So, I'm not going to mention the book here by name (because it doesn't deserve any extra attention), but recently, an "inspirational" historical romance that featured a "hero" who led the massacre at Wounded Knee (the one where Native women, children, and old/sick people were senselessly murdered, most likely for revenge following the Battle of Little Bighorn) won a prestigious Romance Writers of America (RWA) award. This comes on the heels of the LAST time a romance featuring a Nazi finaled in the RITA contest (now the Vivian)--and on the 2019 claims by pretty much everyone that the organization and its annual contest was a racist nightmare. I won't recap all the drama, but I thought that maybe it was time to mention that not EVERY character deserves a redemption arc--especially in romance novels. There are some characters who don't deserve a happily ever after. That said, here are the types of characters that I don't think are redeemable, and I'd like to see never again see as heroes in romance novels. Ever. (Please and thanks in advance to all the authors out there.) Here it goes:
NOTE: This note is for anyone who feels compelled to point out that "history wasn't pretty." We're not talking about history text books here. By all means, fill THOSE with all the awful stuff that has happened. We're talking about romance novels. Fiction. I don't need to read about awful people falling in love in my romance novels. Give me characters I like that don't deserve to be tried at the Hague for war crimes, thank you very much.
Anyone who committs genocide
The hero I mentioned in the intro? The one who actively participates in the Wounded Knee massacre and then blames the victims? He committed genocide, and he does not deserve a redemption arc. There's noting he can do or say to make up for his actions, and I DO NOT want to read about this villainous, psychopathic a-hole falling in love and living happily ever after with some twit who forgives him for killing a kid IN THE PROLOUGE. ON THE PAGE.
If any author is out there playing with an idea about a Nazi officer who falls for a Jewish concentration camp victim...just don't. Nazis aren't redeemable. And the power imbalance in that proposed relationship is such that true consent isn't possible. It's a gross, gross concept and I hate everything about it. I'll take my romance novels without Nazis, please. (And sadly, no, this is NOT a new idea. As I mentioned in the intro to this post, the RWA did celebrate such a novel at one point. I'm still shaking my damn head about it, frankly.)
I wish I didn't have to say this, but there WAS a book released recently featuring a hero who was a member of the Klan. There was even a swastika on the cover behind a half-naked male model. It was sick and fifty shades of WRONG and should've never happened. KKK members do NOT deserve redemption arcs in romance novels. Period.
I have no tolerance for rapists, and I DO NOT want to read about them being "redeemed" and falling in love. There's nothing a rapist can do that would make me root for him/her as a character.
There was an argument last year (I think) about a historical romance featuring a plantation owner. Most readers/authors thought this was a terrible idea. But there were a (loud) few who felt that because slavery was a practice that actually happened in history, it was OK to discuss in a historical romance novel. I'm fine with it being discussed, but...do I want to see the guy who unapologetically owned slaves fall in love and get his happy ending? No. Slavery is disgusting and I want nothing to do with any author who thinks a slave owner can ever be a sympathetic romance hero.
See my thoughts above about rapists. Child abuse is another no-go for me. No amount of amends can make me want to see a child abuser's redemption arc. No effin' thanks.
But that's just MY list. What about yours? What kind of characters do YOU think are irredeemable? Let's discuss!