Let's talk about the Dark Side of Romance. Those moments of hopelessness, when our hero and heroine are at their lowest point; they feel they've lost the love of their lives, or death is approaching with so much left unsaid, and loneliness is a vast, open chasm of pain. Ah! the angst, the pain, the despair!
I love it.
It's a cliché, but suffering—in romance, at least—makes one a better person. I make a distinction between your run-of-the-mill romance novel torment: an abusive childhood, being tortured by the French during the war, that kind of thing. I maintain that pain is good for a man. Any man. (Reminds me of an old Rita Rudner joke: “I like men who wear earrings. They've bought jewelry and they've experienced pain.”)
What I'm talking about here is emotional anguish. The woman you've fallen in love with has finally seen through you. She's discovered you've lied to her. She knows you are still seeing your mistress. She knows you're only after her for her money. She found out that you are the one who ruined her brother. The scales have fallen from her eyes. She knows exactly what a despicable cad you are and has tossed you out of her life.
And there you are. Rejected. Suffering. Grieving. And knowing that it is all your own fault. You have brought this upon yourself and you will never again be happy. No one will ever love you and you will be alone for the rest of your miserable life until you die, unmourned.
One of my favorite of these kinds of moments takes place in Liz Carlyle's My False Heart. Elliot, the Marquis of Rannoch is a bad boy. Bad, bad, bad. He's a womanizer and a gambler and a dueler and has earned his bad reputation. He's also tired and jaded, sick of himself and his life. When he gets lost in the country in the midst of a rainstorm, he seeks shelter at a house that oozes warmth and comfort, that beckons him and speaks to him just looking at it. When he is welcomed inside, he is transported to another world. The beautiful Evangeline oversees a large and boisterous household of far-flung relations, amiable adults and adorable children running everywhere. Elliot feels a sense of welcome, of acceptance he's never experienced, and when it becomes clear that Evie has mistaken him for someone else, he cannot bring himself to correct her. In fact, he keeps coming back to the country home every few weeks where he is treated as an honored guest, almost a member of the family. The feeling of sustenance, of redemption, is every bit as alluring as his deepening feelings for Evie. He knows he needs to tell her who he is, but knows it will forever change things.
Of course, another visitor recognizes him and spills the beans. Evie's justifiable feelings of betrayal and heartbreak, for of course, she loves him as well, are on full display in a magnificent scene where she throws Elliot out of her home and out of her life.
Bloody, bloody hell! Not only was Evie gone from his life, but the people whose respect and friendship he had come to treasure now knew the truth of what he was, and they were disgusted by it. Elliot felt weak, as if the heavy oak door had just swung shut on his heart, slamming both blood and breath from his chest. For a timeless moment, he stood, staring at the door, until slowly, inexorably, he fell to his knees on the thick Oriental carpet beneath the desk. Evangeline was gone.
She meant it. She hated him. Any love, any desire she had felt had not been for him at all; it had been a gift from God, to a man who did not exist. Just a deception he had ruthlessly crafted, a man who could never be. Elliot felt an unfamiliar ache wrap itself around his heart, and then the sobs took hold, choking and sucking the air from his lungs. He was alone. Time stood still. Elliot remained on his knees, his arms still outstretched, until numbness set in and there were no more tears to shed.
“Evangeline,” he whispered into the stillness, “I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I love you.”
Whew! You deserve every bit of that pain, Elliot, you know you do. He will also deserve his eventual HEA, but his having experienced this makes it that much sweeter. And how fabulous is that?
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com