Two weeks until the release of NIGHT MAGIC! There’s a new review over at Fresh Fiction if you’re at all interested.
Now onto my question: How dark is too dark in romance? Even dark, edgy paranormal?
For me, dark works when it drives the emotional conflicts of the character. Dark backstory that tortures the hero or heroine works. I love watching the hero end up protecting the very one he thinks he should harm or hate. That kind of dark works for me.
Killing off bad guys doesn’t bother me.
But if the hero is so tortured that he intentionally and cruelly physically hurts the heroine , or people she cares about, that’s a little darker than I want to go. (NOT talking any kind of bondage etc. that the heroine agrees too). No matter how the author redeems this character, I’ve stopped believing in the romance.
So what to you all think? Is there a line in romance where it’s just too dark for you?
March 8th, 2011 at 4:44 am · Link
Jen, I have to agree with you. If the hero of the story intentionally/cruelly hurts another for whom he’s supposed to care (villians don’t count here), that just ruins the story for me. Emotional/mental/physical torment that drives the hero/heroine and that the character works through with the help of the heroine/hero, that totally works for me. And I like when the hero feels compelled to protect the one he thinks he should hate too. Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series has a lot of that. Love that series
Woohooo!! Only two more weeks I can’t wait!!
March 8th, 2011 at 7:54 am · Link
I’m totally with you, Jen. I don’t dig intentional cruelty in a hero/heroine. Leave that stuff for the villains.
March 8th, 2011 at 9:14 am · Link
Hrm….I like dark. But I have certain buttons. I quit reading romance ages ago because of all the “I made love to you for your own good” scenes that were simply “justified date rape” as if that COULD be justified! Physical cruelty? Don’t go there. An abuser “hero” who beats the “heroine” can’t be redeemed in my eyes–and neither can the heroine if she stays with the Alpha Hotel.
Now…let’s refine the argument. Emotional cruelty? I can accept it in certain circumstances. When the hero truly believes that what he is doing (ie. *driving* the heroine away by being cold and cruel in an emotional way) in order to protect her from himself or other bad-nasty critters, I can buy into the scenario if enough foundation is laid to make it plausible.
Where an author loses me is when s/he suddenly throws this sort of detour into the book and sends the hero on some WTF?!? journey that’s totally out of character simply to prop up a sagging middle. That’s almost guaranteed to make me introduce the book to the wall.
March 8th, 2011 at 12:13 pm · Link
Dawn, I’m happy your excited about the release!
I just want my heroes to be BETTER than their dark past
I love Nalini’s series, although I still have to read the last one.
March 8th, 2011 at 12:14 pm · Link
B.E., exactly, it’s satisfying to see villains get what they deserve.
March 8th, 2011 at 12:19 pm · Link
Silver, I’m with you, I can understand self protective emotional cruelty.
I remember those bodice ripper types of novels. In a weird way, they served a purpose I guess–until women gained enough freedom to “own” their sexuality. (A sociological issue that I’m not explaining well) But I didn’t care for it either. The men often didn’t come across as heroic.
I hate those unsupported detours! I know what you mean. As a writer, I know that sometimes we THINK we’ve laid down the motivation but failed (that’s why I LOVE editors). As a reader, I hate them too!
March 8th, 2011 at 3:06 pm · Link
I enjoy a dark book from time to time but no physical hurt from either party from each other (unless agreed upon of course). One of my favorite tortured heros is Zhadist from the BDB books and I think his book got pretty dark at times.
I usually have to break books like that up though, I can’t read back to back if they are too dark.
March 8th, 2011 at 4:19 pm · Link
I think the only way an abusive dark hero works is if he starts out that way but ‘sees the light’ and changes his ways/repents. There’s nothing like being able to turn the bad guy into a good guy … at least for me.
I’m glad you brought up that ploy BTW Silver, (hero being cruel to make heroine think he’s not interested so he can ‘save’ her) I see W.A.Y. to much of it and more times than not it stems from the whole ‘silence’ cliche. If characters told half of what they knew to their partner – we wouldn’t have these problems but then again … we probably wouldn’t have a story either.
Not much of an answer Jen but I don’t have a real one for you ’cause what works in one story totally doesn’t in another – it’s completely situational for me and of course it depends on a writer’s style too.