Romance and Me: Healing the Mad Hero

Filed in featured , Heather Snow , Romance and Me , The Latin Lover Posted on April 3, 2013 @ 12:00 pm 14 comments

Hi Everyone!

In the past week I have come across and read two historical romances featuring “mad” heroes which made me consider this, in my opinion, not too frequently explored trope.

In classic literature having a crazy wife/madwoman as a secondary character is quite common (like in Jane Eyre), but to have your hero or heroine suffering from a mental illness is quite difficult and challenging to pull off and not have them come off as unstable, crazy or plain scary.

But it seems that nowadays more and more historical romances explore the possibility of the hero producing some symptoms and episodes making him fear he is suffering from a mental illness, which is incapacitating him; and the heroine not giving up and trying to find a cure and heal him. I wasn’t aware that this was a recurring theme until I’ve read Sweet Madness by Heather Snow and Loving the Marquess by Suzanna Medeiros, which both featured the same, above detailed premise. I can happily recommend both of them, because they are beautifully written, captivating stories with well developed characters and simmering tension and passion.

I think there are a few reasons/rules for the emergence and new popularity of this premise. Firstly that it is featured in historical romances, where these bouts of madness can be explained by poisoning, ingestion of certain plants, etc. whereas in contemporary stories with the current state of medicine, madness would be treated with therapy, pills and any poisoning would be detected quite immediately, not leaving time for the mystery to unfold.

The second being that these heroes are not mad actually, they are not suffering from any mental illness, just experiencing the side effects of some hallucinogenic plants/poisons, which let’s be honest makes the reader believe in the hope for their happily ever after without the nagging fear of any illness rearing its ugly head sometime in the future.

Furthermore, the fact that back in those days knowledge of (mental) illnesses  as well as knowledge of the possible and successful treatments were quite foggy, it gives a certain creative freedom to authors to have their heroines assist the hero and uncover the reason for his illness.

So tell me,

Have you read some novels featuring mad heroes/heroines?

Were they historical stories or maybe contemporaries?

Why were they in your opinion successful?

How was the illness of the character resolved/explained?

Any favourite novels/series you would recommend to me with this trope?

Thank you! 😀

About Stella

Stella is a proud bookaholic and a self-taught multilinguist in training. Besides reading, her other great passions are travelling and baking. When she is not globetrotting she lives in sunny Budapest, where she loves to spend her free time preparing (and feasting on) delicious cookies or devouring equally yummy books. Her favourite genres are urban fantasy and romance and she couldn't live without her daily dose of sunshine. Besides being the Latin Lover on BLI Stella also blogs about books and a bookish life on Ex Libris.

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  • Caro The HEA Lover April 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I read 2 books featuring ‘mad’ hero and heroine.

    First was the Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. He’s believed to be mad but we later understand he has asperger’s syndrome. But at that time it was just considered madness.

    The other one was Annie’s Song by Catherine Anderson. The heroine is considered simple minded because no one understand what’s wrong with her.
    In both cases the hero/heroine doesn’t give up on their ‘mad’ love.
    I do enjoy this trope, but it’s not very often we can find a good one

  • miki April 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    i haven’t encountered this kind of character yet, not sure if i’m interested either

  • Melanie S. April 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I’ve read The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie too and I loved the hero <3 he's one of my most favorite heroes in romance and since then I'm intrigued with the idea of a mad hero. I haven't heard of the books you mentioned, but I'll definitively check them out!

    • Caro The HEA Lover April 3, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Ian rocks! <3 <3 It's THE book that made me discover and love Historical romances!

      • Melanie S. April 4, 2013 at 7:10 am

        For me it was the Bridgertons Series by Julia Quinn that revived my interest for historical romances, but no hero will ever reach Ian 😉

  • aurian April 3, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    O Stella, you really do need to read the Madness of Ian MacKenzie, and then of course all the rest of this series. They are all so different from your usual heroes, and all so good! The second book has an alcoholic who wants his wife back, and the third, no I won’t spoil that. Read them!

  • ki pha April 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    There is also The Dark Lady by Maire Claremont. Currently reading it and it’s great.

  • LSUReader April 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Of course Ian Mackenzie is at the top of the list.

    Also not to be forgotten is the intellectual and rakish Christian Langland, the Duke of Jerveaux, from Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm. When a stroke leaves Jerveaux incapable of speech, his family puts him in a mental institution. His survival is strongly linked to an aquaintance from his old life, a young Quaker woman named Maddy.

    • Caro The HEA Lover April 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      Oh I read that one!! I forgot about it! I really hated the heroine, but I loved the hero.

      • LSUReader April 4, 2013 at 7:41 pm

        Yep. Me, too.

        • Susan April 5, 2013 at 9:21 pm


  • Diane Sallans April 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I think I must have read some, but I’m not good at remembering names. I recently read Heather’s first book ‘Sweet Enemy’ and loved it so I know I’ll be reading her next books too.

  • Lori Meehan April 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie one of my favorite books that I read in 2012. I am in love with Ian.

  • Filia Oktarina April 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Ah yes, i think i read one book about mad heroes. It was The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie.

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