Who can resist the appeal of a tortured hero? I certainly can't.
Every time I read a book with one of these characters it usually ends up as a keeper on my bookshelf. Why? Because there's something unbelievably attractive about a man who overcomes incredible obstacles to find himself, a soul mate and love.
Take Bren, the hero from Christina Phillips' book, CAPTIVE.
With the rape and murder of his wife at the hands Dunmacos, a Roman leader with a sadistic reputation, he's wracked by survivor guilt and torn apart with hatred for the Celtic Druids whom he believes should have saved her instead of him.
To avenge his loss, he hunts down and massacres Dunmacos then disguises himself as the soldier in order to spy on the Roman army for the Briton king. He spends three years in this role, taking on the reviled persona of the feared leader, killing anyone who ever knew Dunmacos to avoid being exposed and does what he can to sabotage Rome's efforts to conquer Britain.
With only his skills at deception and subterfuge, killing in the name of his king, and haunted by his failure to save his wife, he doesn't see himself as worth anything or having anything to offer a woman who might love him.
Irredeemable? Maybe. Tortured? Hell, yes. Irresistable. Oh, yeah...
Let's take a look at another tormented hero. Zsadist - from LOVER AWAKENED by J.R.Ward. I've worn out the spine on this book and need to get a new one, that's how many times I've reread it.
This vampire warrior is the ultimate tortured hero. The guy bears some serious, serious issues involving intimacy and any sexual relationship with a woman thanks to being kidnapped, raped and used as a blood slave when he was a young man.
His reputation as a Black Dagger Brotherhood warrior is legendary, friends and foe alike fear his anger, and his sinister deeds strike terror into them.
This is a powerful, heart-wrenching story of Zsadist's journey to come to terms with what was done to him and how he discovers that he can love and be loved. I don't know how many times I cried for Zsadist, over what was done to him and the destructive perceptions he had of himself.
Tortured character? He's at the top of the list.
Not to left out, what about Zarek from Sherrilyn Kenyon's DANCE WITH THE DEVIL?
Another man reviled for his fearsome reputation as a warrior, one believed to have gone insane. Totally misunderstood by everyone, but then Zarek was never one for sharing his past or explaining his actions. Thank goodness for Acheron and his understanding and identifying with his nature!
What a past Zarek's had - the bastard son of a Roman noble, disfigured by a lifetime of abuse, reviled for his appearance, enduring the worst sort of life after being sold as a slave then once he was made a Dark-Hunter and began taking out his anger and pain on the Daimons (the bad guys) in full view of the public, he's exiled to Alaska and shunned by other Dark-Hunters because of his actions.
This man's never had a gentle word said or kind action bestowed upon on him. So, do you think he might have some serious trust issues? Then, to top it all off, he finds himself being judged by a justice nymph who'll determine whether he lives or dies. Any wonder he has the reputation of being a cold, angry cynic?
Damned? Many seem to think so. Worth saving? Depends on your point of view - I know a few Gods who'd be glad to see him dead (Artemis, anyone)? Tortured? Well and truly.
How can you not empathise with Bren, Zsadist or Zarek? The odds are stacked against them, they're well behind the eight ball, every one's against them (cliches abound!). How can they possibly redeem themselves?
Certainly not through their own self-destructive actions, but how about the love of a good woman? Could that help? Oh, yeah, you betcha.
They have such a long way to travel but the end reward is well worth the angst, the tears, the resistant transformation. The struggle and journey these heroes are put through makes their redemption all the more satisfying.
So, you just gotta love tortured heroes. They make for one heck of a good read. For that matter, a good dozen re-reads!!!
Do you have a favourite tortured hero? And care to share? Come on, I dare you!