Creating a strong connection between the hero and heroine in a romance novel is vital for the story to be compelling and gripping. In order to create this connection, the hero and heroine often have to fight for their love. However, if they are constantly fighting each other, I start to wonder if they’re really suited to each other at all.
A lot of drama-filled relationships thrive on conflict, but if it’s of an abusive nature, then this can turn a romance novel into something more sinister. The romance novel might appear on the surface to end happily (there is always a HEA in a romance novel, as we know) but if there are dark undercurrents to the hero or heroine’s character that aren’t resolved in a satisfactory manner during the course of a book, it can leave the reader with a nasty taste in their mouth.
I once read a romance novel by a very popular author which featured a hero and heroine who on the surface appeared to be classic hero and heroine material. She was beautiful, clever, impulsive, headstrong and had a keen will of her own. He was handsome, rich, powerful, charismatic, funny – and also possessed of an explosive, irrational temper. He would blow up at the heroine when she did something “wrong” and instead of discussing it with her in a rational manner, he would scream at her in fury. He struck me as a man who was seriously disturbed and yet the author was very forgiving towards this character and seemed to find his behaviour excusable. She didn’t think that there was anything wrong with his explosive temper, and I got the impression that she believed this type of behaviour was normal in a love relationship.
Dysfunctional characters populate books, but if they are the heroes and heroines of romance novels it can be difficult to get your head around. I’m not saying that dysfunctional people can’t have their love stories told, but if a character is seriously disturbed, it’s doubtful that a HEA would be convincing unless he or she did some serious emotional work along the way (counselling sessions etc.)
However, if this were to be done within the context of a love story, I strongly doubt that the book could be categorised as a romance novel any longer. The constraints of the genre don’t allow for authors to portray the therapy sessions that disturbed heroes and heroines would need in order for their HEAs to ring true. And if an author did portray this sort of thing while telling a love story the book would probably be classified as a drama and not a romance.
Personally, I like creating nice male characters who won’t make my heroines suffer unnecessarily!
And in real life?
When women are choosing their own heroes for their real-life romances, I’d suggest they put aside any images of dark, brooding men with deeply troubled souls and rather ask themselves the following practical questions:
Is he kind?
Is he nice to people in lower positions in life than he is?
Is he generous?
Is he considerate?
Does he have integrity?
Is he responsible?
Is he a man of his word?
Is he honest?
Falling in love can often blind a woman to a man’s character and this can lead to her overlooking numerous red flags due to her strong attraction to him. But having a strong connection with a man doesn’t always equate to having a healthy relationship with a man.
In a good relationship, a woman feels safe with her man, and even though the early stages of a relationship can be fraught with misunderstandings and misperceptions, ultimately it’s important to feel that even if you don’t always see eye to eye with your guy, that he will always be a safe port for you. If you don’t sense this safe feeling with the man in your life, then the relationship will always be a struggle - and sadly real life cannot be scripted into a HEA.