Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend Wind-Down: Tall, Dark and just a little Dangerous

Our columnist Annie West thought long and hard about a suitable topic to tide us over the weekend. After much deliberation she realised that one thing everyone here at the Pink Heart Society has in common is an appreciation of a great hero. As a result, this post is dedicated to the talk, dark, fascinating men that haunt so many great romances.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes but for me there’s none that can beat the archetypal tall, dark, delicious and preferably just a little dangerous. That’s my fantasy hero. I can picture him now looming behind the heroine at some gothic mansion as the mist swirls around them, or appearing (complete with cape) at her window on the night of a full moon. He could be shouldering his way through a crowded regency ball room to single out the only woman who sparks his interest, or swinging off his horse and pushing back his Stetson as he takes in the sight of the woman who’s invaded his territory.

In my own books he’s more likely to be wearing a tuxedo, or prowling around a board table intent on closing the deal of a lifetime, or even welcoming the unsuspecting heroine into his exotic palace.

One thing about Mr Tall Dark and Dangerous – he’s wonderfully flexible. You can take him anywhere and he’s guaranteed to cause a stir. He’s been sighted on the Spanish Main, causing a ruckus in the fleet and sweeping some damsel off her feet. I’m sure I’ve seen him stalking across a Scottish moor with a claymore and tartan. He ventures regularly into the world of urban fantasy, into the corporate jungle and into hands-on roles as detective, firefighter, spy or ultimate warrior.

I grew up reading gothic romances where the hero was just as dangerous as the villain – and the readers revelled in that ambivalence. At school I devoured Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and though I never wanted Mr Rochester or Heathcliff for myself (in real life I think that intensity would wear me out), my little heart went pitter pat nevertheless. I was soon hooked on romance, searching out more recent stories and finding so many fantastic heroes.

But why? What is it about Mr TDD that reaches out to women the world over? Could it be as shallow as great looks and a mighty fine form in a pair of buckskin breeches? Surely not! Though I have to say broodingly handsome does work for me... Ahem, Where was I? Could it be the aspirational aspect? Think of Mr Darcy and his vast Pemberley estate (and yes I do count him as dangerous as he has the power to disrupt Elizabeth’s life and her sister’s so easily). So many of these heroes are wealthy, often in direct contrast to the heroine’s restricted circumstances.

However, there’s much more too it than that. Some of the best heroes don’t have a cent to their name and yet they’re compelling. Nathaniel in ‘Last of the Mohicans’ is a great example (the movie, definitely not the book).

Often these are men of mystery. There’s a sense that they’re holding something back from the heroine, or even from themselves. That impenetrable air can be very sexy if done well. We’re all intrigued by a mystery and a mystery man who’s attractive, powerful and focused on us (er, the heroine) has enormous potential. Instantly we want to know more about him. Who he really is and why he’s like that. What is it he’s hiding?

These men are above all capable, men of action. They excel in their field – whether that’s wearing a mask and righting wrongs (think Zorro or Robin Hood), surviving on deserted islands (think ‘Lost’), saving their country (007 hits the mark every time) or getting his own way when he finally meets the one woman he’ll claim as his.

That’s one of the reasons he can be so dangerous to our heroine. He’s a man used to succeeding, a powerful man. The question then is how far will he go to win the woman he wants? That far? Surely not...

Which brings us to one of Mr TDD’s best qualities. His absolute focus on the heroine. When he meets the woman he wants for himself nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop him from getting her. He may deny his feelings, he may need to save the world first, but there’s no doubting that she’s the one. One of the most seductive things in the world (emotionally as well as physically) has to be a man whose total focus is the woman he wants. The man who will move heaven and earth to save her/win her for himself.

My favourite TDD’s also have a strong code of honour, even if it doesn’t fit the society they find themselves in. They can be wonderful protectors of those they love.

For me Mr Tall Dark and Dangerous has it all – the looks, the terrific physical presence, the power to succeed, the hint of mystery, the aura of danger and an unswerving desire to win the heroine. He even appears time and again in stories that aren’t strictly romances, which surely is testimony to his natural charm.

Do you have a favourite Tall Dark and Dangerous hero? Who is he and what makes him so special? I’ve barely skimmed across his qualities. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on why Mr TDD keeps popping up so often, and so successfully.

Some of Annie’s best writing times have been when she's channelling Mr Tall Dark and Dangerous. She thinks he’s the most fun to write except that he has a mind of his own and it can be difficult to wrest control of the latest story from him. If you’d like to investigate his latest incarnation, check out the excerpt from her new year release ‘The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife’ on her website. You can by the book in January (UK), February (Aus/NZ) and May (North America).


  1. Annie, I adored this piece!!! And not just 'cause of the fabulous piccies ;).

    I too love a tall dark brooder. Very enigmatic and seductive methinks.

    Don't lose this piece - it's fabulous!!!


  2. Fab post, Annie. You've described my very own Mr TDD to a tee! Cool pics too.

    I think what makes a typical Mr TDD so special is that he isn't one to spend his weekends watching football on telly. As you say, he's a man of action.

    Congrats on the birth of your bub, Ally!

    x Vanessa

  3. Ally,

    How could I lose this piece? I had such fun researching it! (G). Glad you approve of the pics. I was particularly pleased with the one of Clive Owen. Yes, enigmatic works for me. As does 'tall dark brooder'!


  4. Hi Vanessa. How lucky you are to have your very own Mr TDD. Great point about him not spending the weekend with the TV. Yes, please, to a man of action.

    Love the points you girls have raised. Thank you.


  5. Great post, Annie! I have to say, I love Clive Owen. And Keanu in The Matrix. And...

    I love Tall, Dark & Dangerous in a romance because there's a tension with who he is and what he *might* be capable of, but you still know you're getting your HEA, and in the end he will be tamed/saved by the heroine. And of course, he has a special brand of honour that makes him a true hero.

    Daniel Craig as James Bond isn't particularly tall or dark, but he's definitely dangerous and he's on my list :)


  6. Hi Kate,

    I couldn't agree more about that tension in a dangerous hero - who he is and what he might be capable of doing. That's always so enormously appealing, especially when he brings that power to bear in protecting or winning the heroine.

    Ah, Daniel Craig. You know, I'd started searching for a pic of him as 007 before I realised he wasn't 'dark'! But otherwise he definitely fits the bill! Sounds like we think alike.


  7. Annie, what a breathtaking post. And I'm not JUST talking about the illustrations ;-) Especially Nathaniel in LOTM. As you know, he really does make my heart beat faster. He's so completely focused on Cora from the moment he sees her. He knows she's the one and he never wavers. Sigh. Actually, did you know you have a really sweet typo? You say "talk, dark and dangerous" early in the piece. Which made me smile. And I must say tall, dark, dangerous and witty really is a killer combination! I love my brain as well as my hormones to be engaged. Hmm, perhaps even married...

    Happy Holidays, Pink Hearters!

  8. Hi, Annie :-)--thanks for a great read :-). I especially enjoyed your line about "gothic romances where the hero was just as dangerous as he villain." Happy sigh :-).

  9. Oh Anna, a typo? After the time I spent on that? Surely it can't be! Glad to worked for you anyway. I know what you mean about that level of intense focus on the heroine. That works for me every time. And it's such fun to write!

    Hi Terry! Great to see you here. I didn't know you were another fan of dangerous heroes. They are fun aren't they?

    I can feel the siren call of some really good books that I've been waiting to read - that's one of my aims for Christmas. I sure hope Mr TDD appears in some of the stories.


  10. Funny you should mention dark and dangerous heroes, Annie, because my August release is Falling for Mr Dark and Dangerous! LOL So I guess he'd be one of my favorite dark and dangerous heroes. He's a US Marshal - one of the good guys - but with an edge.

    I am reminded of a line in the Anne of Green Gables movie - "I wouldn't want him to be truly wicked...just that he could be, and wouldn't!"

  11. Love that line in Anne of GG, Donna. Absolutely true too!


  12. Thanks for the inspiration, Annie! Love the pics. Tall, dark and dangerous sounds so thrilling.

    Carol Hutchens