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