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If you’ve been missing Saturday Smackdowns, so have we. They will be returning February with a whole new series of Saturday challenges, prizes and more. In the meanwhile, I was digging through my archives and found this little gem about law enforcement paperback heroes.

The Lawgivers

Lawgiver may be a strong term, but it works. It covers all the people in law enforcement (local, military and Federal), judges, prosecutors and the occasional vigilante or private investigator. The private investigator is probably the weakest link in the lawgiver archetype, but since the majority of the heroic private investigators are more the lawful neutral to lawful good types, we’re going to lump them in anyway.

The lawgiver is a hero that’s hard to resist whether he’s the Sheriff of a small western town battling against lawlessness, an appointed representative of the King traveling through the villages of the Middles Ages or the hard boiled big city detective with a case to solve and a pretty dame to protect. The lawgiver thinks of the big picture first, he’s dedicated to saving those less fortunate than himself.

Cops do the right thing, even if it means taking a bullet and going down in the line of duty. They have an honor code, a code of brotherhood and a dedication to the law that is unrivaled. As a romantic hero, the lawgivers are crusaders of the modern time. Never is that more apparent than in Julie Garwood’s modern series begin with Heartbreaker. Hero Nick Buchanan comes from a family of lawgivers. His father is a judge, two brothers are police officers, a third is an attorney for the Department of Justice and a fourth is in the military.

Law givers are completely alpha males; they will do what they have to protect what is theirs. For Nick, that begins with protecting best friend Tommy’s little sister Laurant from a lunatic. For Theo (the Justice attorney), that’s helping out a small town doctor who saved his life. For Alec (Chicago PD, FBI) that includes tracking down the nut job killing for hotel heiress Reagan and while Dylan has to save the love of his life Kate from being blown up a third time. All of Garwood’s Buchanan men leap off the page; they mix humor, sexiness and edge in a perfect blend. But through and through, these are men of the law and the women who love them.

Lawgivers on the Move

Lawgivers are lawgivers no matter where they go. In Nora Roberts Northern Lights, former Baltimore cop Nate heads up to Alaska to get as far away physically, mentally and emotionally as he can from the death of his partner — a death he blames on himself. But in Alaska, he finds murder, death and love. In Kay Hooper’s books, many of her heroes are psychics who also work in law enforcement like Noah Bishop.

Iris Johansen paired her forensic sculptor Eve with Atlanta police detective Joe Quinn. John Grisham took the lawgiver a different way by tempting lawgiver Mitch McDeere with the best of everything in life; he just had to give up any semblance of control to the Firm and nearly loses his own wife in the process. The romantic hero status comes when he begins to fight his way back to himself.

Another unique take on the lawgiver is the work of Bruce Alexander (Bruce Cook) in his period Sir John Fielding mysteries. Sir John’s romantic lead status is seen only through the eyes of the young man clerking for him, yet he possesses strong nobility.

Lawgivers on Television

The lawgiver archetype is ideal for television and films. Criminal Minds is populated by powerful lawgivers (male and female), but it is Aaron Hotchner’s (Thomas Gibson) story that stands out. His personal life suffers tremendously at the hands of his dedication to the job.

Lawgivers are everywhere from Bruce Willis’ turn as John McClane in the Die Hard films to David Boreanez as FBI special agent Seeley Booth on Bones. On Chuck, the diehard law enforcer is Casey who works for the NSA (though he qualifies for super spy status too) while CSI:NY police detective Don Flack is mourning the loss of his lover and partner Detective Angel who was killed in the line of duty.

Rick Castle isn’t quite the lawgiver paperback hero, but his devotion to the truth and discovering why people do what they do can end him in alot of hot water with his heroine: Detective Beckett.

The lawgiver is a powerful figure, he saves lives often at his own personal expense. He can be hard to love, because you have to love his job and accept that sometimes you won’t come first with him when the job calls. The lawgiver may be called upon to give his life in the line of duty and he willingly embraces that sacrifice, particularly if it saves other people.

The paperback hero be he a crusading attorney looking to put away the bad guys, the police detective trying to solve the crimes or the Judge who may be forced to let them out again because he must uphold all aspects of the law is dynamic, powerful and utterly male.

Who is your favorite lawgiver romantic hero?

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