside it, including Cally taking up that most romantic of positions in the collective imagination: as Bay’s muse.
So, on the whole, what did I think of this book? Before We Fall is a steamy romance with heart: it’s touching, it’s clever and it gives its characters a real chance to shine and grow- and for us to fall in love with them as they do. Though I felt a little uncomfortable with how she dealt with Cally’s cancer, for a romance, this struck all the right notes: sweet, funny, sensual. A must read.