I’ve kept thinking about our discussion last week’s post about Prinnyworld vs. the real Regency, also about news I had that a particular publisher was looking for “dark” stories, and it’s led me to wonder what dark means to different people.

“Dark” requires torture, but what sort?

The first darker books I read were some of Mary Jo Putney’s, stories like PETALS IN THE STORM (heroine raped by the men who just killed her father) and THE RAKE (alcoholic hero). Later, I discovered Laura Kinsale, whose stories are usually dark: FLOWERS FROM THE STORM (hero a stroke victim put into an insane asylum), SHADOWHEART (hero raised by his father to be an assassin). What some authors do to their poor characters…

My own darkest book was LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, the dark elements being the grim reality of the lives of foundlings and the bad first marriages of the hero and heroine. I put in a lot of lighter elements, though, this is “Little League” dark compared to Putney or Kinsale.

So there’s the sort of “Real World Dark” that draws upon real world elements, like poverty or war or sexual abuse. Things we still read about in the news.

My other darker book was SAVING LORD VERWOOD, in which it seemed everyone wanted to kill the hero. It was dark in a Gothic sort of way: deranged villain, eerie setting (north coast of Cornwall, where there are so many cliffs to throw people over). Despite the attempted murder plot, this book felt lighter to me than LDM. I think “Gothic Dark” is somehow less grim than “Real World Dark”, just because these elements are further removed from our lives and everyday news.

Then “Gothic Dark” shades over into “Paranormal Dark”, which often taps into the angst of the accursed and those who love them. My favorite paranormal Regency is Karen Harbaugh’s THE VAMPIRE VISCOUNT. This sort of story provides a delicious roller-coaster of emotion, a thrilling touch of horror. It’s so different from our ordinary lives that I think it is more escapist.

There end my musings… These flavor categories are just for fun, and I don’t mean to imply any of them is better or worse than the others. What do you think? Have I missed some flavors? Do you have favorites? Which authors do dark better than anyone else?

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, Golden Quill Best Historical Romance!