For everyone who enjoyed the hugely successful rom-com Pretty Woman, with the unlikely couple of hooker Vivian (Julia Roberts) and business big-shot Edward (Richard Gere), there’s one scene above all we seem to remember. It’s when dolled up Vivian goes on a shopping spree along glitzy Rodeo drive and returns, carrying all her designer bags, to the shop that had snubbed her the day before. (The day before she had been dressed in her hooker street gear!) She tells the snooty sales girl that refused to serve her that she had made a “big mistake – you work on commission, don’t you”, before announcing that she “has to go do more shopping now”. And the reason we love it is because…well read on and enjoy best selling romance author Harriet Schultz’ insights on why adding revenge to romance is a sure-fire way to create a page turner. Take it away, Harriet:
“…if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”- The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare
When wronged, who hasn’t craved the satisfaction that revenge can bring? The target could be a boyfriend whose betrayal broke your heart, those mean girls who made your life miserable, or the villain who stole something you value — a material object, something more abstract such as honor, or even the life of a loved one. The list of triggers that might set off the need for vengeance is endless.
Revenge is a very human emotion, a dark and powerful one, yet one that’s hard to resist. It’s the rare person who hasn’t yearned to retaliate for a wrong at some point. In real life, however, getting back at someone isn’t always wise or do-able, so as readers and writers we derive vicarious pleasure when fictional characters do the deed for us. Vengeance is a popular theme in romance novels and crosses all subgenres from historicals to the paranormal, contemporary chick lit and, of course, suspense.
A quick Amazon search for “romance” and “revenge” results in more than one thousand titles. (I was happy to find my newest, A Legacy of Revenge, among the first fifteen on this list). Delve further and Google comes up with more than two million hits for “revenge in romance novels.” The titles of romance novels with a revenge theme show that payback can take many forms and may be delivered by a disparate group of characters — billionaires, banshees, jocks, vampires, homecoming queens, rock chicks and even one middle-aged woman.
The plots and people who inhabit the pages of these books are as wide-ranging and original as writers’ imaginations can make them, but all feature at least one protagonist with an overwhelming desire to retaliate for a real or perceived wrong. What is it that makes revenge such a satisfying plot device? It’s certainly not a new one. The Bible is filled with “an eye for and eye” tales of revenge, it was a favorite of Shakespeare’s and there would have been no Count of Monte Cristo without it. Country music’s queen of revenge songs, Miranda Lambert, says people connect with her lyrics because “these songs make you feel emotion. They are just so passionate.” And we all know that a romance novel without passion is a book that will not be read.
Revenge snakes its way through both of my romantic suspense novels, but it doesn’t pit the hero and heroine against each other. Instead they’re united in a quest to discover why the heroine’s husband — the hero’s best friend — was murdered and to avenge the killing. The smoking hot (of course) former womanizer’s feelings for the heroine run deep and our hero is equally determined to win her heart. They believe that the vendetta is over at the end of book one, but it comes back to haunt them in the sequel. As Daniel Craig (aka James Bond) says, “revenge doesn’t stop.”
Bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick) knows something about the appeal of revenge in romance novels. “When I use revenge as a motive for a hero or a heroine it is always all about family and responsibility to others — never personal. There is nothing noble, heroic or romantic about seeking revenge for yourself. But to avenge a deep wrong done to someone in your family or to someone you love? Ah, that is another story — one I can write.”
The uncertainty about if, how and when the revenge will take place, whether it will be successful, and the ultimate happiness of our hero and heroine are what make these romances so deliciously engaging and keep us turning the pages late into the night.
Harriet Schultz is the author of the Amazon bestselling contemporary romantic suspense novels, LEGACY OF THE HIGHLANDS and A LEGACY OF REVENGE. The third book in the series, LEGACY OF LOVE, will be published this summer. She is an award-winning journalist whose career began at TIME magazine. Harriet loves to travel and is happy that something she enjoys adds realism to the locations of her books.
My thanks to Harriet for gracing my blog and sharing her insights on romance and revenge. Harriet welcomes reader questions and you may connect with her via:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @HarrietSchultz Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Author.HarrietSchultz Blog: www.harrietschultz.blogspot.com