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! 😀