When I was in high school, I fell in love with Gothic historical fiction. And Gothic historical men. I can’t remember which tempestuous hero of the English moors first sparked this literary infatuation, but I was smitten.
Here’s a short tribute to the brooding Byronic males who won my heart when I was a teen reader.
Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, you moody wild child, I didn’t care that you clashed with Catherine and embraced your dark side far too often. You had unruly hair and an undying love: that’s what mattered most to teenaged me (who also happened to be named Catherine).
Mr. Rochester, you lonely, haunted master of Thornfield Hall, when you fell in love with plain Jane Eyre, you gave this quiet, studious girl hope that romance could happen to just about anyone. I didn’t care what or whom you were hiding in your house.
Maxim de Winter, you charming, troubled widower from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, I think I loved you most of all, although looking back, I see you were far too old for me…and you had one of the creepiest housekeepers in literature. Yet you inspired me to write my own Rebecca-style novel, The Days of Devonshire, which I lovingly wrote by hand in three spiral notebooks…and which will never see the light of day, if I can help it.
Even you, Count Dracula, caught my young fancy. That neck-biting move with the ladies was awfully alluring, and you were always such a nice dresser.
Now that I’m a grown, married adult, I realize these troubled literary heroes would all make terrible real-life boyfriends and husbands. Undying love is a beautiful thing…as long as you don’t have to deal with daily mood swings and troublesome first wives who don’t completely go away.
Still, there’s an eternal soft spot for these gentlemen in my heart, and I suppose, looking at some of the male characters in my own Gothic historical novel, I can see that my love for troubled heartthrobs haunts my writing to this day.
Cat Winters is the author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a WWI-era ghost tale coming April 2, 2013, from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. Visit her online at www.catwinters.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.