Thursday, October 30, 2008

Guest Blogger - Nicola Cornick

The dark hero, mad, bad and dangerous to know, as Lady Caroline Lamb so succinctly put it, is one of the most popular in romantic fiction. From Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre to the beast in Beauty and the Beast, this is a hero who is dark and brooding because his heart and soul have been scarred by tragic or traumatic experience and can only be healed by the love of the right woman.

Dark heroes can be tough to write because if they become too dark they can turn off the reader. There is something undeniably attractive about the Dark Side – even Luke Skywalker was tempted by it in Star Wars - but most of us want our heroes to be strong, powerful, loyal and honorable, even if that honor may seem rather deeply buried, at least at first. We want our heroes to resist the temptation of the dark and turn towards the light.

If the dark hero is a difficult character to create, I think that the dark heroine is even more of a challenge. There aren’t as many women in romance books who need redemption. Perhaps it is because we instinctively want our heroines to represent the bright light of transformation, to be good and redemptive. Too often we feel the heroine has to be gentle and sweet, and that if she isn’t she has to have a very good excuse for her behaviour.

Sometimes the dark heroine can work when matched with the dark hero. They recognise each other as wounded souls. They save each other. At other times, the dark heroine can be redeemed by the hero’s love. But the most realistic characters are perhaps those where this transformation does not go too far. In my Regency historical Wayward Widow the wayward heroine of the title warns the hero: “I won’t change, you know.” Fortunately he doesn’t want her to reform too much. He loves her the way she is. It’s easy to make a hero or heroine too bland, too good, perfect or uninteresting. It’s their flaws, the darkness balanced by the light, that allow us to identify with them.

Nicola Cornick
The Unmasking of Lady Loveless
Harlequin Undone e-book November 2008


  1. Hi
    I wanted to drop in early (it's 9am in the UK!) and say hello and thank Scott very much for hosting the Harlequin Historical Undone launch authors today. I'll be back later to chat and will be very happy to answer any questions about writing for Mills & Boon and/or HQN Books, historical romance or anything to do with writing!

  2. Hi Nicola! Looking forward to reading Unmasking of Lady Loveless!

  3. Dark heroes (and heroines) have a certain allure--you want to be the one who "saves" them. And it's interesting to see who the author pairs them with--someone who is also damaged, or someone who (at least on the outside) is an opposite--light and goodness and love. Lady Loveless sounds like a fascinating read!

  4. That's exactly it, flchen1 - if you have two damaged souls there's a sort of balance but I suppose it can get very dark if both parties have lots of emotional baggage! On the other hand you don't want one to be all happy happy whilst the other struggles with their dark side because that can seem too unequal. One might grow as a character whilst the other stays the same, and of course both need to change and grow during the course of the story. So it's bit like a tightrope act!

    In my current book I have a heroine with lots of issues and a hero who is basically very grounded so whilst his journey isn't as much from the dark to the light as hers is, he still has to learn and grow. In her case it's a need to stop seeing running away as a way of solving her problems; in his it's the need to open up and share secrets rather than trying to solve them alone. I think this creates a pretty fair balance. When I'm writing I see it a bit like a set of scales - it can't go down too far towards one side or the other.