It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly feature hosted by the blog, The Broke and the Bookish – http://brokeandbookish.blogspot.co.uk/
Each week they ask people to write a top ten list of something on a literary theme. This week it’s characters you have a crush on. I’ve been waiting for this topic for weeks. All I can say is that it’s a good job I’m not writing this ten years ago or I’d never have kept it down to ten. In my mid-teens, I just couldn’t read a book without falling in love with someone in it, and I was reading everything from literary classics to the trashiest of the trashy novels.
Now my hormones have calmed down and I’m freshly engaged, I’m not quite so easily impressed, and indeed, I’ve read several books recently with someone who’s meant to be a great romantic hero and felt a bit non-plussed. This list however seems to stand the test of time.
It’s probably worth bearing in mind that I havea slightly worrying taste in book boyfriends. This lot are nearly universally arrogant/power-mad; a good few of them are outright evil or at least highly amoral , and in one especially worrying case, after reading I found out that a character was meant to be based on George Bush. Oh, and one is about 90% based on my actual boyfriend. You can draw your own conclusions about whether he’s an exception to this rule or not…
Also, at least four are dead by the end of the series they appear in (don’t worry, I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the books by saying which ones). I strongly suspect that two more are going to join this list by the time their series’ are completed. I’m just a glutton for punishment.
1 – Julian – LJ Smith – The Forbidden Game
There’s no way I could write a list about book boyfriends and not start with an LJ Smith character. I don’t think any author has so consistently managed to write characters that I felt a wild attraction to. Yes, the fact that I read all her books in my teens helped, but I read lots of similar paranormal romance around the same time and no one had quite the same effect on me. If I let myself, I could quite easily have filled the whole list with her dark romantic leads, filled a back up list with the lighter side of her inevitable love triangles and probably have got a good way through a third on the strength of her random supporting characters.
However, I’m restricting myself to one character per author (except me, because I make my own rules), so there’s really only one choice. Julian from the Forbidden Game. In many ways, Julian is a bit of a stock character, artfully balancing being hot, evil, charming and utterly in love with the heroine. I can’t quite put my finger on why he is so much more memorable than all the other sexy paranormal cads out there, but somehow he is. Partly, it’s just because he has such a good storyline to work with. Partly because he’s such an unusual character, being a Shadow Man, a creature from Norse Mythology, rather than a vampire/werewolf/angel/fairy. Partly it’s because he gets some great lines. And partly, as with really life, I guess sometimes the chemistry is just right.
2)Morpheus/Sandman – Neil Gaiman – Sandman Series
This one scores even higher on the “you really wouldn’t want to go out with him in real life” scale. His girlfriends all seem to end up in hell or cursed or trapped somewhere, which isn’t really what you want. On the plus side, he’s good-looking, romantic, more powerful than any god and a great storyteller. And whileever the ill-fated girlfriends are still in favour, they seem to be utterly adored. I don’t usually go in for graphic novels, but the nice thing about them is that they let me see exactly what he’s supposed to look like and in general, I absolutely approve. Except that the way some of the artists draw him, he looks disturbingly like my brother. (Using a picture to illustrate this fact has been vetoed!).
3) Ned Stark – A Game of Thrones – George RR Martin
I read Game of Thrones and the rest of the series so far before the TV show and adored it. As a good northern lass one of my favourite things about it was the cold frozen north full of grimly self-sufficient men and the way it was initially contrasted with and ultimately plunged into war with the softly indulgent south. I was rooting for the north all the way, especially House Stark and especially their wonderful patriarch Ned.
Unlike most of my selections here, who are basically terrible people once you strip away the glamour and the power, Ned seems like a really nice chap. He has a castle, a private army and huge reserves of power and respect. But he’s also a family man, fiercely loyal and utterly honourable. Plus he’s good at fighting (though by no means the best, which is a touch I like) and the sort of dad who gives his kids giant wolves as a present, but also remembers to tell them they have to look after them properly. He also, in one of my favourite minor scenes, gets up from his overheated bed in the middle of a freezing night and stands by his open window to cool down. I do that all the time. We’d be the perfect match.
The TV series only solidified this for me, because a)I love Sean Bean and b)he played him with a Sheffield accent, which was the way I’d always imagined lovely lovely Ned.
4 Thomas Cromwell – Wolf Hall/Bring up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel
Even more so than literary characters, I have a tendency to fall head over heels in love with historical characters. That said, despite taking a final paper on Tudor History, I never gave Thomas Cromwell a second thought. But on reading Hilary Mantel’s twin masterpieces, I suddenly thought he was amazing. Much like Ned Stark, he seems to be the only decent man in a world of total dicks. Unlike Ned, he knows when to admit defeat and arrange someone’s execution in order to stay on the king’s side. I like a bit of pragmatism in my men.
What I really love about him though is the way he starts life as the son of a blacksmith and through his own intelligence, ambition and energy becomes one of the most powerful men in England. He supports apprentices. He educates his daughters in Latin and maths. He throws great parties. He tries to set up a proto-welfare state. He’s probably the least physically attractive man on this list but I emphatically do not care. On the basis that you can’t spoil history, I think it’s fair to say he’s going to join my list of horrible deaths in Book Three. I’m not sure I can physically face reading that.
Note – definitely not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell, who I absolutely do not have a crush on as either a historical or fictional character. I didn’t call my series The Cavaliers for nothing.
5 Lord Vetinari – Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett
This one’s in a similar vein, only with an extra streak of cunning and evil. I’ve always thought of Terry Pratchett’s (mostly)benevolent dictator as being based on Lorenzo De’Medici, one of my top five history boyfriends and I think that was the author’s intention too. However, writing these two paragraphs side by side has made me realise that’s he’s actually uncannily like Mantel’s version of Cromwell. He’s ruthlessly ambitious, but treats personal power and the good of the country he’s governing roughly equally. He’s startlingly clever, and you know he’s always going to overcome any crisis he faces and beat anyone in a battle of wits. He doesn’t seem to have any kind of family and I’ve always thought he could do with a nice supportive girlfriend to help him run Ankh-Morpork.
6 Robert Frobisher – Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
I’ve touched on this in another blog post recently (by touched on I actually mean “stuck pictures of Ben Whishaw playing him in the recent film all over the place”) so I’ll keep this one short. Frobisher’s story is set in the early 1930s. He’s good-looking, well-dressed, a musical genius, an old Etonian, a Cambridge drop-out, a manic-depressive, a writer of beautiful witty letters, an accomplished seducer and a fan of Nietsche.
That’s not necessarily a universally positive list but the end result is that he’s utterly fascinating. In real life I think I’d end up hitting him within about five minutes of speaking to him (though I did once know someone who massively reminded me of him and who I kept trying to force this book on)but he’s a perfect book crush.
7 Kvothe – The Kingkiller Chronicles – Patrick Rothfuss
Some people say Kvothe’s a bit of a Mary Sue. I say, “Fine, I’ll keep this guy who is: a brilliant musician; an amazing storyteller; pretty much the most naturally talented practitioner of magic in the world; trained in sex by a love goddess and trained in fighting by the world’s best assassins, ALL FOR MYSELF.” Because that’s basically exactly the qualities I look for in a man. On the downside, he has ginger hair, but you can’t have it all.
8 Charlie Blackwell – American Wife – Curtis Sittenfeld
This one only gets to stay on the list because it wins my “biggest romantic head fuck of all time” award. Alice Lindgren is quiet and prim and proper. Her glamorous friend gets all the men. She goes to a BBQ and Charlie, the richest, best looking, most popular guy at the party falls totally and utterly in love with her. He takes her to his Cape Cod mansion where she meets his glamorous and sprawling family, including his senator father. At this point in the book I wanted to be Alice so much. Charlie seems so lovely. And then the book carries on and suddenly it’s clear that Charlie is based on George W Bush and I have the horrible realisation that I’d just developed a crush on young George Bush. I couldn’t watch any news featuring American politics for about five years afterwards.
Joint 9 and 10 . The Hon. Tom Flyte and Lord George Stewart – Georgiana Derwent -The Cavaliers Series
Forgive me a moment of self-publicising, but this list honestly wouldn’t be complete if I couldn’t include these two. After all, if there’s one thing better than coming across a character you fall in love with, it’s writing one to your exact specifications. And I know I said I was restricting myself to only one character per author, but it’s all or nothing here, I couldn’t possibly show any favouritism.
George and Tom are both aristocratic vampires, from the English Civil War and the 1920s respectively. As members of the Cavaliers, an elite dining society, they are pretending to be ordinary Oxford University students whilst secretly recruiting promising students that they can turn into vampires and use to run the country.
Tom has floppy dark hair and deep blue eyes. He went to Eton followed by Oxford. He likes indie music, partying and culture. He’s also extremely good at fencing, punting and apparently rowing. Oh, not to mention sex. He’s generally dressed extremely smartly, up to and including white tie. If I were single, you could probably take that description and set an online dating profile up for me. On the downside, he likes seducing people for their blood (including one person he killed) and being only eighty years old isn’t that powerful.
George has long blond hair and was basically brought up to be a soldier, but ended up cultured somewhere along the way. He’s half French and half Scottish (though speaks with a cut glass English accent), Catholic but pretty thoroughly lapsed, and fervently loyal to the monarch of the time from Charles I onwards. He hates the Roundheads for killing the king, killing his brother (even though that made him the heir to his father’s Dukedom) and for generally being dull and lacking in style. He has a reputation around Oxford as being both exceptionally attractive and charming and a total womaniser, even by the standards of the Cavaliers. As a Senior Member of the Cavaliers, he oversees the creation of the new vampires (who all have to kill someone to be turned) so he has a lot of blood on his hands. He has exceptionally strong mind control powers and tends to solve most problems with mesmerisms or duels.
So, do you like any of these characters or have I just shown what incredibly odd taste I have? And indulge me – if you’ve ever read my books, which of the two characters do you prefer?