The Lamest Boyfriends In Fiction

lamebfIt’s easy to think of boyfriends in literature I want to cuddle up with in real life (call me, Mr. Darcy!). But sadly, I’ve also encountered a number of less-than-scintillating romantic prospects as well—boyfriends so dull or exasperating that I want to put my arm around their hapless sweethearts’ shoulders and say, “Girlfriend, please! There’s a whole lot of fish in the sea…in this book that you live in.” Here’s a roundup, in no particular order, of the lamest boyfriends in fiction.

Ned Nickerson (Nancy Drew series, by Carolyn Keene)
There was nothing really wrong with Ned Nickerson, per se; he just didn’t have anywhere near the charm, wit, and steely determination of his brilliant detective girlfriend, Nancy. Also, I can’t claim that this was ever specifically noted, but I’m certain Ned regularly wore turtlenecks with button-down cardigans, if not sandals with socks. You just tell me he didn’t.

“Nancy!” I always wanted to wail. “You can do better!” I’ll never forget a scene in one of the classic early books during which Nancy slyly asked Ned if he minded going sleuthing instead of attending prom, and Ned was all, “I guess.” No, Ned—your response when your gorgeous, titian-haired crime-solving girlfriend asks if you want to blow off your stupid prom to solve mysteries with her should have been, “Absolutely, you beautiful ginger goddess who can actually pull off a flip hairstyle, I will follow you to the ends of the earth. Let’s steal a powerboat and discover a mysterious subbasement beneath the lighthouse on Rocky Point and make out in it!” Missed opportunity there, Ned. Per usual.

Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery)
I realize I’m probably in the minority here, but Anne’s longtime friend–turned-paramour Gilbert always struck me as kind of a drip—Ned Nickerson 2.0, with a sexier name. If you’re a fan of the television show 30 Rock, you’ll know what I mean when I say he seemed like Anne’s “settling soul mate.” I mean sure, he was a nice guy, but she was so back and forth about him for so long, even turning down his first marriage proposal, that eventually I found myself giving their whole relationship the side-eye. If it takes you the better part of three books to finally discover you like someone as more than a friend, maybe you should keep your options open, Anne.

Edward Cullen (Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer)
I may get some heat for this one, too, but come on. Sure, Bella’s vampire boyfriend Edward was handsome, charming, and devoted, but he was also sneaky and manipulative. If any of my boyfriends had disabled my car to prevent me from visiting one of my friends that he didn’t approve of, he would have been kicked to the curb faster than he could say “Also, you smell like delicious steak and it’s taking all my willpower not to eat your face.” Not to mention Edward’s penchant for watching Bella through her bedroom window at night while she sleeps, which to me just screams “we are going to end up on Maury Povich.” I don’t care how romantic your partner is, a boyfriend who is constantly fighting the urge to drink your blood is waving a pretty big relationship red flag as far as I’m concerned.

Christopher Dollanganger (Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews)
On the surface, Chris didn’t make such a bad boyfriend. Not only was he smart, sexy, and studying to be a doctor, he was also great with kids, and he’d totally brush your hair without your having to ask. Still, he could be a bossy know-it-all, insisted on having things his way, and didn’t get out a lot. And unfortunately for his one true love, Cathy, he was also her brother. Errrgghh! Guess there’s no such thing as the perfect man, right?

Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë)
This is a hard one for me to write, because I would take up with Mr. Rochester in a hot minute if I got half the chance. Despite my criticisms, he’s still one of my favorite fictional boyfriends of all time, and Jane Eyre helped shape my impressionable young mind about what an ideal romance should be like (not that this is good). But to be honest, Mr. Rochester was, for a number of reasons, a terrible boyfriend. For one thing, before admitting his true feelings for Jane, he concocted a fake romance with a beautiful woman right in front of her to make her jealous, which was not very sporting. Then there was the memorable evening he disguised himself as a fortune-teller and then was all, “Hey Jane, what do you think of that Mr. Rochester guy, do you like like him?”—that’s a manipulative tactic straight out of middle school, minus the cross-dressing. Finally, he wooed Jane and asked her to marry him while he was, in fact, still wedded to a crazy lady he kept locked in the attic. Party foul there, friend. And that’s three strikes for you.

What guys in fiction do you find completely undatable?

  • NotMarkTwain

    Edward Casaubon, Middlemarch. Hey Dorothy, come help me translate Greek text for hours on end and take diligent notes, even though I’m never going to publish this work. But when I die I expect you to spend the rest of your life publishing it for me…

  • Melanie Reinbolt

    No contest, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. The worst!

    • jessica21

      I agree! I wanted to punch him in the face through the whole book!

    • Aria Blackmore

      Oh, yes! Granted, Mr. Rochester comes close, but Heathcliff is by far the worst! I might throw in a vote or two for Jonathan from Song of the Lioness, though, now that I think of him…

  • Melanie Reinbolt

    No contest, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. The worst!

  • Anne Shaw

    I totally share your conflicted feelings for Mr. Rochester. Alas.

  • Viola

    Not Gilbert!

  • Hannah Turner

    Professor Bhaer from Little Women! I never forgave Jo for letting Laurie go (or Louisa May Alcott, for that matter).

    • Heather Scott-Penselin

      I love Professor Bhaer! So cuddly!

      • Belva Jennings

        It didn’t hurt that he was portrayed by Gabriel Byrne in the latest movie either. 😉

    • Eve Puentes

      Cosign this. I read that the only reason Louisa didn’t had Jo and Laurie become a couple is because everyone expected it and she decided that no one will tell her what to write. A ship sunk out of spite :(

  • Cheryll Merritt

    Totally agree about Gilbert and Ned. They aggravated me to no end.

  • Hyacinth

    You should make a ‘girlfriends’ version of this list just so we could see Daisy Buchanan as number 1.

    • Blov

      Actually Bella Stone would be top of that list. The Twilight “boyfriends” were fine, she however was The Worst!

      • KC Dizzy

        Maybe u should discuss real books… mouthbreathers

      • Michelle

        If you’re gonna diss a heroine…make sure you get her name right. Her last name was Swan, not stone.

    • Michaela Noelle Whittaker

      Dora Spenlow takes the cake

  • Lauren Wilvert

    Angel Clare from Tess of the d’Urbervilles

  • chasmaster

    I know it is totally not healthy, but Mr. Rochester is still my favorite. I am glad I can enjoy him fictionally and not have to put up with him in real life. <3

  • Holly Ites

    Ashley Wilkes from “Gone With the Wind.” What a wimp!!

    • Eve Puentes

      He made Melanie really happy, Reth respected him and trusted him better than his own wife and he didn’t felt for Scarlet unethical crap. He was a winner in that story.

  • http://www.morbidanatomy.com/ ReasonableRita

    Can’t we just agree that everything Twilight related is lame?

  • Laurie Tanner

    How did Christian Grey not make this list? I couldn’t even finish reading that book, trashy book made up entirely of a middle age woman’s perverted sexual fantasies. Disgusting.

    • Koumamo Piebo

      Well I would not say it was trashy but I asked myself too why he didn’t make the list same foes for Gideon Cross.

  • Renee Trnka Toenies

    Todd from the Sweet Valley books. Even in the Sweet Life serials that came out last year, he was still so… ugh.

  • mumei

    Nick from Kim Harrison’s Hollows series.

    • Mary Pevytoe Wilson

      Rachel has gotten the crappy end of the deal with guys. The vamp was okay, then he went and got himself killed.

  • Leslie

    Wow…I agree ENTIRELY with this list and most of the comments. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

  • Amber Smith

    Yes on Edward Cullen! What kind of thing is that author trying to teach young girls? My sister read them all religiously when she was young, and then her first boyfriend was older and abusive. Coincidence? I dunno.
    And double yes on Mr. Rochester! I read that as a teen and thought “this is supposed to be romantic? What a creep!”

    • Eve Puentes

      Unless her first boyfriend was a vampire I don’t see how can you blame the books on that relationship.

  • Kathleen Smythe

    Yes, Heathcliff should have been on the list instead of Gilbert Blythe. Gilbert really wasn’t a “boyfriend” for quite a while. He loved Anne but she kept pushing him away.

  • A G

    Chris Dollanganger also actually RAPED Cathy while they were in the attic, then used the old “I love you so much I couldn’t help myself excuse.” I bought it when I was 12, but now, bleah.

    • tallgurl81

      Yeah. That book was so creepy…

  • Tiffi Holcomb

    Thank goodness!!! Other people who feel the same about Edward Cullen!! I hate that so many people see him as the “ultimate boyfriend”! He is so terrible.

    • Mary Pevytoe Wilson

      Same here! I actually liked the books. Could u imagine if she would have chosen Jacob, how much different it would have been for her? She didn’t deserve such a good friend.

      • Koumamo Piebo

        I personally think that Jacob is as lousy as Edward in the boyfriend department, emotional blackmail is as bad as being obsessively obsessed with someone. Then we also have to take in consideration the fact that Bella is as lousy as the men she loved.

      • Eve Puentes

        If Jacob without having any claim to her forced himself on her twice I can only imagine he would had forbidden to see the Cullens all the same and never admit he was wrong about it.
        She will had ended up like Emily cooking and cleaning for the wolf pack unable to leave the tribe and unable to ever return the favor and protect her loved ones like she did once she became a vampire. Bella started the books as the weakest human in need of everyone’s protection and ended the books as the strongest vampire that could protect everyone both wolves and vampires. If she had ended up the same weak human the books wouldn’t had made any sense.

    • Michelle

      Ya’ll gotta remember, these were TEENAGERS….KIDS. They weren’t mature adults, so to expect mature, adult behavior from ANY of them (including the girls) is stupid and naïve.
      I liked the books…but believe me, I thank God every day my daughter is NOTHING like Bella.

  • Allison

    What about Maximilian (Maxim) de Winter from Rebecca? I HATED him. Why couldn’t he just come clean about the first wife? Why be all mysterious? Ugh!

  • Mary Pevytoe Wilson

    Best boyfriends list….Peeta would have to be up there for me. No matter how completely blind Katniss is in the books, he is still great to her.

    • Brian

      Yeah, but he also pushes the relationship when she’s not interested and suffering from PTSD, even to the point where she has kids even though she doesn’t want to. That’s a little weird.

    • Michelle

      Gale too. Talk about a Catch 22 in the boyfriend department.

  • Rachel Choate

    Horrified that you would dare to criticize Gilbert Blythe! He is a great (fictional) man – he gives Anne space when she’s sure she doesn’t care for him, but is still there in love with her when she realizes she is an idiot!

  • Christina Elizabeth Morris

    Watching someone sleep every night is not romantic; it’s criminal stalking not to mention breaking and entering. Any sensible woman would (and should!) call the cops.

    • Eve Puentes

      Except that Edward saved her life many times due to the fact that he was following her. Any sensible woman that fire a supernatural devoted bodyguard would had gotten killed half way through the book.

      • Christina Elizabeth Morris

        She wouldn’t have that problem if she wasn’t being stalked by the shiny vampire in the first place.

        • Eve Puentes

          The van was going to smash her Edward only had enough time to save her because he was paying attention to her. The rapist gang was on the prowl to attack whatever ‘girls’ were in the vicinity and the idea of visiting the city that day was not even Bella’s but Jessica’s. Bella had a strong scent that attracted vampires before they were involved (commented by Alice, Rosalie, Laurent aside than Edward) thus it was only a matter of time before some other bad vampire will find her and eat her.

  • Jessie

    Your other points are correct but Gilbert does not deserve a place on your list.

  • Jane Almquist

    Pretty much nailed them, except I have to admit I liked Ned. And Heathcliff should be on the list. The absolute worst.

  • Koumamo Piebo

    OMG can I say Hallelujah first! finally someone who as the guts for finding and saying that Edward Cullen was a lousy boyfriend, although I would have argue that Jacob was equally lousy if he had been Bella’s boyfriend, anyway I would not wish Bella’s as a girlfriend on anybody for someone who was supposed to be smart and outspoken she was truly spineless. But wow how did Christian Grey or Gideon Cross not make the list, control freak much,

  • Guest

    Nitpicking Edward too much? First no boyfriend/girlfriend/friend will take lightly that you hang out with a group of people that already have an story of violence (Emily’s face is proof of that) he did overreacted but after this he not only recognized that he did but drove Bella to meet his group of people in a regular basis. And the watching her sleep saved her from being beheaded by his sister in the middle of the night. There is a difference between being lousy and making mistakes. Edward is a favorite because although flawed he learns from his mistake and becomes a better partner with time.

  • Guest

    Nitpicking Edward too much? First no boyfriend/girlfriend/friend will
    take lightly that you hang out with a group of people that already have
    an story of violence (Emily’s face is proof of that) he did overreacted
    but after this he not only recognized that he did but drove Bella to
    meet his group of people in a regular basis. And the watching her sleep
    saved her from being beheaded by his sister in the middle of the night.
    There is a difference between being lousy and making mistakes. Edward is
    a favorite because although flawed he learns from his mistake and
    becomes a better partner with time.

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