Redeeming Bad Hero Behavior

A few months back, gorged myself on Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Natural Born Charmer. I finished it all in one sitting and I really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of SEP’s ability to write characters that are messed up, wounded people who don’t wallow or feel sorry for themselves. And then I also read Innocent in Death and as I prepare to devour Creation in Death which is winging its way to me now, I’ve been thinking about redemption.

In romance, especially from powerhouses like SEP, Roberts/Robb, Elizabeth Lowell, Anne Stuart (to some extent, although she likes to keep her heroes bad) sometimes the hero messes up. So, then, if the hero fucks up, and he usually does – that’s a romance thing, he has to make up for it properly. You have to forgive him or you won’t understand it when the heroine does and he’d better be worthy of that forgiveness too.

Dean, the hero in NBC was a total dumbass at the end of the book. He acts a certain way in the presence of his friends and then delivers an ultimatum which was very one sided and then when Blue came to him, even after he knew her hurts and vulnerability, he didn’t meet her halfway at all. And there’s another thing he does that made me mad too – essentially, he had a lot of scraping to do and he didn’t do the work.

What saved the end of the book for me was Blue, the heroine. Because I’d connected with her so strongly for the rest of the book I felt like she knew something I didn’t and so that one small thing took half a star off my total rating but it was still an amazing book.

Now, Roarke, who I adore and frankly think is *the* ultimate romance hero, seriously screwed up in Innocent in Death. No, he didn’t cheat on Eve, nor did he want to. But he didn’t take her side. He didn’t take her concerns seriously even though he *knew* what Eve was telling him was true (which he didn’t tell Eve, making things even worse) At the end, he realizes this and sort of redeems himself but IMO, not enough.

It’s not like I think the unforgivable can be forgiven – like in some romances where the “hero” gets the heroine pregnant and then he calls her a whore and runs off becuase he was told when he was 25 he couldn’t bear kids or some stupid shit like that. He comes back after the kid is born and sees the birthmark his mother had and all is well and he wants to play daddy. Once the hero calls the heroine a whore in anger, I’m putting the book down. Doesn’t matter how much scraping he does, he’s an asshole and I can’t find him hero material anymore.

Still, romance, at its heart, is about two people finding their way through their natural human inclination to be selfish and be there for the person they love. Forgiveness is at the heart of that and surviving hurts and growing is something a talented romance author can use to make you really love the characters – SEP does this in a truly amazing fashion as does Jenny Crusie.

What about you all? Do you mind if the hero scrapes enough? Is it something you think about? Are there unforgiveables?

7 comments to “Redeeming Bad Hero Behavior”

  1. Charlene
    November 7th, 2007 at 10:56 am · Link

    There is a point of “unredeemable jerkdom”. I remember an old romance novel wherein the hero beat the heroine. Because he (mistakenly) thought she was cheating. I wanted him to catch a fatal disease and spend the rest of the book dying slowly while the REAL hero came and swept the heroine off her feet, but alas, it did not happen. That’s the sort of “oh, I love you, forgive me” “Oh, of course I forgive you” sort of thing that makes me toss the book in the trash with the feeling that they deserve each other. And not in a good way.

  2. Christine
    November 7th, 2007 at 11:42 am · Link

    I would have to say any kind of abuse would kill it for me. I don’t know if any reason on the part of the hero would salvage the book for me and I could forgive him. Sometimes there is no redemption by the hero b/c he has gone too far.

  3. Lori
    November 7th, 2007 at 9:16 pm · Link

    Unforgivables… abuse and cheating. I agree, sometimes the hero doesn’t do enough groveling, but is that really his weakness, or the heroine’s for not demanding it? hmmm….

  4. laurendane
    November 8th, 2007 at 10:52 am · Link

    Lori – I truly think it’s a combination of both. If the heroine just lets him walk all over her I can’t respect her at all!

    Charli – Right!

    Christine – yes, there are those lines I think.

  5. Sasha
    November 8th, 2007 at 1:36 pm · Link

    Strangely enough, I like to read heros who fuck up then make up. (Like you though, there are some things I can’t forgive – when done in anger)

    Yet, when writing, I liek to write messed up heroines. LOl I guess cuz I feel messed up so often. :mrgreen:

  6. Amelia June
    November 8th, 2007 at 2:08 pm · Link

    You know, Roarke on his own doesn’t do it for me (you probably know why), but the way he is with Eve just makes my heart melt over and over. The first book in that series did not grab me, but after they were married, I just adored his sweetness with her, his fierce loyalty and his (mostly) willingness to be patient with her walls. And also that he seems to know just when to take her walls down a notch. He knows her, and that is sooooooo hot.

    He wouldn’t be the guy for me in basic personality, but man is he lovable in context–that is why Nora impresses me.

  7. laurendane
    November 8th, 2007 at 3:22 pm · Link

    Sasha – I think it gives them humanity. We all screw up.

    Amelia – LOL! Well yes. He does it for me in such a major way and you probably know why… it’s the button. That button from Eve’s ugly suit jacket he’s had since book one – it’s that small touch that makes Roberts a goddess.