Paint it Dark.

Dark heroes. Dark heroines. Dark Paranormal. Dark Fantasy. Dark. Darker. Darkest. Darkness. And exactly how dark is dark?

Over the next few weeks, I am going to spend some time discussing the dark side of romance fiction. I have read several novels recently that are touted as a dark thrillers or dark fantasy romance, but they do not seem all that dark to me.

So, my question for the blog today is, how dark is dark? And how dark can a hero or heroine be before he or she crossess over into unsympathetic or hard-to-identify-with territory?

I am currently finishing up the last few chapters of a historical occult detective manuscript with romantic/erotic elements titled THE SEDUCTION OF PHAETON BLACK. Here is an excerpt from the synopsis so you can get a feel for some of Phaeton’s darker personality traits:

The year is 1889, and Queen Victoria, exemplum of decency and sobriety, is in her fifty-second year of reign. Occult detective Phaeton Black, on the other hand, couldn’t be less interested in clean-living. He has recently taken up residence in the basement flat of London’s most notorious brothel. A dedicated libertine with an aptitude for absinthe drinking, he wrestles with a variety of demons both real and self-inflicted. Gifted with abilities to communicate with demons and other creatures of the underworld, he has fairly or unfairly, been linked to Scotland Yard’s failure to solve the Whitechapel murders. Now, he is offered a second chance to redeem himself. A mysterious fiend, some kind of beast or vampire is stalking the Strand. After a glass or two of absinthe and a consult with the green fairy, he agrees to take on the case.

I have only just begun to enter Phaeton in RWA chapter contests and have had the good fortune to final recently. The mansucript went to an editor at NAL. Here are some of her comments:

“Phaeton and America are an intriguing pair, and their initial sex scene is steamy. I do think that more time could be dedicated to Phaeton’s thought processes in the opening pages–his actions reflect his womanizing habits, but the reader also needs to see his charm so that he really comes across as a strong hero. We want to think, “yes, he’s a womanizer, but who wouldn’t want to have him?”

Now, I know that her comments (above) are meant to help me. I know this because she spent a great deal of time and effort writing some detailed feed back. But is Phaeton really that unlikeable? And how many hints must I reveal in the opening chapters? Phaeton is a complex dark hero and part of his charm comes from the shadow side, his bad boy personna.

So I proceed cautiously. On two separate occasions I have worked on rewrites for chapter one and added a sentence or two here and there that hint at the better angels of his nature.  But I’m not sure. Am I caving too early on this? At times like this, when I add new sentences or paragraphs that I am not sure about, I color the words red, like this. And the revisions will remain that way, until I am convinced I have made an improvement in the manuscript. Not until then, do they get changed back to black.

The last time I checked chapter one, they were still red.

G. Jillian Stone

There are fields in time that burn with desire. Meet me there.

Jillian is currently finishing the second book in The Yard Men Series. Set in late Victorian London, Scotland Yard detectives have never been as wickedly sexy or as brilliantly clever. To read more about her latest work in progress, THE SEDUCTION OF PHAETON BLACK, please drop by her website:


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