The main character in my new book, Beast of Burden, is a tortured hero. Cianan Marek is the hero we all dream about. He’s handsome, scarred, brooding… He’s a werewolf. And I’m not talking about one of those sissy quasi-werewolves. He’s a bona fide badass with a painful transformation, full moon rage and complete nudity afterwards. It’s made clear from the beginning of the book that he is not a nice guy. Even before he made the Change, he had a hair-trigger temper and a lust for violence. The only thing that could melt his heart was the beautiful Lady Isabella. And when a tragedy befalls her, his life is destroyed, twisting him into a tormented hermit that is feared by everyone. Until, of course, a little slave girl named Sascha enters the picture and manages to chip away at his heart of stone.
So why do we love these guys so much? The tortured hero is an archetype that we see over and over in literature and movies. Is it because we, as women, are always looking for someone to “fix?” Or could it be that we love to live dangerously, sleeping beside a ball of pent up rage? Whatever it is, we love them. Their angst gives them an edge. And if they’re a guilty paranormal—all the better.
Probably my favorite tortured hero is Heathcliff from the Emily Bronte gothic romance, Wuthering Heights. And in fact, if you’ve read Wuthering Heights, you’ll probably see a lot of Heathcliff in Marek. He loves poor, stupid Cathy with all of his heart and when she marries another because of her family’s prejudices—he loses it. He becomes this mean and hateful old man that everyone fears. Seeks vengeance on the whole Earnshaw clan. But in the end you realize, he loved Cathy all along. And women eat that shit up. That notion of how everything he does is for you is so romantic. It makes us go gooey in all the right places.
Exhibit B—Edward Cullen. Reluctant vampire with a skin problem. Ever since Twilight came out, the teeny bopper love of Edward has run rampant throughout the country. Even among soccer moms. There are tons of theories out there as to why Team Edward has such a vast following, but I offer, dear reader, that it’s because he’s a tortured hero. He struggles with loving Bella, yet knowing that their romance could ultimately end badly. He struggles with the faces of all the humans he killed in the throes of his bloodlust. He struggles with not wanting to turn Bella into a soulless creature of the night. Let’s put it this way—he just struggles. And we love watching it. Our heartstrings are plucked like an out of tune violin when Edward looks into her eyes and says, “It’s a bit easier to be around you when I’m not thirsty.”
Marek is no different than the tortured heroes that we all know and love. But will he be redeemed and have a happy ending like Edward? Or will he die alone, shrieking at ghosts in a cupboard like Heathcliff? Only one way to find out….
Cianan Marek had never been so confused. He was not a person who lived in a state of confusion. He was always sure and confident. It was what made him such a formidable warrior. He’d always known what to do and how to do it efficiently. But not this time. This new feeling of uncertainty left a distasteful bitterness on his tongue. He just couldn’t seem to think his way around Sascha. He’d been waiting so long to find her again. Bella had promised that she would return to him and now, after twenty years, her promise had come to fruition, yet he had no idea what to do. He sighed and took another long dram of the glassful of whiskey he held. Though his “curse” had granted him immortality and eternal youth, he felt very old tonight. He was exhausted, both mentally and physically, from worry. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected. That she would see him and instantly remember her past existence? He’d thought of so many ways to try and convince her of the soul she carried.
He shook his head and looked down at his empty glass. He let it fall from his fingertips and roll across the stone floor before taking up the bottle from the table at his side. He leaned back in his chair, bringing the bottle to his lips, staring up at her portrait that hung over his fireplace. In the painting, Isabella stood nude, her cascades of hair falling over her shoulder to hide one breast. In her hand she held a single red rose, pressed to her lips of similar color. She’d commissioned that portrait herself to give him as a wedding gift. It was quite scandalous and at first he’d been angry with her for posing so suggestively in front of another man. It seemed so silly now. “Lady Isabella Caoimhe Marek,” he slurred, raising the bottle in reverence to her. Her blue eyed countenance seemed to stare down at him in judgment. She’d hated it when he drank. But as he’d told her so many times, some occasions just called for it. Thinking of her was still so painful. She’d been the one thing on this Earth that he’d loved above all other things and she was gone, destroyed by the very person who’d sworn to protect her.
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