Do you think honesty is always the best policy? Author Julianna Keyes talk about creating her honest hero, Dean, in Time Served. Keep reading to find out more!
I saw my nephew when he was born, then not again until he could speak. I still remember that second meeting, him standing in the doorway at maybe three years old, gazing up at me thoughtfully.
“Hey,” I said.
He stared for a really long time. “Do you love me?” he asked eventually.
Now, I’m not particularly sentimental, and I’m not very good with kids, so what I was thinking was, “How on earth should I know? We haven’t seen each other in years. We’re strangers, kid! Do I love you? I’m not even sure I’m at the right house.” What I said, however, was, “Yes.”
“Okay,” he said, and let me in.
The reason this exchange stands out for me is simple: it’s honest.
There are many different types of heroes in romance novels. Fast talkers, smooth talkers, dirty talkers. Some tell you what you want to hear, some tell you what you say you don’t want to hear but secretly do, some say terrible things.
In Time Served, the hero, Dean, is a big guy. He spent eight years in prison and he’s dark and angry. He’s bitter and vengeful. And he’s honest. He doesn’t use his fists to land blows, he uses words. Sometimes they’re sweet, sometimes they’re crude, sometimes they’re bad, but they’re always true.
Dean has no patience for subtext or nuance. He says exactly what he means, when he means it, no matter what. It’s the scariest thing about him because it shines a blinding interrogation light on the listener, the one that scrutinizes you and asks, “Well? What are you going to do now? Can you be honest in return? Would you dare?”
Jack Nicholson says it best in a Few Good Men: You can’t handle the truth. Saying what we’re really thinking, finding the courage to ask for what we want and need, lays us bare. It requires faith that the person we’re talking to won’t use that truth against us, and faith in ourselves to know that we can handle whatever comes back as a result of it.
As scary as it may be, Dean only deals in truths. Because behind his dark scowl and stony gaze, beneath the muscles and years of seething resentment, deep down, there’s still a little boy in the doorway, gazing up at a girl, asking if she loves him. And if she does, and she tells him the truth, he’ll let her in.
I’ve never forgotten how it felt to follow Dean–dangerous, daring, determined–away from the crowd and climb into his beat-up old Trans Am. I was sixteen and gloriously alive for the first time. When I felt his hand cover my leg and move upward, it was over. I was his. Forever.
Until I left. Him, my mom, and the trailer park. Without so much as a goodbye.
Now Dean’s back, crashing uninvited into my carefully cultivated, neat little lawyerly life. Eight years behind bars have turned him rougher and bigger–and more sexually demanding than any man I’ve ever met. I can’t deny him anything…and that just might end up costing me everything.