Beth Cornelison is the author of ten novels of romantic suspense thus far. She's been honored with many awards, including the Golden Heart and, most recently the Grand Prize in the Lories Best Published Contest for her novel UNDER FIRE. She's here today talking about her newest release, HEALING LUKE.
Thanks, Lucienne, for the opportunity to share a bit about one of my favorite character types– the tortured hero.
This week marks the release of my contemporary romance, HEALING LUKE. You could call HEALING LUKE a modern Beauty and the Beast, because the hero, Luke, is recovering from an accident that left him scarred both physically and mentally. His wounds are far from hideous, but his behavior could be considered beastly. The story is about healing, internal and external, and finding the courage to face our deepest fears. But before she'll find her happily ever after, the heroine, Abby, must find the prince hiding beneath the monstrous mask Luke presents to the world.
Luke is the epitome of the tortured hero, so as HEALING LUKE releases this week, I've been giving the appeal of the tortured hero a good bit of thought. Tortured heroes have been a favorite romance hook almost as long as romances have been hooking readers. Heathcliff, from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is another classic example of this mysterious, brooding man. But what is the allure of the tortured hero? Why do so many romance readers delight in the suffering of the brooding hero? It seems incredibly mean-spirited to enjoy the mental or physical pain of the man the reader is asked to fall in love with.
I admit that I love to read about a tortured hero as much as anyone. The darker his angst, the better. Yet I consider myself kind-hearted, sympathetic and nurturing, not twisted or mean. The same could be said for most romance readers I know. So what's the deal?
The answers I've come up with aren't anything startling or new, but they highlight a fact about romance readers that is universal. We love happy endings.
First, the hero's pain engages the readers emotions, and romance books are all about emotion. When I meet that hero with the dark wounded soul, my initial reaction is not sadistic delight in his pain, but rather a sympathetic ache, a burning desire to help, to heal, and to ease his suffering. While there is nothing I, the reader, can do for this poor hurting man, I put my faith in the love of the heroine to rescue the hero from his pit of despair.
The hero's inner pain also adds another layer of conflict to the story. More conflict usually translates to more emotion for the reader, a bigger stake in the outcome of the romance. Not only must the heroine resolve the external conflict she faces to reach her goal, but in order to find true love, she must help the hero find resolution and peace from his inner demons. This theme of redemption resounds with us because we all have, to some extent, past sins, past pain and lingering heartache from which we want to be freed.
When, after many trials and tribulations, the heroine's love does heal the hero's hurting soul and bring him to new levels of joy and inner-peace, the reader basks in the glow of another happily ever after. Love has prevailed, even against the dark pain and angst the hero suffered when the book opened. The deeper the hero's pain, the greater the victory for true love. So is that the allure of the tortured hero— the payoff that soft-hearted romantics like myself find so appealing? Are we drawn to the victory when the heroine's love, faith and devotion conquer even the hero's personal demons? Or is there more to it?
A tortured hero does have an element of danger about him. What dark secret is he hiding? What is at the root of his pain, and will his pain suck the heroine in and ruin her as well? Danger has a titillating allure that stirs our adrenaline.
Plus, brooding men are sexy. How many cologne and underwear ads have you seen where the male model is practically snarling at the camera? Plenty. Light-hearted humor is generally considered feminine or child-like, while serious introspection and toughness are traditionally masculine traits, connoting virility, competence, strength and sexual prowess. The alpha male. The tortured hero takes this serious brooding to an extreme, and when the heroine manages to break through the tortured hero's pain and protective walls to find the charming prince that lies beneath, she claims the best of both worlds. Tough and tender. Macho alpha outside with a gooey marshmallow center. No wonder a romantic's heart flutters for the tortured hero!
Find more information about my tortured hero, Luke, at my website- www.bethcornelison.com.
Happy reading, Beth Cornelison