The extreme bad boy trope has not only spawned the high school/college bully romance niche, but has expanded into other dark romance sub-niches such as the mafia romance and the motor cycle club romance (MC romance).
Why all this popularity with evil heroes, from high school and college bullies to professional criminals? On the surface, these horrible men hardly seem appropriate heroes for a happy-ever-after romance. The cruel bully seems antithetical to everything a romantic hero should be, right?
But like the pirate romances of the past, these romances thrive because they represent the ultimate conquest of love over evil. Redeeming the worst possible man with the power of romantic love, plus the right heroine, is an irresistible idea. Not to mention very romantic.
The strong heroine is central to these new dark bully bad boy romances, differentiating them somewhat from the pirate romances of the seventies (though you could prove me wrong with some examples, most of the pirate heroines seemed to be cast as victims needing rescue.)
The irresistible appeal of the-darker-the-better hero comes from the satisfaction of that redemption, so much more powerful when the hero is finally led to the seemingly impossible happy ending. The stakes of saving the extreme bad boy in a romance is the equivalent of saving the world in a thriller or fantasy novel, allowing the heroine and romantic love to achieve the ultimate victory.
Needless to say, these stories are not easy to pull off! I love reading them, getting drawn in by the raw and extreme emotional stakes, but writing them? That takes some doing. Hopefully, I’m up to the challenge.
How do you find these crazy monster bad-boy romances? They’re often labeled as bully romances, dark romances, mafia romances and MC romances. Sometimes enemies-to-lovers and hate-to-love romances can feature evil heroes. Also, vampire romances often feature the similarly extremely dark heroes transformed by love.
A few of my favorite dark/bully romance authors are L.J. Shen, Meagan Brandy and Ilsa Madden Mills.
You can also look for Big Man on Campus featuring a bully hero on the mend in this enemies-to-lovers college sports romance.