The Appeal of the Tortured Hero
by Nancy Northcott
Thanks for having me today, PJ!
I have a special fondness for stories of tortured heroes. Watching love bring them into the light is one of my favorite romance journeys. We all admire someone who pushes through to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult. Even when—maybe especially when—it’s painful. Or comes at a high personal price.
Such characters appear in all genres, but they have special appeal in romance. We expect our heroes to do what’s right, but we love them more when it’s difficult for them. Romances with tortured heroes often involve renunciation, the hero giving up the heroine in the (mistaken) belief she’ll be better off without him. The heroine, of course, refuses to accept this. Sometimes she wins the hero back, and sometimes an external force, a friend, an event, or even a surfacing, long-forgotten memory spurs him to reconsider. To understand where he’s coming from and why he’s wrong.
Reaching the point where he realizes that he not only deserves love but can be a positive factor in someone else’s life, completes the hero’s story arc. There are heroines who walk away for similar reasons, but such sacrifices are more commonly made by heroes.
Romance is the genre of healing and emotional redemption, after all. It thus offers wide latitude to a heroine trying to soothe a tortured soul with love.
Sherrilynn Kenyon’s Acheron is probably the ultimate tortured hero. Through centuries of abuse, he has internalized a terrible self-image. His human death unleashed destruction. He now resolves to be alone, protecting mankind and supporting all the other Dark-Hunters. Until one woman insisted on seeing him a different way.
Pamela Clare’s Zach McBride (Breaking Point) suffers from survivor guilt that keeps him from building a personal life for himself. Despite his feelings for reporter Natalie Benoit, he walks away from her. Until he can’t, because she has become a target. Protecting her forces him to face his feelings and move beyond his guilt and fear.
Nalini Singh has written a number of tortured heroes in her Psy/Changeling series. One of my favorites is Kaleb Krychek (Heart of Obsidian), a cardinal telepath who sees himself as a monster. He finds and rescues the only friend from his childhood. She doesn’t see him as a monster, and she also bears scars. The rescue is their chance to save each other.
As a writer, I gravitate toward friends-to-lovers or second-chance-at-love stories, sometimes a hybrid of the two. But I sometimes write a tortured hero. Richard Mainwaring, Lord Hawkstowe, of The Herald of Day is tormented by his family curse and what it means for any children he might have. Lifting the curse seems impossible, so he resolves to have no children, to stop the curse from dooming another generation. Until a tavern maid who nurtures hope crosses his path.
I also have a tortured hero in my Light Mage Wars paranormal romances, which I’m re-releasing this year. The ones that were traditionally published have new covers, and the entire series has new branding. I’m very excited about it. I love all the heroes (and all the heroines), but I nurture a special fondness for the the guilt-ridden hero of the second book, Renegade Mage.
Six years ago, grief and anger over betrayal led Griffin Dare to make a fateful mistake. He was the mages’ top cop, and four of his deputies died that day. Other deputies and friends have died since, and he believes that’s his fault. Now he has the top slot of the mages’ Most Wanted Fugitives list. He expects to die an outlaw, but he’ll be satisfied if he can expose the traitor in the mages’ ranks along the way. Even though he and his friends secretly fight the deadly ghouls, the battle isn’t for him. It’s to protect mages and humans. No one, he vows, will ever risk their lives for his sake again.
When his path crosses Valeria Banning’s, she has some insights that surprise him. They’re drawn to each other, but can Griff overcome his guilt and pain to seize this chance at love?
The other two books currently out don’t have tortured heroes, but I’ll mention them here because they’re all recent re-releases, and while I enjoy tortured heroes, I also enjoy those with a little less angst.
The first book in the series, Mage Sentinel, is a prequel about Griff’s sister, Caroline Dare, and the man her brother’s secrets bring into her path. Rick Moore is on a quest for justice for his dead father, and exposing the help he believes the Dare family has given Griff is his only hope. Too bad he’s falling in love with Caroline.
The third of the books currently out, number three in the series, is The Deadly Orb. It’s about wildland firefighters. A current of attraction has long run between helicopter pilot Josh Campbell and firefighter paramedic Edie Lang. But Josh has vowed never to marry a woman in a dangerous job. His mother was killed in the line of duty as a deputy sheriff, and his father disintegrated, leaving young Josh to care for his two sisters. When magic forces him and Edie into proximity, though, he finds that vow hard to sustain.
So that’s it for me on tortured heroes and new books. Thanks again for having me today, PJ! I’m giving away winner’s choice of either Mage Sentinel or Renegade Mage to one commenter today. (The Deadly Orb isn’t an option because it contains spoilers for Renegade Mage.)
For a chance to win, leave a comment telling me who your favorite tortured hero is and why you love his story. Or, if tortured heroes aren’t your thing, tell me who’s your favorite hero and why. Books, TV, and movies all qualify. Giveaway ends at 11:00 PM, March 20.
Thanks for stopping by today!
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The Deadly Orb
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