Story Villains: To Forgive or Forget Entirely?

Photo by Salvatore Vuono

Every good adventure story has a villain. Where would the tension be if there wasn't someone dastardly to thwart the hero's plans? But what about Christian romance novels? How should bad guys (or gals) be presented in these stories?

I've read many good Christian romance novels that didn't feature a villain. The conflict rested on differences between the hero and heroine, or external circumstances beyond their control, such as an illness or natural disaster. 

I've also read novels with characters who created strife in perfect villainy fashion. And as a result, they got their just desserts.

That's where the similarities between Christian and secular romantic fiction end. In Christian romance, the villain has a chance to be redeemed. Nobody is written off (no pun intended) as worthless or unable to receive God's forgiveness. Even in stories with suspense elements, where the antagonist is carted off to jail for a string of murders, he can still come to see the error of his ways.

Ultimately, it's up to the villain to decide if repentance is what he or she wants. 

What do you think? Are villains welcome, or even acceptable in a genre that touches on themes of redemption or reconciliation?