It’s always an experience to read Vintage AARThis article by Paula Detmer Riggs on writing taboo subjects is especially thought-provoking. She wrote about the hero of her book, Her Secret, His Child, a book she published in 1995 and we gave a DIK to in 1998.


Years ago, her hero–and he is her hero–date-raped the heroine. Riggs writes:

The hero I love is imperfect in some terrible way. He’s an all too-human soul who’s driven by inner demons far more deadly and cruel than any serial killer or evil empire or double-agent. A man, who, because of a mistake in judgment or action, had done a terrible wrong to an innocent victim, and if that victim is our heroine, so much the better.

She knows her choice is controversial. To her critics, she replies:

Why was it written? Why choose to frame a love story in such a way? What kind of message does a rapist hero and an irresponsible heroine send to the reader? In my opinion and intention, one of hope. If the people in my fictional world can face their own mistakes, learn to forgive themselves, and rise above the harm they’ve caused themselves and others, so can each and every one of us. Our mistakes are most likely far more benign, and yet, perhaps, just as painful to admit. Most of us have a strong sense of personal integrity, no matter what our religious preference. To violate our rules of decent behavior shames us. It’s often easier to accept our failings when we compare them to the far more serious failings of fictional folks. Living through their pain, seeing them make restitution, and thus find redemption and happiness is often enough to encourage us to do the same.

What do you think? I wonder if we are less tolerant of heroes and heroines who, in the past, have done reprehensible acts than we used to be? And, is that a good or bad thing?

Let us know your thoughts.