Bookstr Confessions: The Morally Gray Men We Love to Swoon Over!

These male characters aren’t villains per se, but their moral compasses don’t exactly point true north!

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Four books, The Outsiders, The Witcher, Angels' Blood, and The Sweetest Oblivion, set against an omniously dark orange background with yellow lights shining brightly.

With any character, if written right, they’re not merely one thing or another. Good or Evil. Humble or arrogant. Understanding or dismissive. No, there’s something more mixed into their DNA, their essence: the idea that even if they’re not the quintessential do-gooder who’s never done a terrible thing in their life, they may still possess a good heart. They believe in what’s right, even if their way of doing it may mean doling out awful deeds to achieve their goal. They may not always play by the rules or descend into reckless anarchy, but to us, they’re doing the good work. Fighting the good fight! They’re the antiheroes of our hearts with dark pasts they’re not proud of, broken hearts that have turned cold, or just cheeky and off-putting in all the right ways. And no matter what, we love them anyway. Meet the morally gray men we love to swoon over.

Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A girl wearing a vintage style white dress with a high neck collar holds a book in one hand. She holds her head in her other hand as she stares off at something off screen. Her black hair is pulled into a neat, high bun. She is set against a gray-white background with faded red cloth swirling around her. The author's name sits below the girl in white letters. The title sits below the author's name in lighter white letters. The title and author's name are set against a stark black background.
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Mr. Darcy may have been an obvious choice, but I just had to! Though considered cold and distant at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, I knew there was something about Mr. Darcy that I liked. His personality, at first, seems hard to read, and I eat that mysteriousness up. I love his quietness and the itch of wanting to get to truly know his inner self. Of course, over time, we begin to see the real Mr. Darcy, who is a kind and loving man who has a heart full of love for Elizabeth. Either way, Mr. Darcy would have gotten my phone number for sure.

Erin Ewald, Editorial

Aaron Warner from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

A soft, bluish-gray background swirls like clouds around a large blue eye that sits in the center. The eye has gaunt, leaf-less trees on the upper eyelid set against a faded colorful sky. Birds fly above the trees. On the lower eyelid, a forest of gaunt trees sits on the left side, and waterfall of ice sits on the right side. The title is in large white and blue letters. The author's name sits below the title in smaller white letters.
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This is probably where my love for morally gray men started. Aaron Warner was an ass to anyone who wasn’t Juliette, and even then, he was sometimes a bit of an ass to her. Not only that, but he murdered multiple people and only ever cared about his own selfish preservation until Juliette showed up. He takes everything and grieves nothing. Even so, I fell for him. Underneath his morally gray shades, he’s a kind and sweet soul, and he would do anything for Juliette. He also has a soft spot for dogs, and he cares deeply; it’s just that he doesn’t show it very often. Plus, those emerald green eyes? How could you not fall for him?

Alexandra Mellott, Editorial

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

A gray background with a crow's wing and feathers in the foreground spread down the center of the cover. The title is in large, red lettering in the center. The author's name is in small, white lettering at the top of the cover. A "Netflix" tag is in a red circle in the bottom right corner.
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Despite his darkness, I can’t help but adore Kaz Brekker. Sure, he might be cold-hearted and manipulative at times, but only if you get on his bad side. Kaz is the master of revenge, and he won’t hesitate for a second to make an example of his enemies. However, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his friends. Though he might not be the best at expressing his feelings, Kaz loves the Crows like family, and he demonstrates this affection time and time again by showing up for the Crows when they need him most. It’s this fierce loyalty that defines Kaz even more than his cons or crimes, and that’s why I can’t help but swoon over him!

Lauren Nee, Editorial

Dallas Winston from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

On a plain black background, a black leather jacket sits in the center. The title is in large, yellow letters at the top. The author's name is in white letters below the jacket at the bottom. A black circle sits near the leather jacket with words written in white inside the circle.
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Throughout the novel, The Outsiders, Dally is causing trouble. He is rude to girls at the drive-in, and he is always picking on Ponyboy and Johnny. He clearly has a rough home life and doesn’t feel like he can trust anyone. Even though he comes from an unfortunate situation, he still cares about his fellow Greasers. He helps Johnny and Ponyboy run away after their run-in with the Socs, and he does everything he can to help Johnny after Johnny gets burned in the church fire. It’s clear that Dally truly cares for the younger boys in the novel, and that is why I cannot help but swoon over him. He may not be the perfect role model, but he has a big heart.

Corinne Vergari, Social

Nico Russo from The Sweetest Oblivion by Danielle Lori

A hand holds the ace of spades playing card. Above the hand, the title is in reddish pink and white lettering. Below the hand, the author's name is in white lettering. All of it sits against a dark bluish black background.
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Gosh! How do I pick just one? I genuinely think morally gray men are my type, so this was a struggle. However, whenever I think of someone that I would ignore all the red flags for, it would be Nico. Ugh! I love how he is so hard-edged and cold, but the entire time he has been falling for Elena. He is the head of the mafia and can get away with absolutely anything, so you can imagine the kind of crimes he’s committing in the book. Elena’s father is a part of that world as well, so this behavior isn’t new to her. He does everything in his power to protect her and make her his. I love that he is this brooding man, the head of the freaking mafia, for goodness sake, and yet he has such a soft spot for her. I am swooning!

Olivia Salamone, Editorial

Joseph “JoJo” Joestar from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki

The cover is neon green triangles, black, and purple. A male's profile sits in the center of the cover. He wears a purple suit with a patterned scarf and bowtie. He has purple hair and a stern look on his face. The title is in large, white lettering at the top. The author's name is in faded white lettering across the lower middle of the cover.
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He’s smug and arrogant, but he also has a beautiful soul when it counts. Still, he can be a lot to handle. And boy, does he think quite highly of himself. He’s the grandson of the Joestar family and a natural user of hamon, a breathing technique that, when used properly, can dole out immense damage. There are times when he’s snarky and off-putting, with an acerbic tongue. He tends to make rash decisions and go off half-cocked when he should take time to suss out situations. And during fights, he thinks less of his opponents, underestimating them. Little do his opponents know, he’s not to be underestimated either! He’s fun, though, and spontaneous, and there’s nothing like a fun guy to be around. So, JoJo Joestar is certainly worth swooning over.

Quiarah B/Vphan, Editorial

Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher Series by Andersen Sapkowski

Geralt is a Witcher, a magical mutant literally created to be in a state passed peak physical and magical condition in order to slay monsters. He has long, stark white hair, battle scars that adorn his skin, and cat-like eyes, which make him all the more alluring. He’s lean, which lends to his agility as he practically dances around his enemies. More than his appearance, though, he holds himself with a quiet confidence and assuredness that is undeniably sexy. He believes there is a monster in man and man in a monster and understands that the line between them is entirely too thin.

Set against a white background, is a stone wolf's face. The wolf's mouth is opened with the lower jaw extending out like a claw. The author's name is at the top in black letters. The title is in larger red letters near the extended jawline of the wolf's face. The rest of the title is in smaller, black letters. A red circle with the "Netflix" logo sits on the right side at the top.
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He has two swords, “one silver for monsters and one steel for men,” and doesn’t flee from a tough decision to slay either. He listens carefully to both sides and weighs the options before making his moves. Sometimes, that move is a shocking or gruesome one, yet he cares little for the pain it may cause. Despite this, he cares deeply and wholly for those he’s close to, and man, what I would give to be one of those people.

Maggie Malfroid, Graphics

Archangel Raphael from The Guild Hunter Series by Nalini Singh

Set against an orange-red background, a white-haired woman stares up at the sky. She is wearing all black clothing. The title is in red-black letters set across the woman's torso. The author's name is above the woman's head in large, white letters. There are words in smaller, white and black lettering.
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He’s the leader of the North American continent and a few millennia old; as such, of course, he’s going to be jaded and indifferent. So killing isn’t something he even raises an eyebrow at. His slow thaw into humanity as he becomes more and more attached to Elena is everything! The way he absolutely loves and worships Elena, especially as the series evolves, is enough to make you okay with his grey morality.

Kristi Eskew, Editorial


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