I read a wide range of different genres, but lately I’ve consumed a steady diet of romance novels. Maybe I’ve OD’d or maybe I’m just that strange duck that isn’t bright enough to join the flock. The heroes in the books I’ve recently read are just too darned nice. How did I discover this? Because I wanted to write a novella with‒I kid you not‒a hero who stalks the heroine. (Just in case someone‒everyone‒ thinks I’m an idiot, I know the reality of being stalked is a horrifying experience and would never romanticize it.) To make things worse, I realized three quarters of the way through the story, I wanted the heroine to be guilty, which would have made her not so heroic. But more interesting.
Obviously, I’m experiencing a backlash from all those nice people I’ve been reading about. I know when readers chose a romance they’re not buying the book to indulge in a dose of reality. They want the perfect hero. Oh, he can have a flaw or two; we all know the drill. But when is the last time you read a romance where the hero was seriously flawed‒Anne Stuart aside? (I’m sitting here with my hands over my ears imagining all of you shouting out titles!)
Oh, for the age of the anti-hero. I loved Heathcliff when I was a teenager. Yes, I know, we all grow up and leave the bad boys behind. I know Heathcliff was a nasty bit of goods, but no one doubted how deeply he loved Catherine. And didn’t you always hope he’d redeem himself? Wasn’t he a fascinating character? Maybe it’s because I grew up reading books like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and du Maurier’s, Rebecca, where anything was possible, both good and bad, that sometimes I want…more. And let’s not go the easy route and bring out the whip. I don’t mean that kind of more!
Books reflect what’s happening in our culture. People don’t really change, but what we expect from them does. Which, I suppose, in turn, gradually brings about change. So if most of us want the ultimate hero‒ a tough guy who can cry, make perfect love and a good income, what does that say about us? Are we afraid to take chances with our heroes? To let them be less than perfect? And what about our heroines? Do we expect as much from them as we do from the hero? Or to put it another way, do our heroines have more leeway to be less than perfect?
As for the hero in my novella, he decided to behave himself after I gave him a stern talking to. But the heroine? It remains to be seen exactly what kind of trouble she’s in. Guess you’ll just have to read Out of Control.
Help me out with my summer reading list, please. Tell me who your favorite anti-hero is and why.