I recently devoured Tessa Bailey’s His Risk to Take. It was a romance with a lot of buzz from Heroes and Heartbreakers bloggers and readers alike. I tore through that book like there was no tomorrow. I even found myself falling for the hero Troy and mentally urging the heroine Ruby to quit being difficult and just love him. That’s all great. Totally normal reaction to a romance, right? We should want them to be together.
Here’s the thing: As the afterglow of book consumption faded, I wondered what on Earth was wrong with me. I shouldn’t have found the things Troy did sexy. I shouldn’t have been happy about it. He’s overbearing and bossy. But through the magic of Bailey’s writing I understood and even appreciated his incredibly overprotective actions.
While I certainly credit Bailey for giving enough of Troy’s point of view for me to understand why he sought control—his goals are always about her safety, and he does have reasons to believe she’s in danger—I think there’s more to it than that. I think we, as readers, can fall for characters who behave in ways we’d never accept in real life.
Part of that is the fantasy aspect. Maybe another part is our allowance for events and behaviors in novels to be larger than life. If your detective lover put a police tail on you against your wishes, you’d be pissed. If he ordered you to stay in one place instead of suggesting or—gasp—asking, that wouldn’t fly either.
We accept these things in novels, however. We see it often in paranormal romances. Once a mate goes into “mine” mode, it’s all about doing what he thinks is best. As readers, I think we connect with the animal instinct of protecting our spouses and families. Getting to see it played out on a grand scale heightens the experience.
We’ve talked before about our innate attraction to characters that kill to protect or honor their significant others. That echoes my sentiments here. Would I really want my husband to slaughter someone who harmed me a la Dorian in Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan series? No. There are huge consequences and I’m anti-murder. That said, there’s something powerful in seeing someone pushed to the limits in the name of love.
So when we read about characters who practically kidnap their lovers (think J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, Larissa Ione’s Demonica series and the like), it makes sense for us to get swept up in the emotion of it. The power of these heroes’ need to do anything and everything to protect the ones they love by doing the crazy, socially unacceptable things.
In the end the heroine always forgives them, they set new boundaries for their relationship and move on. As readers, we do the same thing. Even if it requires a double take after hitting ‘the end.’
Do the overprotective heroes sweep you off your feet or is it a turn off even in fiction?
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter — @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.