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Five Romance Heroes to Avoid

Sonal Panse,

My likability test for romance heroes is simple. If I met them in real life, would I be comfortable around them? Or would I run miles in the opposite direction?

Now I know being human is a complicated business, and being in love in addition can sometimes turn the weather turbulent. In fiction and in fact. Yes, the road to true bliss is not smooth.

That said, there are some on-coming crashes that you really wonder why people won't avoid.

The following five gentlemen, for instance:

1. Ahmed Ben Hassan, The Desert Sheik

Ahmed Ben Hassan from E.M. Hull's massive 1921 best-seller 'The Sheik' is the undisputed leader of an Arab tribe and a man with vengeance issues. His British father was abusive to his Spanish mother and therefore Ahmed hates the British with a passion.

When he sees our British heroine Diana Mayo in Biskra and “wants” her on first sight - “And what I want I take”, as he informs her later – he thinks it's killing two birds with one stone to kidnap her; he gets to satisfy both his lust and his long-simmering rage.

Like raping, imprisoning, and continuing to abuse a complete stranger is just punishment for his own father's misbehavior.

Yes, Ahmed has problems with clear thinking and logic too. Although, to be fair, he does show a deep understanding of himself towards the end -

I have been mad all my life, I think...

Diana Mayo, at the start, is a strong character with decided opinions - “Marriage for a woman means the end of independence, that is, marriage with a man who is a man, in spite of all that the most modern woman may say. I have never obeyed any one in my life; I do not wish to try the experiment.

She changes her mind after she is ravished repeatedly by the Masterly Mad Arab. Yes, E. M. Hull presents us with a chilling portrayal of the Stockholm Syndrome, way, way before the bank robbery happened in Stockholm. Diana tries to escape, is recaptured, and suddenly the light-bulb of love goes on.

Quite suddenly she knew—knew that she loved him, that she had loved him for a long time, even when she thought she hated him and when she had fled from him. She knew now why his face had haunted her in the little oasis at midday—that it was love calling to her subconsciously.

So she shifts through the mire of rape, bad temper, insensitive insolence, and brutal violence, and finds the gold in him. And lives as happily ever after as is possible with a personality of such deep depths. They go on to have two sons, one of whom, in the equally atrocious sequel 'Sons of the Sheik' continues the paternal legacy of rape.

2. Anthony Welles, Earl of Clare

Ever had romantic fantasies about a stalker, double your age, who was once obsessed with your mother and then, because you are the image of your mother, transferred that obsession onto you, even to the point of installing a spy in your house to report all your doings to him? Would you go into raptures about a man who doesn't think twice about wrecking your boat, letting your family think you are dead, raping you, beating you with a belt, and forcing you to live with him?

If yes, then Anthony Welles is your chap. This creep, from Catherine Coulter's 'Devil's Embrace', is a close literary cousin of our Desert Sheik; he too wins his woman by kidnapping and raping her. He has this unforgettable line - “How else will you learn a woman's pleasure if I do not touch you?

Cassandra Brougham, not the brightest of heroines, falls for it of course. Eventually. After repeated emotional and physical abuse that would leave anyone else with permanent suicidal trauma.