(This post was originally featured on Ever After Romance.)
I’m an avid reader of M/M romance novels. There are many paranormal, urban fantasy, dystopian and military-themed books amongst my favourites. What allures me most to the genre is the fact that it delivers a vast array of fascinating and lavishly written male characters. Not only are they often bloody sexy, but they are also—and more importantly—psychologically complex and multi-dimensional. Naturally, there are certain character types that I, as a reader with a background in psychology, feel more drawn to than others. Given that I tend to cruise within the darker, grittier spectrum of the genre, my personal preference often leans towards heroes with flaws, emotional scars and issues or downright antiheroes.
I’ve compiled a list of my Top Five Character Types in the M/M Romance Genre based on the men I enjoy reading about, taking into consideration the qualities and personality traits I find most appealing. These are the characters who capture my attention and make me burn the midnight oil while draining my Kindle’s battery. I set about this task with alacrity—mindful, however, of the fact that creating any synopsis requires categorising—and as such, will therefore stink of generalisation. It may resemble a pathetic attempt to fit square pegs into round holes. Moreover, it is not my intention to fetishise in any way.
Nevertheless, here is my list:
5. A Hot Mess with an Addiction Problem
This character type is often portrayed as someone internally conflicted, confused and damaged. The driving force that fuels his addiction (be it alcohol, drugs, sex or other substances) is usually twofold: a powerful feeling of guilt and a sense of failure, triggered by a traumatic event, which he witnessed, caused or was unable to prevent. The addiction becomes a coping mechanism that enables him to function in reality and deal with the pain, tragic past or disturbing memories. Despite him being in an obvious state of prolonged emotional disarray, someone struggling with problems that eventually get out of hand, he remains desirable and maintains undeniable attractiveness. What I most love about this kind of character is his sensitivity and fascinating internal struggle. The right partner, one who grounds and centres him, might become his anchor; however, the strength and motivation to prevail ultimately comes from within the character himself.
Michael Rodriguez (Sutphin Boulevard by S. Hassell)
Zane Garrett (Cut & Run Series by A. Roux & M. Urban)
Victor Bayne (PsyCop Series by J. Castillo Price)
Belimai Sykes (Wicked Gentlemen by G. Hale)
Paul Guy (Eden Series by K. Moon)
4. A Possessive Alpha Male
This kind of character is usually presented as big and strong with bulging muscles that wrap around his manly frame. He typically works for some type of law enforcement agency. He might be deeply closeted due to the nature of his work,. He’s tough, resourceful and calm in crises. His (over)protective streak runs a mile wide. He often displays controlling and domineering tendencies towards his partner, who—otherwise an accomplished and independent individual in his own right—enjoys some degree of sexual submission.
The conflicts in his relationship are usually generated by two factors. Firstly, the long-term need for concealing the true nature of their relationship eventually puts a huge strain on his lover. Secondly, the Alpha’s urges to extend his possessiveness and controlling behaviour outside the bedroom create serious trust issues that mess with the relationship’s dynamics. As a reader, I enjoy the powerful instantaneous attraction and the character's attempts (doomed to failure, of course) to fight and deny it. The intensity of the characters’ feelings inevitably leads to explosive conflicts. And all the muscles in action: what’s not to like?
Tucker Lance (All’s Fair by J. Lanyon)
Sam Kage (A Matter of Time by M. Calmes)
Jake Riordan (The Adrien English Series by Josh Lanyon)
Jared MacLean (Life Lessons Series by K. Harper)
3. An Irresistible Manwhore
This character type finds it impossible to keep it in his pants, whether he’s in a committed relationship or not. Therefore, being a highly sensual individual with an incredible sex drive, he simply fucks everything with a pulse. He can be best described as a slutty charmer, effortlessly oozing heaps of raw magnetism and confidence. Equipped with zero inhibitions, spectacular sexual prowess and a seductive aura, he is able to cajole anyone into doing whatever he wants by flattery, artful talk or deception. As a selfish hedonist, he consistently hurts his partner with his relentless cheating, flirting and seduction of others, despite the fact that he’s undeniably in love with him. And for whatever reasons, his partner is willing to tolerate his unfaithfulness. This kind of character strongly subscribes to the “love is love, but cock is cock” philosophy. Even though reading about his actions makes me wish numerous times for his appendage to shrivel up and fall off (due to some terrible case of STD preferably), ultimately I end up reluctantly liking the bastard. The sex is guaranteed to be steamy and dirty, which is an undisputable bonus for me. All of this makes for a deliciously angsty, draining and crippling read, paved with intermittent heartache, tears and flushed cheeks.
Dan MacFayden (Special Forces Series by A. Voinvov)
Val Toreth (Administration Series by F. Manna)
Emilio Vega (ICoS by S. Hassell & A. Lin)
2. An Adorable Neurotic
This character type could also be described as an “intelligent idiot.” Quintessentially, he’s a person of artistic or intellectual inclination. His personality is often plagued with anxiety. He displays countless minor insecurities and inhibitions regarding his own self-worth, health, family or background (and/or one hundred other things). His hang-ups, self-consciousness and self-doubt result in him neurotically overanalysing every event and occurrence in his life. As such, this type of character engages in a substantial amount of internal monologue. I usually find his confused ramblings highly entertaining. Overall, this kind of character enlivens the dialogue with flashes of dry humour and an occasional witty remark. Despite his neuroses, he’s charming, quirky and extremely lovable. I invariably end up rooting for him all the way.
Adrien English (The Adrien English Series by J. Lanyon)
Daniel Mulligan (In the Middle of Somewhere by R. Parish)
Jory Harcourt (A Matter of Time Series by M. Calmes)
Boyd Beaulieu (ICoS by S. Hassell & A. Lin)
1. A Gloomy Assassin
My winning character type is deadly, armed and dangerous. Physically, he’s usually depicted as an extremely attractive man with distinctive features. He’s prone to sullenness and defined by a sombre, reserved personality and a somewhat withdrawn demeanour. He’s curt, blunt and wonderfully sarcastic. One can expect a few killing (pun intended) ironic wisecracks to fall from his lips. He tends to be introverted and aloof, which—considering his grim occupation—is not entirely surprising. Professionally, with no equals amongst his peers, he struggles in normal social situations and finds human interaction puzzling. He’s psychologically scarred or emotionally stunted due to personal tragedy, abuse or torture, often resulting in a mental disorder. In brief—he’s got complexity coming out of his ears.
What I find compelling is the fact that a reader must pay heed to hints and clues dropped by the author in order understand the character’s actions and the motivations behind them, as internal monologue accompanying this kind of personality is rather limited. But, in spite of the many interpersonal challenges he faces, the character is loyal and dedicated to his lover, who generally constitutes the only certainty in his dangerous, unpredictable existence. His deep inability to communicate and openly share feelings raises barriers between him and his partner and therefore creates a splendid opportunity for a quality angst-ridden read. And I bloody adore angst.
Hsin Liu-Vega (ICoS by S. Hassell & A. Lin)
Vadim Krasnorada (Special Forces Series by A. Voinov)
Silvio Spadaro (Dark Soul Series by A. Voinov)
D (Zero at the Bone by J. Saville)
Julian Cross (Cut & Run Series by A. Roux & M. Urban)
I’ve always wanted a crack at being a profiler. Writing this modest summary felt a little bit like that. Which was fun. However, it made me arrive at a disturbing realisation that as a reader, and perhaps more worryingly, also in general, I display some peculiar tastes. What if I were to play Doctor Frankenstein by choosing a key trait I find particularly attractive from each category and then merging them into one hypothetical construct, thus generating my Ideal Character?
It appears he would be a possessive, promiscuous, highly-strung addict with strong murderous tendencies and possibly a serious mental disorder.
Well, damn. Isn’t he a keeper.