I’m fascinated by the idea of heroes (and heroines) with very difficult pasts. After naval gazing about it for a while I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason those are the stories I like to write comes down to one simple word: Redemption.
The worse the sinner, the greater the need. The darker the past, the more astonishing and beautiful a bright future will seem.
Now getting these characters (particularly heroes!) to the point where they can say they need to change, that they need to have that moment where they question everything they believe, everything they’ve been doing, so that they can truly move on with their lives…it’s not an easy thing to do. Trust me. Stubborn fictional alpha males.
But, these are the stories I like to write. Because who needs healing more than a man who’s dying? Which sort of a grand metaphor, but sometimes I look at a lot dark heroes in romance and try to imagine what their lives would be like if they’d gone on without the heroine in it.
Alik, from Heir to a Dark Inheritance? His future doesn’t look very bright without Jada, the love of his life. Without Leena, the daughter he never knew he had. On the surface, Alik seems like a fun guy. He does a lot of cool things involving fast cars, women, alcohol, tattoos…Alik likes a party.
But Alik is completely cut off from emotion, thanks to a childhood of loneliness, abandonment and general abuse. He doesn’t care about his life. He lives because it’s what people do, and he dares life to pull the rug out from under him at any opportunity (you know, by going on deadly missions into enemy encampments to save captures sheikhs…normal stuff) until the moment his life changes.
Until a little bit of light, the promise of redemption, if you will, comes into his life in the form of his daughter, and the woman who’s been raising her.
Before Jada and Leena, Alik didn’t know any kind of real emotion. (he has one friend, but since Sayid from Heir to a Desert Legacy was as messed up as Alik is, who knows if that did any good! ) But of course, they bring an explosion of emotion with them. A crying baby that looks far too delicate for Alik’s comfort, and then there’s Jada…who makes him feel things he never believed possible.
The journey to being able to come out of the darkness is a long one for Alik. But the light on the other side is so sweet, and it means everything to a man who never thought he could have it.
Of course, there’s a heroine in this book too, and she has her own set of issues. She’s known love, and also the loss of it. To Alik, love looks like redemption, and to Jada it just looks like pain. How will they get together?
You’ll have to find out.
Now, I leave you with a haiku and an excerpt:
Oh, Bad Boy Russian
Bad attitude and tattoos
You just need a hug
“Last song,” Alik said, in response to the announcement from the lead singer. “Want to dance to it?”
“I'm going to fall over, Alik. You've exhausted me,” she said, wandering back to the table and bracing her hand on the surface, tugging her shoes out from beneath it and putting them back on. “That was…fun.” The most fun she could remember having in years. “Thank you. I didn't know I would like dancing so much.” It was on the tip of her tongue to say they should go again. That she wanted to make it a regular thing. But there was no point to that. None at all.
“I didn't either,” he said. He took her hand and led her out of the club, back into the crisp night air. It felt cool and dry on her skin after the moist heat of the dance floor. “I didn't know a lot of things about life until you, Jada,” he said, pulling her close, kissing her lips. It was tender, sweet. Frightening.
“I want you to teach me,” he said, his voice rough.
“Teach you what?” she asked.
People were leaving clubs all along the street, weaving around where she and Alik were standing. But she didn't want to move, didn't want to break the spell of the moment.
“Teach me what it means to make love.”
No. Her heart screamed in denial. The request, so simple, was scarier than anything else she'd faced wit him. And now she wondered if she should have simply been content with their encounter on the couch. If she should never have told him she needed more. Because this was too much. Too close to her deepest fear.
She’d been with him so many times, and yet, this was the time she feared might break her. Because he wasn't asking for her body. He was asking for her soul. Asking her to go deeper than she felt she could.
The further she went with Alik, the more distant her past became. The less her image of the past appealed, because the woman she was turning into wouldn’t fit into it.
She was terrified of losing it, of dishonoring it. Of what it would mean if she took another step away from it, another step toward becoming this person who seemed almost entirely different than the one she’d been with her husband.
All she had were her memories, and the way she saw those were changing too.
She was trembling inside, but as she looked up into Alik’s eyes, she knew she could deny him nothing. “Yes. I’ll teach you, Alik.”