Jorie made a comment to the “On Romance Novel Heroes and Heroines” entry that made me think. Specifically, this bit of her comment: “But I also think I find something very cathartic about a fucked up hero or heroine (just one per book is enough) who comes through to a happily ever after.”
She really nailed that one on the head. But I’ll take it even one step further: I actually actively ENJOY reading, in gruesome detail, why a hero or heroine is tortured, AND I also enjoy reading about a hero (or very rarely, a heroine) who puts the other protagonist through hell—with one very important condition: that by the end of the book, he realizes that he’s been a complete asshole, he’s very, very sorry for what he’s done, he makes amends with the heroine (read: GROVELS HIS ASS OFF) and he’s able to heal and move on from the assholery. OK, I just realized that’s more than one condition. But they’re all really sub-sets of the one big Supercondition that I like to call “Appropriate Realization of and Remorse For One’s Own Jerkfacedness.” Anyway, this emotional wringer/rollercoaster is a big part of why I love books like Seize The Fire, To Have and To Hold, Lily and The Windflower so much.
What does this say about me as a reader? I mean, schadenfreude much? Damn. Not to say those are the only kinds of romance novel I like to read. I enjoy other types of romances as well; right now I’m reading and really liking MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and Unwed, which has nothing like that going on at all. But looking through my list of keepers, I realize that a disproportionate number involve the hero putting the heroine through shitloads and shitloads of turmoil, which she manages to weather with her sanity and sweetness intact. I mean, seriously, some of the crap the hero pulls on the heroine, if done to me in real life, would’ve resulted in me punching the hero square in the balls. (“YOU LIED ABOUT WHAT?!?” *WHAKOW! BAM! SPLAT!* *hero falls to the floor crying for the fate of his unborn children*)
This is probably why I’m not exactly romance novel heroine material, eh? That, and my love of dead baby jokes.
Anyway, what are your thoughts on this? Anyone else there share my sick, sick love of tormented protagonists who do quite a bit of their own tormenting, only to recant with all appropriate remorse at the end? If you do, why do you love ‘em so much? Catharsis explains only part of why I like these types of books as much as I do.