Regret is one of those emotions that can eat a person up. I believe it’s more powerful than anger, I think it’s the fuel of bitterness, I see it as the fire of fury. It’s incredibly powerful and in fiction, done right, it’s absolutely transformative.
I don't think regret comes from making a mistake, from committing an error in action or judgment. I don’t think regret comes when we do what we think is right, and later find out was wrong. Or didn’t turn out like we’d hoped.
That’s hard, for sure, but I don't think that's the sort of regret that can eat a person up.
I think true, soul-crunching regret gets born in that moment when you knew you had a choice, when you knew there was a thing you should and could do, and you didn’t do it. It comes from those moments when you do something you knew very well you oughtn’t have done. Sometimes regrets comes from not making the gut-level choice, however inconvenient it was. Sometimes regret flows from knowing we didn’t give it our all, that we didn’t do our best.
But it’s that gut-level thing that gives true regret it’s power. Because, whatever excuses we make to the world, in our deep-floating hearts, we know the truth.
It’s the human condition, an existential experience—we’ve all been there. For better or worse, big or small, most of us are going to go back there, over and over again.
And that’s why it has such strong resonance in fiction. And I think romances often do it the best.
In many romances, the heroes, men and women, struggle with deep regrets. For an lot of tortured heroes, regret forms a kind of hardened kernel inside their heart, around which they’ve constructed the shell of a life.
But in romance, there are do-overs. And it usually comes in the form doing the right thing in the service of another person.
In my current release Defiant (Pocket Books) the hero has a twisted band of regret and fury that runs through his core. It’s shaped every action he’s taken for twenty years. All but one, and that one choice has lead him down a tortured path of twisted loyalties. As a trusted and top lieutenant to King John—yes, that King John—his life is constructed around doing questionable things for very good reasons.
Until he meets the heroine.
Now all the questions are getting answered, and he has to decide if living a life to fix the unfixable is more important than living a life to be the best he can be. And to, coincidentally, save the heroine’s rather attractive ass. :-)
Romance is about the do-over. And that, I think, is part of why we love it so.
So, what are some fabulous regret-fueled protagonists, and what is torturing them? (If it’d be a spoiler, please don’t be terribly specific.) And how do they get though it, to be transformed?
About the blogger: Kris Kennedy writes sexy, adventure-filled medieval romances for Pocket Books. Visit her website ( http://www.kriskennedy.net/) and sign-up for the newsletter, read exclusive excerpts, or just drop Kris a line saying Hi!
[Author photo by Isabel Gates, Images by Isabel]