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One of the more flawed heroes I have ever written was my fictional first-born, Dr. Brandon Demarse, the hero of my first published novel, BENEATH SIERRA SKIES. Not coincidentally, this is the book, a 1990 release from Silhouette Romances, that is now being re-released in digital format. Hooray!
Robin Hill, a social caseworker at my fictional Chico General Hospital, is horrified at some of the apparently heartless things she sees our hero do. On the morning when he breaks the bad news of her husband's death to a new widow, Robin observes that he is the kind of physician who "treats pathologies, not people." She can't imagine anyone colder.
It takes some fairly dramatic circumstances (a plain crash in California's Mokelumne Wilderness Area) to force Robin and Brandon to spend time together, and even more difficulties before she begins to crack him open, understanding what makes him tick and why he hides emotion from (almost) everyone.
Here a conversation they share when he is still trying to hide emotion.
"...What was the subject?"
"Marriage. Specifically yours."
"Oh, yes." He paused. "I hadn't really planned to, but my mother keeps pushing me to 'find the right girl and settle down.' I guess maybe it's time I got on with it."
"That's some attitude."
"Well, I'm not fool enough to believe in fairy tales -- True Love Conquers All and all that. I figure what I need is a kind of condominium-wife."
"A what?" Robin drew back in revulsion.
"Low maintenance, you know? Like a condominium. A low-upkeep marriage."
"Low upkeep? I've never heard of anything so -- "
Let me guess. You're thinking Robin had some work to do with this guy, and you are absolutely right! I'll bet she enjoyed almost every minute of it, too.
When we mention heroes with imperfections, one of my recent favorites comes quickly to mind. Tom Burnett, a major character in my new book, A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, is a good man, but with a few obvious flaws -- and a bit of a chip on his shoulder. This scene happens in the middle of the night, during a very tense week in the Burnett household.
[Tom] filled a glass with milk, got out a fork, and sat down at the kitchen counter. That's when he heard the bedroom door and knew Karen was about to catch him red-handed, eating red beans and rice in the middle of the night – a small violation of a small promise he had made to himself to avoid eating between dinner one evening and breakfast the next day. Well, at least he wasn't breaking a promise to anyone else. If his father's betrayal had done nothing else, it had taught him that.
“Hi, Honey,” Karen said, her voice smoky with sleep.
“Hi, yourself.” He lifted his fork defiantly. Just let her say something.
“Couldn't sleep, huh?” she asked instead. He guessed she must be postponing the inevitable assault on his dignity.
“No. You, either?”
“I slept pretty well for awhile.” She looked at the bowl of hot food and Tom knew what was coming next, but Karen surprised him. “I don't suppose you have any more of that?”
“Um, uh, no. No, this is the last.”
She sighed. “Pity. I'll find something else, then.”
He watched as she opened the refrigerator and started looking through its contents. “No comments about eating in the middle of the night?”
She turned and gave him a sweet, sleepy half-smile. “Sometimes it's good to break the rules,” she said. “Frankly, this seems like a good time for some comfort food, don't you think?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I thought so.” He took another bite of the spicy leftovers.
I have a soft spot for Tom. I'll let you know when he's available in paperback. :-)