Unsavory Heroes

I recently read a book where the hero at times was a loathsome cruel bastard that treated the heroine in such an appalling way. He was a mean son of a bitch. Yet I was happy that they had their HEA, and more importantly for me, I actually believed in it.

The story in question is Lady Gallant by Susanne Robinson. It’s set during Queen Mary’s court, and it’s surrounded by court intrigue and spying — both which I’m not huge fans of. But I’d heard about the hero, Christian de Rivers, being talked about and since it’s not on the scale of Rosemary Rogers’ Stormfire, I was happy to give it a go since there was no testicle cutting, rape, or other scenarios that would make me go hide in a corner and weep.

There will be spoilers mentioned, so if you plan on reading the book in the future and don’t want to be spoiled, you haz been warned.

Throughout the course of the novel, Christian for the most part is not nice to the heroine. And when I say not nice, I really mean it. From their first meeting, he is cutting towards her, he calls her names, and he doesn’t hold back. He then finds an attraction towards her is forming, and he’s crude towards her in his sexual advances — but there is no forced seduction of rape. Nora is attracted to him, and slowly they form a sort of relationship where both seem to understand one another. They get married, but Christian believes that Nora betrayed him and his father, and he pretty much treats her like shit on their wedding night, and grinds her love and heart into dust, and then for good measure, stamps on it. And then even more horrible, he hatches a plan to cause Nora even more heartbreak by creating a situation where Nora catches him in bed with an ex-lover of his in graphic detail.

In that particular scene, it’s a little cloudy because whilst Christian is caught in bed in a very compromising situation, it never reveals if he had sexual intercourse. But as far as I’m concerned that’s a moot point.

Anyways, Nora sees this and your heart literally breaks for her. And even more horribly, Christian then strides up to Nora naked, thrusts against her and tells her he’ll go to bed with her if she reveals what she knows about the attack on his father. Nora runs off and just simply breaks down. Christian — from before — now becomes a completely broken man, and literally sobs at what he has become and done.

Christian is what he had become due to events when he was younger that shaped him to be what he had become today. Now reading what I’ve just written above, you may think how could you keep on reading the story with a hero like Christian.

My answer: I don’t know.

As I was reading it, I’m pretty sure my face was doing all sorts of frowns but I kept on reading because I wanted to know how on earth could they get their HEA after this. How can Nora forgive him. How can Christian atone for what he did?

And oh boy. Did Nora make him grovel. I think this book showcases some of the best grovelling in a romance book. Nora doesn’t give him an inch. She doesn’t suddenly forgive him. She makes him work, and oh boy does Christian suffer for it. And when Nora did forgive him, I believed in it and their HEA.

After finishing it, it still leaves me thinking how could I enjoy a book like that as a romance. But for me, I would say it’s definitely features a romance story, but not one that is happy roses. It’s raw, it’s ugly, but at the end, I found it believable.

And it got me thinking, how far does a hero have to go before he becomes truly irredeemable in your eyes? And what do you class as irredeemable?

8 thoughts on “Unsavory Heroes”

  1. The worst hero I can think of is from Cheryl Holt’s The Way of the Heart. He cheated on the heroine, took her virginity from behind (so the sex would be emotionless) and almost sold his 12 year old daughter into marriage. He changed and groveled a lot but I wasn’t satisfied. Some characters can’t be redeemed.

    I can’t say why, but I enjoyed the book anyway. It was a moving read. The heroine shot him once, so that helped. 🙂

  2. Diana Palmer’s Fearless was…a turnoff…disgusting….painful. Rodrigo was horrible and didn’t deserve his HEA. His treatment of Gloryanne was a nightmare. I forced my way through to the end but it has turned me off to her books.

  3. I am thinking about the hero in Lady of the West by Linda Howard. He did grovel nicely but man he certainly fit the ashat mold for a while.

  4. I’m not sure what line is crossed before the hero is irredeemable to me – probably outright infidelity (I usually stop reading at that point). I run across several heroes who’ve have toed up to the line but I can’t recall an example offhand. I’m sure they’re probably written by Catherine Coulter, Diana Palmer, or Judith McNaught. Some of their heroes were cruel, but it made for a heartwrenching story and you’d be cheering for the heroine while waiting for the hero’s comeuppance! I think if the hero’s POV is shown and the reason he is mean/cruel is understandable, I think I can empathize and let bygones be bygone in the end – as long as he grovels and suffers for his previous actions.

  5. How could I forget about those three authors. Man, some serious heart-wrenching scenes there. I totally think that groveling is mandatory!

  6. It’s an interesting subject to bring up especially now for me since I am currently in the middle of reading a story with a very unsavory hero. The hero in this story is so mentally messed up and believes all white people is prejudiced against him because of one unfortunate incident in his past that he immediately judges the heroine as such a person. She never says anything about the color of his skin and in fact throws it in face that he is the only one stuck on it, but no matter what he keeps reminding her in subtle and not so subtle ways that she’s white and it will never work. Yet after having sex for the second time he catches her in a small lie where at the time she told him it she didn’t know him at all and so it was based on self preservation why she did so. Now mind you the lie she told him wasn’t anything that was going to hurt him and in the end he was still going to get what he wanted from her, but no for the hero it was just too much and he snapped to the point of calling her a bitch and literally physically threatening her shut up when she tried to explain by putting his hand around her throat. While this is in his POV we are treated to the inner workings of his mind in that moment and read as he has to calm himself from actually taking the next step in crushing her windpipe. By this point I was so disgusted with him that I had to actually walk away from the story and rant about it to my sister just to relieve my stress and frustration with the hero. I am determined to finish however because I want to see how the author will or will not make him pay for his major transgressions and how this couple gets there HEA and how believable it will or will not be.

  7. Thanks everybody for coming on over to discuss!

    @Jill He went to sell his 12 year old daughter into marriage? Okay, he should have been shot again and then some more! I believe it’s one thing to treat somebody like crap with words and asshole actions, but the fact he was going to sell his child perhaps tells me he was way more than a flawed character perhaps?

    @JenB I stopped reading Diana Palmer when I realised she kept making the women in her books who were sexually active into something nasty. Her heroes are allowed to be sexually active, whilst her heroines are all happy pure innocent virgins.

    @E_booklover Oh, now that was a horrible horrible scene and I hated that Linda Howard put it in the book. It was so out of character. He had major grovelling to do. Saying that, there are lots of heroines in romance who also hit their heroes, and a lot of people accept that or don’t even think it’s wrong.

    @Eva / TXBookjunkie Talking about Catherine Coulter, I’m pretty sure I can remember a book where the hero repeatedly rapes the heroine and I think later on, the heroine is gang raped. But since most of Coulter’s books feature rape, I can’t pick out which one it was.

    @Yadira A That sounds like a book where the hero definitely has some issues to deal with because of the past. I always cringe when authors feature violence in romance, because whilst I understand people loose their tempers, I would like to think the majority of people don’t go and grab people’s throats and resort to violence. It then makes you wonder if the character can be pushed that far and looses control, how do you know it won’t happen again?

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