If you’ve read the last post in this series, you may be thinking: how in the heck can a scary villain also be boyfriend (or girlfriend) material? (Or, if you’re like me, you’re wondering where you can get your hands on such a story.)
In this post, I’m going to talk about two qualities that the villainous romantic hero of a horror romance must have in order to remain a viable love interest.
He must have understandable and sympathetic motivations.
The villain as romantic hero will do immoral things. He may have committed crimes, kidnapped people (often the love interest), or murdered people in the past, and he may do that over the course of the story as well. To prevent the reader—and the love interest—from hating him, the motivations behind his actions must be believable and sympathetic.
In my last post, I gave the book Max by Bey Deckard as an example of a horror romance (it can be classed as a psychosexual thriller, but it is also terrifying). As a reminder, the story follows Max, a psychopathic patient, and his counselor, Dr. Crane. Max’s motivation for doing unspeakable things to his love interest makes sense. He is a psychopath, so he is incapable of feeling remorse. The sympathetic aspect comes in when the reader understands that Max is a victim of his mental illness. He is incapable of feeling an emotional connection to someone and therefore love. The reader also learns that Max commits his terrible acts because without that chaos, his life is empty and devoid of excitement.
A villainous hero may also have been wronged in the past (by the love interest or an external antagonist) or forced into his current villainy in some way.
He must be attractive—at least in his love interest’s eyes.
It helps if he’s objectively attractive to minimize resistance to the reader believing he is. What is most crucial, however, is his love interest finding him irresistible. Maybe the love interest is scared of him, but that doesn’t stop him or her from being physically attracted to him. This attraction is what keeps the love interest from pulling away completely and what allows romantic attraction to grow—usually after he or she learns the hero’s motivations and sympathizes with them.
In Max, there is no denying that Max is attractive. Aside from being physically beautiful, he is charming and manipulative, and Dr. Crane believably finds him so. In fact, Crane is drawn to Max’s cold, amoral demeanor as well as his physical appearance.
I hope this has helped you to better understand one of the two types of horror romance. In my next post, I will discuss some horror romance tropes (and for those who don’t know what a trope is, I will define it.)