9.3.3 Saving Devils

When protagonists fall into a “state from which it is understood salvation is necessary” (Morris 37) as a result of harming others in some way, the process by which their salvation is realized is somewhat different from that of fighting demons and resurrecting the dead. It too, however, requires the participation of the individual who is to be saved. As the retired vicar and father of the heroine in Donna Lea Simpson’s A Rake’s Redemption (2002) states:

No man changes unless he wants to, after all. And no woman can make him. He may want to change for her sake, but unless there is a true inner resolution, unless he really wants to change for his own reasons, it will not stick.

This will to change in order to cease acting sinfully can be referred to as “contrition” and has been defined as “sorrow for one’s sin and resolve to turn away from it” (Berkman 97). Contrition is the first stage in the sacrament of penance and is an emotion which, as author Elisabeth Hobbes has stated, makes the key difference between a “bad boy” capable of salvation and an irredeemable villain:

Mainly it’s about remorse. A bad boy must, when confronted with the impact of what he has done, show remorse. Having hit rock bottom he needs to have the desire to change and make amends, to redeem himself in some way for who and what he was. (Pink Heart Society)

The other stages in the sacrament of penance are confession, atonement and absolution.

The process by which a devilish protagonist makes amends, or atones, can take many forms but

almost all modes of atonement involve some sort of emotional, physical, or material suffering, some sort of pain, loss, or sacrifice. Guilt and remorse are painful. Acknowledging wrongdoing and offering an apology can be humiliating. (Radzik 20)

In Heyer’s These Old Shades, the devilish hero’s atonement involves an act of renunciation: he tells the heroine “I want you to forget me. I am no proper man for you” (389-390). Here, the act of atonement is merged with one of confession, since he explains to her the reasons why he is unworthy of her: “To no women have I been faithful; behind me lies scandal upon sordid scandal” (391). In Devil in Winter the devilish hero states that he “can’t ever atone for the things I’ve done” (Kleypas 362) but that admission of contrition, and the changes he has already made in his life, are sufficient for the heroine to grant him absolution: “You don’t have to be anything other than what you are” (362). In These Old Shades, however, since the heroine herself is “something of an imp” (106) words of absolution are offered to the devilish hero by a priest who has given her shelter: “God will forgive you much for your kindness to her” (Heyer 384).