I had to order this book from the library and it eventually came from a private collection in Kent or a university in Dublin - somewhere obscure anyway, but it was worth the wait. Helen Hazen wrote Endless Rapture to explain why women like such vile heroes - and her theory does make perfect sense, once you've waded through the text. I remember being a bit confused by the book at first, and I mind-mapped it, which helped to make her thesis clear.
Hazen says that men and women have different stories - which is true. Remembering the awful 'Devil Wears Prada': when did you last read a story where a young man unwisely puts success in business before his personal fulfillment, loses his masculinity and ends up a neurotic, lonely eunuch? For those who haven't seen the film, the heroine gets a job in fashion, becomes absorbed in it, neglects her friends and her boyfriend and oh, horror! Forgets all about the work she did in college on rights for janitors. Janitors! Don't get me started.
Hazen says that stories for men require an evil opponent: dragons, Darth Vader, the mob. In stories for women the wrong that needs righting is masculine insensitivity, neglect and brutality. All women want their men home from the wars, out of bars and gambling dens and to be treated with respect and honour. The weapons may be different: feminists use anger and politics, romances use love and femininity, Christians use religion - but readers all want that man behave the way she wants him to.
I remember being given around 200 Mills & Boon in the early 80s. I read the lot. I soon noticed that a favourite theme was being raped by a rude man with a helicopter/yacht/castle in Spain, which baffled me at the time, but Hazen points out that adversity makes the conquest sweeter. Women don't want to be raped any more than men want to have their balls thrashed (Casino Royale) - but if the worst thing happens to the main character and they still overcome it - what a great story!
So, if the plot concern external evil, the bigger the baddie the better. If the plot concerns internal evil, the worse the hero behaves to the heroine before he ends up begging to marry her, the better. And that's why romances feature a man who treats the heroine like dirt - which leads on to another point which C.S. Lewis covers in an essay about the different types of reader. I can only get into that kind of story if the background reasons for the bad behaviour are feasible. Mary Stewart did great heroes - you end up wondering why they didn't behave even worse then they did - and they grovel beautifully. Category romance readers take the emotion neat and are happy with a sketched in back story - but it is exactly the same story. I might try to look out my notes on that essay - although it's almost certainly in an unlabelled, unnumbered, untitled book, which kind of makes me understand why they insist on proper references at college.