Mar 27 2011 11:00am

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Smokin’: Romantic Suspense Recommendations

Crime SceneRevenge plots in romances never fail to deliver incredibly emotional reads. The hero or heroine’s raison d’être is inherently fueled by passion: Passion for justice, steeped in fury and righteous wrath with all these huge emotions already in play on page one, often before the protagonists even meet.

The reader knows these characters have already endured great tragedy and more is on the way because vengeance is guaranteed to end in tragedy for someone. This isn’t going to be some lightweight read. The story will have some heft to it.

The reason for revenge is always larger than life; the impetus is frequently a horrific crime, never avenged, against either the hero or heroine themselves or their family. The appeal of the revenge character is that at some point while attempting to reach his goal, the hero/heroine is forced to confront and identify what he really wants and judge whether the goal is truly a just one.

Oftentimes, the character spends years planning and plotting and sacrificing to force the object of their revenge to atone for the wrong committed. When a heroine makes a choice that is easy, there is no conflict. But when she is forced to choose between what she has hungered for and the well-being of another, the emotional punch of the story is intense.

The protagonist uses the unwanted love interest to gain contact with the object of their revenge, frequently under pretense and lies. The revenge characters are emotionally stunted, consumed by the need for revenge, unable to open themselves to new relationships, because they are so caught up in their fervor for vengeance.

The author ups the stakes even more when the character falls in love with the person they are using to seek revenge. Their choices become impossible. Suddenly, their imperative doesn’t seem right or moral. The emotional impact of having to chose between vengeance and love in an unimaginable situation sets up incredible suffering.

And when the revenge goes terribly wrong, all those heightened tension levels can propel the sex from intense to off the charts.

Ice Storm by Anne StuartIn Anne Stuart’s Ice Storm, Isobel shot her lover (she discovers he is a terrorist) seventeen years earlier because he betrayed her and left her for dead. The act changed her forever. Now she’s the head of a covert mercenary organization and a cold assassin who is at the edge of breaking when Killian, her presumed dead lover, appears back in her life—and it’s her unfortunate responsibility to keep him alive. Isobel wants revenge for the way he used her all those years ago and Killian wants revenge because she shot him. Both are damaged almost beyond redemption. So the emotional conflict when they have sex for the first time is crazy intense. They’ve lied, cheated, killed in the line of duty, but in the end each must make a choice between love and vengeance.

Wild Hawk by Justine DareIn Justine Dare’s Wild Hawk, Jason Hawk is the estranged bastard son of Aaron Hawk. Jason blames his father for his mother’s death, but his father dies before he can exact his revenge on the old man. So he chooses to put his plan in motion against the old man’s widow. He plots to use Aaron’s ‘assistant’ (at first Jason believes she was his mistress) Kendall to help him. Kendall loved Aaron Hawk like a father and wants Jason to know how wonderful he was.

But unbeknownst to Kendall, Jason is mining her for information about Aaron’s beloved company so he can enact his revenge through financial means. Jason is initially able to convince himself that his attempt to seduce Kendall is all in the name of the plan, but when he is awed and shaken by the sex, he acknowledges deep down that he’s fallen into his own trap. With Kendall is in danger, his plan for revenge collides with his newly-discovered love, and Jason has to choose between his past and his future.

No doubt about it. Revenge makes for meaty, gut-wrenching fiction and smokin’ hot romance.


P.S. Some other great books that feature revenge:

Carolyn Jewel’s My Immortal Assassin

Cherry Adair’s In Too Deep

Brenda Novak’s Stop Me


Crime scene image courtesy of Flawka via Flickr


Lisa Hughey is an avid romance reader and an aspiring author. She has several projects under submission with publishers and spends her time blogging at Pens Fatales and tweeting.

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Donna Cummings
1. Donna Cummings
You've just described one of my favorite romance plots! I love seeing the characters overcome this, because it involves such deep emotions and impossible choices.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I love revenge plots, too, especially if the revenger realizes just what impact his/her revenge will have. My favorite revenge book is another Anne Stuart, A Rose At Midnight.
Lisa Hughey
3. LisaHughey
@Donna Yes! I love it when the author puts the character into a choice that is going to hurt either way. :)

@Megan Although I focused on contemps for this post, I found it really interesting that Anne Stuart also wrote the historical with the heroine falling in love the object of her revenge. She is soo good at those heroes who are really BAD. :)
Alie V
4. ophelial
I love this sub-plot too. Can't wait to try some of your recs!
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