Five Romance Heroes to Avoid
3. Clayton Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore
Clayton Westmoreland, from 'Whitney, My Love' by Judith McNaught, has only one rape scene and one beating scene, but he has already made himself loathsome before we come to these. I have never developed a tendresse for Masterly Men, particularly those that go behind your back to get what they want, which, however unfavorable to you, is of course for Your Own Good, you just don't know it Yet, since you're Only a Woman.
So Clayton sees Whitney Stone, wants her, and sets out to get her. No, not by romancing her, but by, for all practical purposes, buying her from her nearly bankrupt father for a very large sum of money. The good Papa, with all his debts to pay, is not in a position to return the money and is not inclined to do so either, so, of course, by Romance Book Logic, Whitney has to marry Clayton.
She is not pleased, because she had taken an instant dislike to him from the moment she set eyes on him and she loves Another.
Clayton masterfully brushes aside these two issues. What Clayton wants, Clayton gets. And when Clayton encounters obstacles, he gets evil-tempered and abusive.
Clayton is also a blundering sucker for Massive Misunderstandings and a Believer in the Worst.
Whitney, to her credit, is not a door-mat. She even sees the light at one point - “He was insane! Insane! And she would be too, if she stayed with him.” - but true love keeps clouding her brain and winning over true insight.
It ends as expected. Clayton is forgiven All and Taken Back.
4. Prince Milaslávski
Prince Milaslávski - Gritzko, to his friends, and he does, amazingly enough, seem to have a number of them - is the main charmer from 'His Hour' by Elinor Glyn. He is a very rich Russian aristocrat, Cossack on his mother's side, it is explained, and this is the reason “ the blood is all rather wild”.
Gritzko is fierce, tempestuous, unmindful of personal boundaries, and, we are told, has the 'rippling spontaneous gaiety of a child'. When he sees two goats butting heads in the road, he stops to watch and explains, “I like any fight.”
He is also in the habit of dropping racist remarks. When the heroine Tamara first meets him in the Egyptian desert and they encounter a wedding party, he comments - “They have escorted the bride. What pleasure to raise a veil and see a black face! But each one to his taste.” On another occasion, referring to the Khedive's ball that they both attended, he says to Tamara - “Did you see the harem ladies peeping from their cage? They looked fat and ugly enough to be wisely kept there... the poor Khedive!— Think of his having to wade through all that fat mass to find one pretty one!”
Tamara finds him offensive. He is impressed by her though. “Ah, you are not so stupid as I thought!” he tells her.
She starts to admire him, against her will, after other people tell her how fascinating and dauntless he is, even though she herself – and the reader – never see anything other than excruciating bad manners. But it's a romance and when you are a heroine in a romance, you have to fall in love with the hero. And so what if his tempestuous nature makes him kidnap you, attempt to rape you, pretend he has raped you after you fainted during the struggle, and let you go on thinking you have been horribly violated while you were senseless? After that - to avoid the scandal of a possible pregnancy – Tamara agrees to marry him. On the marriage night, All Is Revealed. He DIDN'T rape her. He only pretended he did, because he wanted her to love him however vile he was. Yes. The heroine is relieved. And so should you be. All is well that ends well.
Except perhaps the Russian Revolution just around the corner. Oh good, I thought, that will take care of him. He will get his just desserts. But possibly not. The insufferable thrive. Gritzko will probably escape to Paris with his new doormat wife, with his entire fortune intact.