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.
So it's no surprise that I also like writing about these sorts of heroes. Varian, the hero in ALLIANCE FORGED, my newest release from Berkley, is one such character. He's a half human, half demon warrior who's inherited the incredible strength and enhanced senses of his demon heritage. With these traits augmented during battle, they help him protect his people but every time he lets his demon side loose it leaves him open to battle-rush, an insatiable hunger to take a life, the thrill of the kill. An that addiction that could one day overwhelm him and turn him into a mindless beast who is unable to tell friend from foe. And having spent most of his life honing and using these abilities, he's finding it harder and harder to control that side of him.
Is it any wonder then that he isolates himself from those around him and doesn't allow anyone to get close to him? Imagine knowing that you're capable of hurting or even killing someone you love, all because you lost control of yourself? Would you ever be able to forgive yourself?
How can you not empathise with Bren, Zsadist or Varian and understand why they behave as they do? But 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.
How does Kymora help Varian, especially when he's so determined not to accept her friendship? Well, I guess you'll just have to read ALLIANCE FORGED to find out. :-)
Varian has such a long way to travel but the end reward is well worth the angst, the tears, the resistant transformation. The struggle and journey they both go through makes his redemption all the more satisfying.
You've just got to love tortured heroes. They make for one heck of a good read. For that matter, a good dozen re-reads!!! I really hope you enjoy Varian and Kymora's story in ALLIANCE FORGED. In the meantime, here's the back cover blurb and a link to an excerpt of the book, just to whet your appetite:
(Book #2 of the Light Blade series)
There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not purebred is virtually powerless. Until a blind priestess lays claim to a half-breed warrior, body and soul…
Hunted and marked for death by Na’Reish demons for their half-blood heritage, the Na’Chi are searching for a new home—something an alliance offered by the human leader could provide. With both races divided by prejudice, when Light Blade rebels brutally attack the Na’Chi, the alliance seems doomed to fail.
Varian, leader of the Na’Chi, a hybrid race of gifted warriors, is cursed with the darker impulses of his demon heritage. Controlling the part of himself that craves the high of the battle is a struggle he’s afraid he’ll lose—until he meets Kymora Tayn, a priestess driven to serve her deity. While he’s unwilling to trust anyone outside his people, he finds himself drawn to Kymora’s strength and passionate nature, and discovers she has the power to calm the darkness inside him.
When the Na’Reish raid human territory for blood-slaves and kickstart a war, the key to the survival of both races—Na’Chi and human— is an alliance. However, when Kymora is kidnapped, pitting human against human, Varian realizes he must embrace his darker half, not only to save the alliance…but also the woman he loves.
So, do you have a favourite tortured hero? And care to share? I'm always looking for another good book to add to my To Be Read pile! Share your recommendations for a chance to win an Alliance Forged Swag Pack!!
***Kylie's winner is HankLover! Please email your full name and mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!***