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Dark Romances

 
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1264

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 7:16 am    Post subject: Dark Romances Reply with quote

From time to time I see a comment saying a book is dark (or darker than usual) and wondered that if we had a special titles list for this, something like the opposite of favorite funnies, what books or authors would be on that list. I'm guessing it would include slightly more than a tortured leading character for instance because of book tone, atmosphere, a less happy HEA than usual?

So I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts on what your definition of a dark romance or a list of qualities might be, and what books and/or authors you would put in such a category. Obviously I'm not as familiar with this kind of book since dark to me was Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale or some scenes in various books like Jamie's torture in Outlander, and I'm curious what others think.
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pwm in mi



Joined: 19 Oct 2011
Posts: 368

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inez Kelly wrote a book called Sweet as Sin a few years back, and the hero was pretty tortured.

JR Ward 's Black Dagger Brotherhood's Zadist would be on the list.

Hoyt's To Beguile a Beast- was pretty dark and disfugured for good measure. Actually all the books from that series, the heroes are dark and tortured.

That's off my sleep deprived head:)
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1264

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I looked at dark romance lists on GoodReads and saw that many paranormals came up. I had also been thinking of the word "angsty" and found there is a list called "Intense and Angsty" that had some Lisa Kleypas books, Judith McNaught, Meredith Duran, and even Gone with the Wind! Obviously dark is a relative term, and angsty books may stand on their own perhaps, but intense and angsty together seemed to generate a more varied list. I can see Judith McNaught being there but was surprised at Lisa Kleypas. Any thoughts?
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erika



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 508

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've read a big bunch.
here's a few I can remember-

all books by Eve Rabi
Pieces of Autumn by Mara Black
High Stakes by Vanessa Waltz
Adriana Noir's SKAL's series
Jamie Begley's Last Rider series
Twist Me by Anna Zaire
Sempre series by JM Darhower
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1406

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would agree that many paranormal romances are dark. Many deal with worlds full of evil or monsters of one sort or another, including heroes & heroines with natures that would be described as monstrous before they got reworked to be able to be a romance h or h. Just as an example, there is a paranormal historical series called "Darkest London".
Generalizing slightly from the above, the dark label could be applied to any story set in a very dark/evil world or centered on fighting overwhelming evil.
I would also apply the dark label to some RS.
A seriously tortured h or h also merits a dark label.
A couple books by Jeannie Lin that I've read are definitely not light, but I don't think I'd quite call them dark--maybe tense or intense? The story setup was such that I really wondered almost to the end how the h/h could possibly reach a HEA ending.
Darkness is more a matter of tone than anything else. The same subject matter can be written to be grim, serious, or light. Many romances for which I have recorded high humor scores include humor on the foundation of a very serious plot. Another author can build something much darker on the same foundation.
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Eggletina



Joined: 06 Jul 2010
Posts: 441

PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
Darkness is more a matter of tone than anything else.


Yes and no. I think tone is part of it, but I also think it's more a matter of how dark themes are being explored within the relationship.

For me, a dark romance has a lot in common with Gothics and Dark Romanticism (many of which end tragically). The trick is being able to pull off a HEA while still exploring the darker side of human behavior, morality and beliefs.

Gaffney's To Have and to Hold and Kinsale's My Sweet Folly are two examples that do this within Romance.
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CharlotteJ



Joined: 30 Jul 2010
Posts: 90

PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darkest romance I remember was on a soap opera.

Luke and Laura of "General Hospital" 1980.

Luke was a 35-year-old hitman working for the mob and running a disco. Laura was an 18 year-old-married college girl who worked at the disco. He falls head over heels for her. Then on the night he finds out the mob has him marked for death, he gets drunk and rapes Laura.

Laura freaks out, has a nervous breakdown. Luke thinks his punishment for the rape should be his own death so he basically arranges a suicide mission for himself. Laura stops it. She then gets caught up in the mob's plans and to save her from getting killed, Luke agrees to marry the head mobster's daughter.

He then comes up with a plan to bring down the mob and when he almost drowns [Laura's husband finds out about the rape and knocks him into the river], Laura rescues him and they go for a "Summer On The Run".

Pretty intense for 1980 daytime.
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CarolineAAR



Joined: 09 May 2013
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The "Tormented Heroines" and "Tortured Heroes" lists do not precisely capture this, but they may have significant overlap.

Tormented heroines: http://likesbooks.com/torment.html
Tortured heroes: http://likesbooks.com/torture.html
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1264

PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eggletina wrote:
Mark wrote:
Darkness is more a matter of tone than anything else.


Yes and no. I think tone is part of it, but I also think it's more a matter of how dark themes are being explored within the relationship.

For me, a dark romance has a lot in common with Gothics and Dark Romanticism (many of which end tragically). The trick is being able to pull off a HEA while still exploring the darker side of human behavior, morality and beliefs.

Gaffney's To Have and to Hold and Kinsale's My Sweet Folly are two examples that do this within Romance.


For a "dark" romance, I think Eggletina is hitting what I was trying to get at in my original post when she said, "dark themes are being explored within the relationship" and "exploring the darker side of human behavior, morality and beliefs."

And though it may seem like splitting semantic hairs, I'm coming to think that a "darker" romance, with the words "than usual" implied, may refer more to elements of the story than to the story as a whole, or to an individual character, tortured or otherwise.

Take Ian MacKenzie, for instance, who is listed as a tortured hero; while there is tension around him certainly, I don't think of that book as necessarily dark. Same thing with Dain in Lord of Scoundrels; the heroine keeps that book from being dark, at least to me. And though the setup of the story and the tone in His Secondhand Wife definitely has somber moments, somber seems a better word to me than dark for that book.

Now to argue the other side, Adrian in At Your Pleasure made the entire reading of that book seem dark to me because his presence was pervasive throughout the story with little if any relief.

Of course there may be individual reader levels of tolerance for what is considered dark, but Mark's comment on paranormals being dark because of evil and monstrous characters, and Eggletina's dark side of humanity and morality points seem to work for me. I would also go for Mark's "tone" as long as it is pervasive and unrelieved within the book. A single troubled character or event doesn't fit for me, at least at this point. What am I missing here?
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maryskl



Joined: 25 Apr 2009
Posts: 356
Location: Alabama

PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eliza wrote:
Eggletina wrote:
Mark wrote:
Darkness is more a matter of tone than anything else.


Yes and no. I think tone is part of it, but I also think it's more a matter of how dark themes are being explored within the relationship.

For me, a dark romance has a lot in common with Gothics and Dark Romanticism (many of which end tragically). The trick is being able to pull off a HEA while still exploring the darker side of human behavior, morality and beliefs.

Gaffney's To Have and to Hold and Kinsale's My Sweet Folly are two examples that do this within Romance.


For a "dark" romance, I think Eggletina is hitting what I was trying to get at in my original post when she said, "dark themes are being explored within the relationship" and "exploring the darker side of human behavior, morality and beliefs."

And though it may seem like splitting semantic hairs, I'm coming to think that a "darker" romance, with the words "than usual" implied, may refer more to elements of the story than to the story as a whole, or to an individual character, tortured or otherwise.

Take Ian MacKenzie, for instance, who is listed as a tortured hero; while there is tension around him certainly, I don't think of that book as necessarily dark. Same thing with Dain in Lord of Scoundrels; the heroine keeps that book from being dark, at least to me. And though the setup of the story and the tone in His Secondhand Wife definitely has somber moments, somber seems a better word to me than dark for that book.

Now to argue the other side, Adrian in At Your Pleasure made the entire reading of that book seem dark to me because his presence was pervasive throughout the story with little if any relief.

Of course there may be individual reader levels of tolerance for what is considered dark, but Mark's comment on paranormals being dark because of evil and monstrous characters, and Eggletina's dark side of humanity and morality points seem to work for me. I would also go for Mark's "tone" as long as it is pervasive and unrelieved within the book. A single troubled character or event doesn't fit for me, at least at this point. What am I missing here?


I would characterized Anne Stuart's To Love a Dark Lord as a dark romance.
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1088
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was going to suggest Anne Stuart, period. I've read quite a few of her books and most of them, to me at least, are fairly dark in tone. I'm thinking particularly of the Ice series right now. It's generally the hero who walks on the darker side, but that sets the tone for the books. The heroine is usually from the normal world, but forced onto the dark side, so you get that fish-out-of-water thing happening.

Another that a friend of mine certainly found far too dark for her tastes, but which I enjoyed - different strokes - is Nora Roberts' Divine Evil. Neither lead is walking on the dark side, but the plot definitely does.

Linda Howard would be another who tends to the dark side in some of her work.

Something to note is that all the darker books I'm coming up with are thrillers/romantic suspense. Pretty much the rest of what I've got on my shelves veers away from the dark at a quick glance. Which says something about my tastes in reading matter, I guess.

Elizabeth
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2510

PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

IMO, some of the darkest romances are some of the trads of Mary Balogh, Dancing with Clara and Tempting Harriet in particular. While many of the trads have one, the HEA seems an impossibility when the events preceding it are considered; those events are also "dark."
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1264

PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elizabeth Rolls wrote:
Linda Howard would be another who tends to the dark side in some of her work.


I agree. Particularly her books in more recent times have become darker, at least IMO. I prefer her earlier works even though there were dark elements then of course, but it seems to me her later books have gotten even darker--at least to me.

Quote:
Something to note is that all the darker books I'm coming up with are thrillers/romantic suspense. Pretty much the rest of what I've got on my shelves veers away from the dark at a quick glance. Which says something about my tastes in reading matter, I guess.


I agree here too, especially when you look at my book shelves as well. Thrillers and murder mysteries are not to my taste, I guess, although dark events or tortured heroes and the like are to be expected in some books in order for there to be an arc to the story.
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