Another question prompted by A Discovery of Witches
: what the hell happened to Mr. Redemption romances? (I'm sure there's an official term, but I don't know it.)
See, my first instinct as to why Harkness wrote the romance as she did was that she was imitating “traditional” romances from Ye Oldene Tymes, when manly men threatened to beat the hell out of you for sassing them and it showed how totally hot and manly they were. Well, perhaps there were romances like that… but the famous cultural touchstone ones? The ones sometimes actually referenced
in books like Twilight
and ADOW? Hell no.
In 1803, Mr. Darcy, to make up for being snobby and rude about country people and advising his friend not to propose to a woman who seemed not that into him, had to admit his wrongs and reform his manners, learn to associate with people working in – gasp! – trade and like it
, and oh, pay a ginormous sum of money to a guy who once tried to ruin his little sister’s entire life, in secret and with no expectation of ever being thanked by the person he wanted to spare from hardship by this action. (Mr. Collins, for being unaware that he was both condescending and bootlicking and thus incapable of reform, was firmly rejected as a romantic prospect for a heroine.) In 1847, Mr. Rochester, to make up for the rather larger sins of being a total jackass , keeping his wife locked in the attic for years after possibly driving her insane by being a jackass, and jackassishly attempting to marry a woman without telling her about his still-living first wife, had to not just admit his wrongs and reform his manners, but also to lose some of his public standing (the whole “bigamy revealed in public” incident can’t have been a positive development), his house and all his worldly goods, his hand, and his eyesight.
The closest match to the Edward Cullen/Matthew Clairmont types would be Heathcliff (also 1847), but did he live happily ever after with Catherine? No he did not! For the very large sins of being possibly psychopathic and definitely an abusive husband and puppy-killer, he had to live with the woman he obsessed over marrying someone else and then dying and everyone hating him, and then he died too. No successful romance there, unless it’s as ghosts, or possibly corpses decomposing together. Which is… a very non-standard happy ending, to say the least.
These classic romantic leads who did terrible things had to pay, and they had to reform if they had any chance at getting together with the heroine. And note that the terrible things were – Heathcliff’s terrible things included! – rather milder than serially assaulting and/or murdering countless people for food over the centuries, manslaughtering one girlfriend while trying to rage-kill someone else, and stalking and assaulting a random woman so viciously that she killed herself. Heathcliff’s comparatively small felony rap sheet destroyed his chances of ever hooking up with Catherine. (Edward and Bella must have missed that part…) Mr. Darcy never so much as slapped Wickham with a glove, never mind threatening Elizabeth, and he still had to rethink his ideas about class (well, a bit anyway) and fork over thousands of pounds.
But Edward Cullen can admit to becoming a serial killer a few decades back and to wanting to rip Bella’s throat out, and Matthew can broodily murder his way through the centuries, stalk and assault women, and threaten Diana every hour on the hour, and not only do the heroines not mind, but their concerned friends and relatives are told in no uncertain terms to shut up because it’s just rude to ruin the honeymoon glow with little things like pointing out domestic violence. There’s no reformation either.
Oh, I suppose you should also count Mr. B of Pamela
. A bit lacking in the brooding department, but he did kidnap her and try
to rape her. He did reform, but wasn’t particularly punished that I recall, and she happily married him in the end. But still. He FAILED to rape Pamela, multiple times, and never murdered anybody. Even Mr. B
would probably say that Matthew Clairmont is a bit, well, ungentlemanly
So what gives? Is this some sort of Sequel Escalation
/ So Last Season
issue, where merely snarling and looming and killing puppies has been done too often to make a properly Dark PastTM
and it now takes stalking and murder get anyone’s attention? Or is there something else going on?