The supposed villain may have an excellent reputation in society and be much admired for their style - or perhaps being rakish or wilful makes the person more attractive. Think of Lady Barbara Childe in Georgette Heyer's 'Infamous Army'. Of course, she only appears to be a villainess. Her wild spirit and wilfulness stand her in good stead as eventually she must cope with a handicapped husband.
I'd rather cope with Willoughby than face a sinister rogue like Carver Doone. He is from a previous age, a swashbuckling, ruthless villain without one redeeming feature. Perhaps Georgette Heyer drew on him a little for one or two of her characters; the unpleasant Duke of Andover in 'The Black Moth', for instance.
The villain who attracts me most is Jane Austen's Henry Crawford. Jane Austen captured so exquisitely the potential of the person to turn either way. Each time I read 'Mansfield Park' I so want him to reform that I hope this time he will..., then am always desolated that he wastes his many good qualities through weakness in his character which mean he always opts for self indulgence. Stricken by this waste, I'm then left to hope that perhaps one day I'll be clever enough to write a villain who comes somewhere close to him.
Copyright by Beth Elliott 21/ 03/2012