Villains. They’re the characters we love to hate in suspense, sci-fi, or mysteries. But occasionally, they appear in a romance and mess up things spectacularly for our heroes and heroines. They test our patience. They test our willingness to forgive. They test our ability to throw a book across a room. And yet, we recognize that they play a pivotal role in the uniting of our main couple, even if they cause a ton of grief in the process.
Romance villains come in many forms. Here are six types you may recognize:
Of course, the ex-boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, wife, or husband are always lingering about, ready to complicate the next relationship for our hero or heroine. Think Cal in Titanic or the poor Mrs. Rochester in Jane Eyre (was she even an ex? I don’t think so). Even though they’ve proven themselves to be wrong for our characters, they still carry a flame for them, and given the right fuel, that flame can turn into a wildfire.
For Christian Romance: Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter, my own This Wandering Heart and Glory Falls
The Family Member:
Maybe they mean well. Maybe they don’t. Either way, family members can wreak havoc for a sweet, young couple trying to make it work. Think of Allie’s parents in The Notebook, Ariel’s anti-dancing preacher-father in Footloose, or Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice (he was like a brother to Mr. Darcy, remember?). Then there’s Paul in Redeeming Love. No character makes me scream into my pillow like Michael Hosea’s wayward brother-in-law, who says and does everything awful in Francine Rivers’ beloved book.
For Christian Romance: Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac, Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck, Honeysuckle Dreams by Denise Hunter, A Heart Revealed by Josi Kilpack
My favorite type of villain. In every story I write, I always want to toss one of these into the mix. Wuthering Heights isn’t so much a romance as a tragedy, but Heathcliff is the ultimate stalker due to his crazy obsession with Catherine. Then there’s everyone’s favorite misogynist, Gaston. He’s positively primeval!
For Christian Romance: Wildflower Road by me, To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer
Friends are the best…until they’re not. Some villains emerge from our characters’ inner circle. They may use the pretense of knowing what’s best for our hero or heroine, but often they are fueled by jealousy, pride, or power. Picture Regina George from Mean Girls, Sharpay Evans from High School Musical (totally a romance in my opinion!), Lucy from 13 Going on 30.
For Christian Romance: Her One and Only by Becky Wade (Don’t get mad, but Corbin was kind of villainy by urging Gray into that bet)
There’s nothing worse than having to choose between a paycheck and freedom from a villain. When the bad guy works with or above our characters, they find themselves trapped. See Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada or literally ANYONE who works with Andi or Ben in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.
For Christian Fiction: The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof, Redeeming Love (again) by Francine Rivers, “On Angel Wings” by me in the Love’s Pure Light Collection, A Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham (again, that whole bet thing)
The Politician/Person in Power:
Prince Humperdink or Sheriff of Nottingham, anyone? Power certainly does corrupt, even in the most beautiful of love stories. Place that power in a small town with fewer people to keep him/her in check, and the villain’s hold over the character increases. Personally, I love love love adding a corrupt politician into my stories, perhaps because it’s sadly realistic.
For Christian Fiction: To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer, Falling like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter, Wildflower Road and Aspen Crossroads by me, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (look, that book had a lot of villains, okay?)
Your Turn: Who did I miss? Who are the best-written villains on stage, screen, and paper? *One commenter will win an If Lost, Return to Library T-shirt from The Love Wander Read Shop!
*Size to be chosen by winner. Must have a US mailing address to be eligible to win.