Mary Balogh's Favorite Tortured Heroes
Gwendoline, Lady Muir, the protagonist of Mary Balogh's novel "The Proposal," isn't looking for love until she meets tortured war hero Hugo, Lord Trentham. So often men in fiction are the steady support, but there are plenty of romantic heroes who need to be comforted. Here, Balogh shares her other favorite tormented men.
As a writer, I love creating heroes of all types. But perhaps my favorite is the tortured hero, the one who is tormented by physical or mental or emotional challenges and must work them out and conquer them at least to a point at which he can feel in command of his own destiny and able to both offer and accept love. The Survivors' Club, the septet on which I am currently at work, tells of seven wounded survivors of the Napoleonic Wars.
I love reading other writers' tortured heroes too. These are six of my many favorites:
Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre"
Through much of the book he is tormented by the emptiness of his wealthy, idle, arrogant existence and by the secret marriage he was tricked into with a violently insane woman. He has her cared for in his own home rather than commit her to an asylum and treats her as gently as he can during her violent rages. But he commits the sin of trying to contract a bigamous marriage with his ward's governess, Jane Eyre, and then has to suffer the torment of her desertion. There is more to come when he is blinded while trying to save his wife, who burns his house down and leaps to her death from the roof. Jane comes back, of course, and all ends well. He even regains some of his sight. Edward Rochester is a wonderful creation, one of the most memorable in all literature.
Christian, Duke of Jervaulx in Laura Kinsale's "Flowers from the Storm"
There is no more tortured hero than this man, a handsome, vigorously active rake with a brilliant mind for mathematics who suffers a debilitating stroke and is committed to an insane asylum by his family. We experience all the terror and frustrations of a man locked up inside his own head as well as inside the hospital, unable to understand much of what is said to him, unable to speak the words his mind shouts at him, helplessly out of control of his own destiny. His slow rehabilitation at the hands of the prim Quaker, Archimedea Timms, is harrowing and convincing and utterly mesmerizing.
Darius Lindsay in Grace Burrowes's "Darius"
Here is a hero who, from the noblest, most selfless motives, becomes a male prostitute, a career that culminates when he is hired by an elderly lord to impregnate his wife, Lady Vivian Longstreet, so that there will be an heir to protect her position after he dies. As he falls unwillingly in love with Vivian and their unborn child, and as he tries to pull free of his former life, Darius has to fight all the demons of degradation and self-loathing that have long plagued him--while we cheer him on.
Reggie Davenport in Mary Jo Putney's "The Rake"
Reggie is a gambler, a rake, and a drunkard. He is also charismatic and lovable. For a while we take him at face value and assume he can reform his ways once he retreats to his country estate and meets Alys Weston, who became his steward by pretending to be a man. But then we realize this is no ordinary tormented romantic hero. Reggie is an alcoholic and must go through the depths of despair before he can begin to rehabilitate himself and become master of his own life. He is so well depicted that we root for him every step of his journey.
Lord Ian Mackenzie in Jennifer Ashley's "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie"
Ian obviously suffers from Aspergers. He spent years of his boyhood in an asylum. He is not as other men are. He has difficulty in crowds, difficulty in concentrating on what others are saying, difficulty in looking directly at anyone. He is abrupt and cannot always express himself. He suffers rages. He has terrible headaches. Yet he has a perfect memory and easily loses himself in the beauty of something like a Ming vase or a bead of ink hanging from the nib of a pen. When he falls in love with Beth Ackerly, he is single-minded in his devotion to her. It would be difficult not to fall in love with this hero as he finds his way through the world in his own fashion.
Holden Caulfield in J. D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye"
This is not a romance, but it has been one of my all-time favorite books ever since I taught it for a number of years to high school students. Holden is the quintessential troubled teen and is irresistibly lovable as idealism and cynicism wage war in his adolescent soul.
Mary Balogh is the "New York Times" bestselling author of numerous books, including the acclaimed "Slightly and Simply" novels, the "Mistress" trilogy, and the five titles in her "Huxtable" series: "First Comes Marriage," "Then Comes Seduction," "At Last Comes Love," "Seducing an Angel" and "A Secret Affair." A former teacher, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.