Saturday, April 21, 2007

Too Dark? Or Not Dark Enough?

Anne Marble, over at the AAR group list is asking the question, “How Dark Is Too Dark?”

She writes:

Now I do love me some dark and tormented heroes. I love heroes who have experienced real pain in their life, because as far as I’m concerned, these very struggles are what enables the author to hook the reader in.

I want to see the hero overcome his problems. I want to see him find the woman that he was meant to be with. I want to see the character develop, as the book goes on. It seems easier to do this with these kind of heroes, than with their fluffy counterparts.

One of the reasons why I love Nora’s J.D Robb’s Roarke so much is because although he’s in a pretty good position as far as his wealth etc, he had to go through pretty torrid times to get to where he’s at right now. I love his whole backstory. I love the fact that he came from nothing, and made something of himself. I love that he wasn’t always whiter than white, and wasn’t above operating outside the law.

When I think of my favourite books, a lot of the heroes were dark, or tormented. Anne Stuart’s Bastien Toussaint totally floated my boat because of his lack of scruples. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m convinced it’s because he was so far removed from the typical romance hero.

I recall being totally enthralled by Linda Howard’s hero in Cry No More. When I think about it though, Diaz seemed to have similar characteristics to Bastien Toussaint in Black Ice, so that may explain why.

The only time I recall really hating a dark hero, was in JW Mckenna’s Darkest Hour. Now he wasn’t just dark, the man was cruel beyond belief. The fact that he whipped the heroine to within an inch of her life (and no she most definitely didn’t get off on it!), as punishment for some BDSM related misdemeanour, made me so mad, I wrote to the author, asking him why he’d labelled the book a romance when it so clearly wasn’t. (The heroine spent about three quarters of a page with this twat of a man, then ends up with a ‘nicer’ guy in the last twenty or so pages of the book, wtf?)

He was gracious enough to write back and tell me that it was one of his earlier works, and that it probably shouldn’t have been labelled romance, but I have to say, Darkest Hour remains at the top of my Top Ten Worst Books of all time, to this day.

Apart from the above example, I can’t recall reading many romance books where the hero was so dark, he bordered on evil. What about you guys?

Also, is it ever acceptable for the hero to actually hit the heroine? Have you read any romance books where this happened, yet somehow the author was able to sufficiently redeem the hero?