Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More Evil Than a Pack of Spurned Serial Killers

Hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving holiday. Mine was...well, stressful. I had company, so with all of the preparation and cooking and cleaning up, I didn't seem to get much of a vacation in my vacation. Not to mention the electric tension between two fueding family members, so thick and rich it could be cut with a plastic knife. Ugh. I never knew I could be so uncomfortable in my own home.

Anyway...I discovered over the weekend the most truly heinous crime perpetrated in any romantic situation. Show me any evil villain or malicious spurned female set on revenge or psychopathic serial killer and I'll show you something even more vile.

I'm talking about The Woman Who Breaks The Tortured Hero's Heart.

This is not the same woman who creates the Bad Boy/Lost Soul/Tortured Hero. The one who done him wrong some time in his past such that he is no longer able to love or open up or has a (presumably) redeemable misogynistic bent. She's the one we never actually meet but only learn about through flashback and dream sequences in which Hero once was a warm, giving male who suffered so cruely at the hands of love he has lost all ability to feel the softer emotions, leaving it up to our Heroine to mend the shredded remains of his shriveled heart.

Who I'm talking about is actually that woman, with a twist. The one who meets Tortured Hero post torturing. He's hard as a rock, unbendable and unable to love already when she comes strolling into his penthouse office/brother's garage/batcave. But she breaks him open like an extra-thick pinata to expose his gooey innards by being a Worthy Love Interest. We like this girl. She's a nice one, somebody we can root for as she chips away at the hero's armor. When he finally breaks and falls in love with her, we heave a sigh of satisfaction. Our poor soul is happy at last, redeemed and set to begin his hard-earned HEA with a gal who deserves him. All is right with the world.

But then she turns on him. She may have really good reasons - they usually do or they become cardboard villains. Heck, there might even be a Big Mis involved that actually makes some kind of sense. But for whatever reason, she makes a choice to screw over the hero in some way, taking a love that is probably more rare than 100 karat diamonds and stomping it beneath the heel of her stiletto. He discovers her betrayal, naturally, and she may or may not die after he attempts to rescue her from some cruel fate despite the fact that she's now created a hole the size of a moon crater where his heart once used to live. He's a hero, after all, so no matter how much we want him to just let the bitch die, he can't do it.

So we end up with a Tortured Hero who refound love, only to have it snatched away again. If he's smart - and all worthwhile heroes are smart - he's very familiar with the old adage fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. First gal used up the shame on you, and now second gal has pushed him into shame on me. Do you think there is any way in hell that this guy is going to put himself in a position to be fooled a third time?

He's ruined. He's gone from redeemable to damaged beyond all repair. Never again could I buy that this guy will be able to fall in love, no matter how perfect the next heroine who comes along. If he does fall in love, it becomes kind of silly. "See, there was this dame, and she broke my heart. Then there was this other dame, and she broke it, too. But you, sweetheart, you I can trust." Our glorious tortured hero becomes kind of pathetic if he falls again, stripping the title of Tortured clean away. Or, if he's lucky, he's resigned to the fate of Forever Rake who can appear in the sequels but will never get his HEA without suspicion that a costly divorce looms in his future.

Thus the character that I find most loathsome in all of romance, bar no genre, is the Second Chance Girl Who Blows It All For Money/Power/Fame/Lust for Another Man. When a writer gives us a tortured hero on the brink of finding love again, believe that I will be sorely pissed off if she turns out to be only another knife in his heart. I love a good tortured hero, and to ruin one in such a way is a crime punishable by writer's block falling upon the head of the perpetrator until he or she has done sufficient penance.

Gee...I'm starting to kind of sound like Annie Wilkes.

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