The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
I'm a serious literary lover, I have untold passionate crushes on many leading men in novels (i.e. Captain Wentworth, Mr. Darcy, John Thornton, Mr. Rochester etc.)... However, Gilbert Markham isn't one of them. The thing that sets those men apart is their serious love of their women, no matter the circumstances, even when they hate their objects of desire, they still love them. This is a serious accusation to say that a Bronte sister's leading man is a little less than impressive, but I couldn't help feeling that in the end, not too much separated Markham from Mr. Hargrave.
Think about it, both men are captivated by Helen, and both men then take the very natural masculine stance of feeling deeper in love when they find she's a damsel in distress. The only difference between the two men is the encouragement Markham received and the serious discouragement Hargrave received. Perhaps this less than impressive hero is presented in such an inhibited way because the novel itself was pretty constrained.
This is not to say it's a bad novel, far from it! I love Anne Bronte's novels as much as her sister's, it's just a much more sedate storyline than the passionate Wuthering Heights or mysterious Jane Eyre. Interestingly, the film version with Toby Stephens, Tara Fitzgerald and Rupert Graves is pretty amazing. I have to say, Toby Stephens kinda makes you just fall in love with whoever he's playing, so in an exceedingly rare instance, I find the film version of Markham much more likeable than the original literary version.