The rakes in historical romances are, by and large, not actually rakes. They are not libertines, they do not sleep around, there is no consequence to their health or fortune due to their continual abuse of both or either. If they drink, game or have women it is generally in exactly the sort of amount and intensity that a reasonably wealthy man of a certain rank would indulge in before he married, just enough to make him experienced, not so much as to make any difference to a potential long-term partner.
This rings true to me–heroes, especially men in historical romance, are far more progressive and feminist than they were back in the day. This is not a new issue although in this article from 2018, the author posits that there are more alphahole heroes than there used to be.
In any case, it feels to me, in 2021, that rakish heroes–truly rakish heroes who do bad things–are increasingly out of favor. It’s hard to see Susan Elizabeth Phillips writing an Alex today or Lisa Kleypas offering an HEA to the Sebastian of It Happened One Autumn. Today’s historical romance heroes are often clearly good men who have always done the right thing, more or less.
Do you agree with me? And if so, do you like this trend or not?