Jan 17 2013 8:10am

Most Tortured Hero in Romance Novels?

Tortured heroes, whose angst and anguish makes for some pretty compelling reading; Acheron, Zsadist, Allegretto, Dain, Heathcliff, Christian, Lord Ian MacKenzie are all among the most memorable heroes in romance fiction.

This is a tough one: Which tortured hero has the most tortured past?

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Patty B
1. Patty B
Acheron from Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter Series or Zsadist from JR Ward BDB series
Donna Kissam
2. The Cat Bastet
In descending order:

6. Heathcliff. Please. Nobody made you date your Borderline Personality Disorder-having half-sister.

5. Allegretto. It sucks to end up with the wrong heroine but I wouldn't call it torture. As far as his childhood goes, Melanthe looked after him, in her way. Plus if it's Kinsale, the answer is Samuel, hands down. Wasn't sure if I got write-in votes.

4. Christian. He's really processing, isn't he? And he works it all out. People have to learn how to negotiate their way through relationships, and he had a lot to unlearn, but he actually did really well once he learned to stand up to the various women in his life and figure out the difference between what you have always assumed is important and what actually is important.

3. Zsadist. Yes, I know, I know, but he's a supe, and we have different expectations for supes, and he endured for like 100 years, so I have to rank him below the next two.

2. Lord Ian MacKenzie. He's dealing with a whole disorder that no one understands, even him. The asylum. The abusive dad. I don't really care about the confusion over the dead courtesan, pales in comparison to the rest. He's a life-size character and his torture is life-size and era-specific.

1. Acheron. Dude. Supe? Yes, ultrasupe. But 11000 years of this shit? What I find most compelling about Acheron is that he is coded so heavily female. It's like reading about a little girl no one can be bothered to protect and that adults respond to with either jealousy or sexual desire that they dislike in themselves and blame her for, and because she's been sexualized so young even non-abusive adults find something discomfiting about her presence anyway, and she's told that this is all her fault because she's desirable. And she's told that being a desirable girl means she's oh, got so much power, with her wicked wicked wiles. That whole thing where Acheron spends his youth suffering all the burdens of his "powers" without yet having come into the portion of his powers that gives him actual agency? That is one helluva metaphor. And yes, boys get abused sexually, but we don't live in a culture that asks what Jerry Sandusky's victims were wearing or if they were such provocative, temping little boys that it's understandable grown men just couldn't resist them. There's that essay Laura Kinsale wrote back in the day about reader identification with the hero, and this is an extremely powerful example of that. For me, at least. I have a daughter, and this book was very difficult for me, and for my husband, as well.


Dain? Is not tortured. He is high-strung and easily overwrought, because he is so sensitive and emotional. Eventually Jessica, his therapist, helps him see this using proto-Jungian techniques and the best banter and kissing in all of historical romance.
Patty B
3. Lucy D
God, I LOVE a tortured hero. I have to agree Acheron's story was tough to read. I kept thinking there can't be more then I would remember some teaser from a prior novel. This was so painful to read because we already knew and loved Acheron before we had to watch his pain-filled past.
Patty B
4. Patty B
I'd also add Zarek from Sherrlyn Kenyon or V from JR Ward
Lori K
5. LoriK
I'd add Gabriel from Broken Wing by Judith James. Forced into prostetution as a child, cutting as a result and then having to struggle to fit into soceity is pretty tortured.
Anna Bowling
6. AnnaBowling
Seconding Gabriel from Broken Wing. I don't know what's worse, the trials he went through, or the self-punishement within his own mind. So glad he got his HEA.
Patty B
7. BeretBrenckman
If we can write in our pick I think Sherrilyn Kenyon would have been better off killing Darling Cruel from "Born in Silence." I've had nightmares about his treatment in that book.
Sarah Stultz
8. RVASarah
If you're going to mention Zsadist, you might as well include the whole BDB crew. Zsadist is the most tortured of them all, literally, but the other vamps have their baggage as well. V would be a close second, and Tohr in third.
Patty B
9. Willa Blair
Gabriel Ross Sullivan from Linnea Sinclair's Gabriels's Ghost (SFR). He's the best tortured hero in my book.
Patty B
10. Empathy
There are so many to choose from when it comes to tortured heros.
But I must say that Darling Cruel was one of the most suprising to read ("Born of Silence" Sherrilyn Kenyon). His treatment was almost intorleable, however the ending was sweet.
Acheron was troubling and shows anyone no matter who they are can be a victim.
Zadist in both Sherrilyn Kenyon and in J.R.Ward were both tortured characters from abusive backgrounds.
However I think my favourite tortured character is Nykarian, from "Born of Night". He faced not only cruelty from family, adoptive family but complete strangers until the point he was the monster they thought he was.
Patty B
11. pamelia
Sherrily Kenyon does have some pretty tortured-past heroes! When I re-read Acheron I sometimes can't do the first half of the book at all, but it's not like I'll ever forget what happened!
Kressley Cole does tortured heroes too. I'm thinking of Lachlain who was literally tortured for hundreds of years before he broke free and Lothaire who laid buried in the ground while his mother was assaulted and ripped to shreds.
Donna Kissam
12. The Cat Bastet
Oh god, how could I forget Gabriel from Broken Wing? With write-ins, should be my #2, just behind Acheron. I can't believe I remembered child sex trafficking victim Samuel from The Shadow and the Star and forgot child sex trafficking victim Gabriel. I mean Samuel was out of that by...eight or so? And Gabriel was in it for 22 years.
13. wsl0612
@Megan - can you give a little clue as to where some of these heroes can be found? I'm trying to figure out who Christian is and I may not be the only one in the dark :-)
Megan Frampton
14. MFrampton
@wslo612: Christian Grey, from Fifty Shades of Grey--then there's Sherrilyn Kenyon's Acheron, J.R. Ward's Zsadist, Laura Kinsale's Allegretto, Loretta Chase's Dain, Emily Bronte's Heathcliff, Christian, and Jennifer Ashley's Lord Ian MacKenzie
Zazoo D'Amato
My heart strings were tugged after I read Zareks book. Sherrilyn Kenyon Dance with the Devil. Acheron, also SK and Zsadist (although Zareks book was published way before Zsadists, they are similar tortured heros)
Patty B
16. Sara cox
I would say Acheron 's brother Styxx had it pretty rough. I HATED him when I read Acheron, but I ended up feeling just as sympathetic towards him as I did for Acheron after reading his story.
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