Random Thoughts of a Romance Blogger: Love to Hate

Posted March 18, 2016 by Suzanne in Random Thoughts, Under the Covers / 15 Comments

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Love to Hate

I love romance books, it’s a genre I read almost exclusive, but if there is one major criticism I would level at it, it’s the dearth of really good bad guys. You know the ones I mean? The baddies that make your hands positively ache  to reach through the pages of the book so you can have the satisfaction of throttling themselves. The baddies where you relish their vanquishing almost as much as you do the HEA.

Admittedly romance isn’t perhaps a genre of fiction that lends itself to the creation of a truly heinous, detestable characters. Having said that, PNR and Romantic Suspense would seem like the natural place for them. Sadly, we seem to be stuck with the half-hearted villains and mediocre henchmen used only as vehicles to further the romance between the hero and heroine, rather than as an interesting story point in themselves. Now, sometimes that’s fine, all I am truly after all invested in is whether our couple finally manage to put aside the inevitable bullshit and get to the i-love-yous. But, sometimes, sometimes the story and the talent of the author calls for more.

But what is it that I want from a bad guy?  I’ve thought about this and all the bad guys that I love to hate and all the reasons why they have stuck in my mind, enmity still brewing in the back of my mind and I came up with a perfect example. I think that she is perhaps the most hated fictional character of my generation; Professor Umbridge, and for those of you who have lived under a rock for the past decade, she is a character from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Notice, I didn’t say Lord Voldemort, despite him being the big bad of the Potter series, when I think about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named it isn’t hatred I feel despite all the hateful things that he did. It’s Umbridge that gets my blood boiling and the red mist descending. And why is that? Umbridge’s crimes in relation to Voldemort’s are relatively minor; yet hers are the ones that enrage me. The reasons are purely selfish, I can relate and emphasise with the characters, I can almost feel their sense of powerlessness and frustration whenever Umbridge does something heinous. We’ve all had that teacher or boss that delights in being a petty bully, so when Umbridge unfairly gives out a detention to demonstrate the small amount of power she has over Harry and the gang, I know exactly how they are feeling about it. However, my experience with megalomaniacs intent on enslaving the world is relatively small, Voldemort may provoke my intellectual disgust, but he has never tugged at my emotions the way Umbridge’s petty small mindedness did.

Relating this back to romance think of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R.Ward, by now, you have probably realised that I love it, but that doesn’t mean that I think it’s perfect. If there is one glaring flaw in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series it is its decidedly boring bad guys; the lessers and the Omega. Again, the Omega belongs into the Voldemort category of enemy; too big, his evil is too encompassing it’s hard to comprehend and his ambitions of world dominion too intangible to provoke much emotion. As for the lessers, minions of the Omega, they are too faceless and without personality, it’s like hating a brick wall for blocking your shortcut, pointless and unproductive. But, there is one character I hate, one character that I long to humiliate, smash into smithereens, make him beg and plead for mercy…which I wouldn’t grant. Lash. The school yard tormentor. The bully. The guy who personally made characters I love go through hell. His big, malicious and selfish personality is the perfect target for my otherwise aimless malice. And I love it. I love that Ward has capitialised on her fans loathing of him and introduced him as something more than the school yard bully whilst keeping all that small minded pettiness and evils intact.

Because ultimately what is more satisfying than seeing the characters you love and have seen suffer smite down that evil mother fucker you hate? When Wrath and the gang bring Lash, the insufferable twat, to his knees my righteous satisfaction at his demise will be immense, akin to getting an unexpected, yet much anticipated HEA.

So authors, I implore you. Please, when you are writing your couple enemies don’t use some half hearted caricature of a villain. Put some thought into your bad guys, as readers we love to hate them almost as much as we love an HEA.

suzanne

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Suzanne

Blogger/Reviewer at Under the Covers Book Blog
Gosh, we all seem to be admitting our ages…and I hate that I am at the point in life when admitting my age is a “thing”…whodda thunk it? I was kind of hoping I would remain 21 forever. However, I have moved out of that New Adult stage of my life and am now strictly in the Contemporary Romance age zone of 28. I would prefer to be in an Urban Fantasy arena, but I don’t think I own enough black leather. However, I could probably squeeze into some PNR, I am fully prepared to give a horn job to my favourite demon, or suck on my sexy vamps…fangs and I am definitely up for some heavy petting with some fine looking shifters. Than again their’s always Sci Fi…I am fully prepared to do the right thing and help some poor alien race with more 6 packs than a supermarket repopulate their planet. Not that I am loose woman or anything.

Annnnnd I will stop myself there, before I start waxing lyrical about my love of historical romance and fantasy as well; no one needs to know about my elf fantasies. As you can tell, I adore and day dream about most romance genres, and my three big loves are 1) reading about romance 2) writing about romance and 3) talking about romance with my gals. Which, is why I love Under the Covers so much, I get all my bookish needs satisfied and don’t get judged when I talk about my favourite characters like they are real people. Which they are right?
Suzanne
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Lorena StreeterLinda T.Ashley WilliamsUnder the Covers Book BlogSophia Rose Recent comment authors
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Amy R
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Amy R

I’ve never really thought about the bad guy and I agree with you about Lash. It is true the Omega and the lessers are a boring filler.

Under the Covers Book Blog
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Under the Covers Book Blog

Yeah, it’s the one thing I find lacking in the BDB books, it’s the baddies, looks like she is stepping it up a bit in that regard though, which makes me very happy…I can now call it the perfect series lol!

Suz

Timitra
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Timitra

“So authors, I implore you. Please, when you are writing your couple enemies don’t use some half hearted caricature of a villain. Put some thought into your bad guys, as readers we love to hate them almost as much as we love an HEA.” So much yes!!! I agree the Lessers and the Omega leave a lot to be desired

Under the Covers Book Blog
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Under the Covers Book Blog

I am glad I am not the only one who has a hankering for a good bad guy to hate at! The Omega and lessers definitely don’t quite cut it!

Suz

Kathleen Bylsma
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Kathleen Bylsma

Absolutely!

Elizabeth
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Elizabeth

Agreed!

Monique D
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Monique D

Krystal Shannan’s Xerxes is something else!!!

Under the Covers Book Blog
Admin
Under the Covers Book Blog

I am going to have to check that our Monique, thanks for the recommendation

Suz

Darynda
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Darynda

OMG I am right there with you about Umbridge!!! How I hated her! How I longed for her painful death! I hated her much more than I hated He Who Must Not Be Named. This is so spot on and totally perceptive. Thank you! So, yeah, I’m stuck on a new project. I needed a really big bad guy! I needed an all-encompassing asshole. BUT WAIT! Maybe not. Maybe I need a Professor Umbridge. I need someone the readers can sink their teeth into. Someone they can hate to the very core of their being. This rocks so hard. You… Read more »

Under the Covers Book Blog
Admin
Under the Covers Book Blog

Lol same as, I remember having to put the book down and take a calm breath as she was making me THAT angry. I always kind of felt sorry for Voldemort, even though I did obviously want him to go down, with Umbridge, I just wanted that long painful death you mentioned. Yes! I think you need a bad guy who has scope, who wants some kind of world dominion, otherwise why would your h/H even know they exist? But I think he also needs to be kind of petty and needlessly cruel at the same time, atleast that’s what… Read more »

Sophia Rose
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Sophia Rose

Good point! It’s the villains that make some sense that feel more villainous to me. Bullying, greed, jealousy, revenge, hate, like to make people hurt- that makes sense. You’re right- the world conquerors feel too distant unless these other more personal evils are attached.

Under the Covers Book Blog
Admin
Under the Covers Book Blog

Yes, precisely how I feel, I always find the books with good villains, as well as a good romance are the ones I remember the most and stay on my favourites shelf.

Suz

Ashley Williams
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Ashley Williams

The thing that bothers me about villains in romance is that it’s always ultimate He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named with his crew of baddies, in which they war for 10 or more books. After a while, I start to get bored with it. A lot of PNR books feature awesome-kick ass-warrior-immortal-characters that fight and fight, but never seem to get anywhere. It makes me start to doubt their skills, “Seriously, you haven’t killed him yet?” If Batman only fought Joker, and never won, would we still think he was a hero? Authors, please let the heros fight for a few books and then win.… Read more »

Linda T.
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Linda T.

If you love to hate the bad guy, you have got to read “Outlander,” by Diana Gabaldon. There is no more complex, despicable bad guy than Captain Black Jack Randall. You will empathize your heart out when the H and h are pitted against him.

Lorena Streeter
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Lorena Streeter

Karen Rose is chock full of truly heinous bad guys. Some worse than others, but all truly bad.