Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cowboys with attitude

Last week I talked about positive characteristics of cowboys. How about those romances about cowboys with attitude?

What do I mean by attitude? Surely you know the type: stoic, judgmental, chip on their shoulders? And they often take it out on the poor women who fall for them—at least initially. Yet, as I read those stories, I find myself attracted to these calloused alpha heros. In “real life” I’d probably run in the other direction if I stumbled across a man who treated me like I was on the low end of the food chain—handsome cowboy or not.

Characters that epitomize the “Cowboy with Attitude”?

Caleb Black in Elizabeth Lowell’s Only His. Not only does he treat poor Willow like she’s a harlot, he sets about seducing her even though he thinks she’s another man’s wife! Initially it’s all about him and his needs. Go figure. But hey, what a seduction scene in that natural pond.

Quinn Lassiter in Jill Gregory’s Cold Night, Warm Stranger. The man’s a gunslinger and takes advantage of Maura Reed’s hospitality and vulnerability because he wants a warm woman in his bed. Then gives her a hard time when she finds him to tell him she’s pregnant. Gratefully he does “warm” up before the story ends.

Rafe McCay in Linda Howard’s Touch of Fire. A fugitive in need of a doctor, he not only abducts Annie Parker, the town’s doctor, at gunpoint but puts her through a grueling trek and then figures he can warm himself by her fire. Of course, he blames her for his being attracted to her. But what his seduction technique lacks in finesse, he sure makes up for in passion.

John Rafferty in Linda Howard’s Heartbreaker. Linda is one of the best creators of “cowboys with attitude”. John is no exception. Lusting after the rich girl next door, when she hits rock bottom, he humiliates her with an offer of becoming his mistress and then sets about wooing her instead. He’s one of those men, though, that once you become “his,” treats you like a queen.

North Grayhawk in Joan Johnston’s The Next Mrs. Blackthorne. Paying homage to the beauty and the beast myth, North Grayhawk is both verbally abusive and excessively controlling as he seeks to make Jocelyn Montrose submit to his will. But when he succeeds, he’s the one who loses control.

Cole Mitchell in new author Karyna DaRosa’s Dry Moon. He’s a gunslinger hired to keep Cassie in line with regard to water rights. When circumstances throw them together, he strikes a bargain with her—essentially getting her to trade her favors for his protection. Then afterwards, he treats her like “she done him wrong” because he didn’t realize she was a virgin. Hummmm.

Yet, I confess, I found every one of these attitudinal alpha males attractive—but strictly in a fantasy way. I’d surely give any of these cowboys a big piece of my mind if they tried to put me in my place—or rather the place they felt I belonged. Of course, in the end, each of the heroines tames her man. And each of these heroes comes to understand the blessing and benefits of a good woman—but it sure does take awhile. Half the fun, though, is the journey. Do you find these alpha males attractive—in real life or just in reading? What romance characters would you add to the list of cowboys with attitude?