Can Antagonists be Redeemed? What Does Historical Romance Author Amy Quinton Think?

Thanks, everyone, for joining me on Tami Lund’s Mad May Blog. And thank you, Tami, for having me here. I am so happy to be celebrating the release of my first book, What the Duke Wants, a fun, new regency romance, on your site. And we’ll have more about the book later…

What the Duke Wants

…But for now, I’m talking… villains. A story is just plain boring without them. You might as well watch paint dry or grass grow rather than read a book without at least one good villain.

Villains come in all shapes and sizes – from hulking brutes who threaten our well-being… or foul weather that destroys our best laid plans… to the little pestering voice inside our head that feeds on our deepest fears.

But for the purposes of this post, let’s talk about the villains who are people in our stories. The question inquiring minds want to know is:

Do villains deserve redemption?

Well, let me say right off… Yes, I believe they do. To a point.

I do think there is a line a villain can cross at which time they become completely irredeemable. Antagonist Post Pic
Absolutely. It isn’t black and white to me, but many shades of grey. Does a man who has spent his life robbing and swindling the poor deserve a chance at redemption when he sees the error of his ways?

Or say two people are caught stealing. One comes from an impoverished family and steals food to eat. The other comes from wealth and steals food just to slake their desire to take from others. Is one ‘villain’ more deserving of redemption than the other? Sure. Are both even truly villains? Probably not.

Of course, life is rarely as simple as all that. Many factors come in to play: upbringing, environmental factors, physiological & psychological problems, extent of the ‘damage’ inflicted… I could go on… but I won’t… let’s not get carried away here.

I have a better idea. Let’s look at two villains in What the Duke Wants and decide if they are worthy of a happily ever after – or worthy of even living for that matter…

 

Villain 1: Lady Beatryce Beckett.

Lady Beatryce is a stunningly beautiful debutante, and a cousin to our heroine in What the Duke Wants, Miss Grace Radclyffe. Lady B is generally spoiled, dishonest, and vain… She’s utterly horrid. Let’s join Lady Beatryce at a ball in London (This is an attempt to compromise our heroine – planned in advance between Lady B and another villain, Lord Middlebury):

During a break in the dancing, Lady Beatryce glanced about her court of admirers and smiled behind her fan. There were a dozen young dandies vying for her attention, all of them worse gossips than any woman she knew.

One particularly young buck leaned near. “The lady dancing the cotillion with Dansbury earlier, I understand she is your cousin?”

Antagonist Pic 2Beatryce smiled to herself. This was going to be all too easy. She assumed a somber look before replying, “Yes, I’m afraid so.”

The young fop, noticing her subdued countenance, responded all too predictably, “Is that a bad thing?”

Beatryce sighed dramatically. “No, for we love her dearly and have opened our hearts to her despite her b…” Beatryce blushed convincingly. “Well, I shouldn’t say.”

“Oh please, Lady Beatryce, do tell, we shan’t tell a soul nor hold it against you. Your generosity is well known,” said the love-sick, and lying, fool. They hung on her every word in the hopes of acquiring new gossip.

“Please see that you do then, as many would frown upon what I’m about to tell you…But, well, you see, her family was in trade.” A collective gasp sounded from her circle of admirers. “And I’m afraid she has had little instruction in the art of being a lady. Now, I see you are surprised by this, yet despite how most of the ton feels about people in trade, we have opened our home to her, inviting her in when she was orphaned last year.”

The dandies panted—trade? Oh, the scandal. The horror. They tried to mask their fervor for gossip by nodding solemnly at the Beckett family’s obvious benevolence; however, eager eyes gave them away. Beatryce smiled and continued, “And though we’ve tried to give her some rudimentary instruction in proper decorum, I’m afraid she doesn’t seem to understand that there are certain…things…a lady must never, ever do in order to safeguard her reputation.”

The men around her salivated and leaned forward on their toes as Beatryce lowered her voice scandalously. They couldn’t afford to miss a word. Their faces well-nigh shouted at her to be more specific.

One particularly bold peacock said, “For instance…” his voice trailing off for Beatryce to fill in the blank.

Beatryce wanted to thank him and kiss his feet for the lead-in. “Well, I’m sure it’s because she is so kind and loving, but we cannot seem to make her realize that she cannot go off unescorted with certain…people…Men. Who are not relations, you see.”

The men’s eyes widened at the news, and Beatryce could practically read their wicked thoughts as they wondered who Grace was running off with unescorted, and more to the point, who they should relate the news to first.

Beatryce sighed with feigned exasperation as she looked pointedly across the room.

Right on cue, Middlebury.

“And there she goes again,” she said with a nod toward the potted palms across the way. “Excuse me, while I attempt to save my cousin from herself.” And before Beatryce could take another breath, the young swains scattered like cockroaches at dawn, gossip ready to slide off their wagging tongues.

Beatryce headed to the ladies’ retiring room rather than make her way across the dance floor. As if she had any intention of saving her cousin. Ha!

Yikes! Can we say Manipulative… Deceitful… Damaged?

And I could go on. A B@#%$ with a capital B, is our Lady Beatryce. And there are numerous examples of this in What the Duke Wants. She insults our heroine in public and private. She destroys some of our heroine’s things by burning them in the fireplace. She lies. She cheats. She steals. And everything she does is because she refuses to allow anything to stand in the way of what she wants.
Does a woman like that deserve a happily ever after? Is she redeemable at all? Hmmm. Before we answer that, let’s look at another villain…

 Antagonist Pic 3

Villain 2: Lord George Beckett, Earl Swindon.

Swindon is a rather disgusting, slovenly person (an understatement) who has zero respect for women. He’s selfish, stupid, intolerant and powerful – a dangerous combination to be sure. Let’s step in on a scene where he is questioning his daughter, Lady Beatryce, for not yet managing to get our hero to ask her to marry him in What the Duke Wants:

“Daughter, I ask you this. Have I not raised you and given you every comfort? Every opportunity? Your every desire?”

“Yes, Papa.” She knew better than to disagree, and she did have many fine things.Antaonist Pic 4

“Then why do you not show more gratitude by obeying me when I ask something of you? Do you not owe me? Do you not feel obliged to please me for providing for you? For giving you food and shelter and clothing?”

She knew better than to answer. No matter her response, it would be the wrong thing to say, so she sat still and attempted to look contrite yet sure, while she waited impatiently for him to continue. He would prey on her fear if he saw it.

“I’ve explained the facts of life to you many, many times before, yet for some inexplicable reason, you seem unable to remember these simple truths as I have illuminated them to you. If I didn’t know any better, I would question whether or not you are mine. It’s too late for that now, though; the world believes you are and that makes it real. So, I will remind you one more time—you are either with me, or you are against me. Period. There is no middle ground.”

He began to walk around his desk. Her eyes widened with alarm. She couldn’t help that as her fear escalated.

“So with that lesson fresh in your mind, do you recall what one specific task I asked of you this year?”

“Yes, Papa.”

“Let me hear you repeat it, daughter.” He was directly in front of her now, looking down upon her seated self. He leaned back against the desk—he was too lazy to remain standing for long—and he involuntarily grunted as the air was forced from his lungs when he did. The desk groaned ominously beneath the added load. He was breathless simply from talking and walking the short distance around his desk, so little did he get out of the house. Yet still, he was a strong man, despite the excess weight, and she was right to be scared.

Her voice was barely a whisper as she said, “I am to bring the Duke of Stonebridge u-up to scratch.” She hated that her voice caught as she spoke. She wanted desperately to stand up to this man she despised, her own father, and she hated herself for being intimidated by him.

He smiled, though it came across as a grimace as if he had just stepped on a bug or in a pile of shite—certainly no joy was reflected in his beady, piggy eyes.

“Indeed. Perhaps there is hope for you yet. Your mind might not be as unstable as I have feared. At least you are listening, at any rate. However,” and here he unfolded his arms and grabbed ahold of the riding crop with his hand. She was well and truly afraid now. “You have yet to bring Stonebridge up to scratch and that leads me to believe that rather than working with me, you are working against me. I realize you are not a beauty, and anyone who tells you otherwise is outright lying to your face; however, I do not expect that to stop you from achieving our goals. Need I remind you what is at stake should you fail?”

He raised the riding crop as he said those last words, and she screamed in terror.

“Papa! No! Please don’t hurt me!”

Her mind raced as she grasped for a way to break through to him. He had a manic look now; his anger was so fierce.

“You mustn’t strike me. It will cause unnecessarily delays. I must be seen with the duke…to further our plans. If I am injured…” She choked on her last words, too frightened to speak further. She cowered in fear in her chair and attempted to make herself small. To offer him less of a target for his fury.

However, her father simply lowered his riding crop; sense seemed to penetrate his haze of anger.

“True. Too true. Yes, you are correct, daughter, this once. I shall let you off easy then, this time, but I’m warning you. Do whatever you must to bring about the duke’s proposal, or you will dislike the consequences. For if you fail, I will have to find some other way to proceed, and you will then become completely unnecessary to me. To this family.”

He threw the riding crop across the room, knocking over a vase in the corner. It shattered when it hit the floor. Her relief at having reached through to her father was short-lived. She flinched, expecting her father’s wrath to return so he could blame her for the loss of the vase, but instead he looked at her, the smile on his face proving, as always, that he was completely unpredictable…or insane.

“You may be excused, daughter, but first, how about a kiss and a hug for your father?”

She stood and reached out to hug the man she loathed with every fiber of her being.

He was so large that her hands were unable to reach fully around his wide girth. He smelled sour, of onions and rotten turnips, and she struggled not to gag. She bussed him, reluctantly, on the cheek and tried again not to gag; then she pulled back to look up at him.

She masked her revulsion and drew on every ounce of inner strength. She forced a smile and appeared every inch the dutiful daughter as she said with conviction, “I shall make you proud, Papa.”

She would do anything to bring the duke up to scratch. And confident her father was temporarily appeased, she turned and slowly quit the room, almost regally, yet all the while, her lip quivered with suppressed emotion.

*

Antagonist Fail 5The earl watched his daughter leave, satisfied she would do what was necessary to secure his future. He began to whistle, a jovial tune, as he made his way back around to his comfy chair. His whistling didn’t last long, for he was already out of breath again with the effort…And he knew that, too, was somehow Beatryce’s fault.

 

Ugh. How vile. So… Still think Lady Beatryce is completely irredeemable or unworthy of redemption? Clearly, she’s motivated to do whatever it takes to get away from her abusive father. And what about the earl? Is he even worth consideration?

To me, the earl has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. And he doesn’t have a single excuse to justify his behavior. But then, I know a lot more about his character than I’ve shown here…. And you’ll have to read the book to learn more…

But what about Lady B? What we’ve seen here leads us to an interesting premise: Does the end result ever justify the means to get there?

We’ve all heard the sentiment before. In the case of Lady Beatryce, she absolutely believes it. She’ll do whatever it takes – even destroy other people – to be free of her father.

So, I believe that, yes, she is redeemable. Possibly. And I’m testing out that theory in my next book – What the Marquess Sees (still a work in progress). In it, our heroine is none other than Lady Beatryce Beckett herself… And I think it will take just the right kind of man to see through her numerous negative qualities to discover if she is worth saving…

What do you think?

~~~~

Amy QuintonAuthor Bio
Amy Quinton is an author and full time mom living in Summerville, SC. She enjoys writing (and reading!) sexy, historical romances. She lives with her husband, two boys, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to go camping, hiking, and canoeing/kayaking… And did she mention reading? When she’s not reading, cleaning, or traveling, she likes to make jewelry, sew, knit, and crochet (Yay for Ravelry!).

https://amyquinton.net/

 

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Thanks for checking out today’s #MadMay blog post. The month isn’t over, and there are plenty more guest posts with other authors, talking different types of antagonists. Because as we all know, a good antagonist makes for a great read!

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7 thoughts on “Can Antagonists be Redeemed? What Does Historical Romance Author Amy Quinton Think?

Add yours

  1. What a fun post! I really enjoyed this. I think antagonists can be redeemed, too, but I’m not sure if they always should be… it depends on the crime, I suppose! I think sometimes people love villains and anti-heroes because they are antagonists, and maybe they’d lose something if they saw the error of their ways. Or maybe they already do, and it’s just a matter of perspective. No one thinks they’re the bad guy, right?

    Very excited to see what happens with Lady B. Fighting for survival can make people do crazy things. I hope she gets away!

    1. I agree, Jessica – it definitely depends on the crime. I cut a few scenes from my first book, What the Duke Wants, because I thought those scenes pushed Beatryce passed that point where I could redeem her later. As it is she really walks the line.

  2. I loved this blog. I like darker characters in books and really enjoy writing the bad guys and girls – I liked your take on whether or not antagonists can ever be redeemed 🙂

    1. Thanks, Skye! I really enjoyed writing my bad girl in book 2. She’s a survivor and unashamed of her bad behavior. I hope my readers will agree. So far, the feedback from my beta readers has been great.

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