As most of you know Jessa Slade is one of our favorite people and she writes these amazing books with really hot Alpha males. She’s here today to talk about her latest hero Sid (who is my favorite hero of her’s) in her new book Darkness Undone.
The unrepentant lie of the nerd hero
The hero of my latest Marked Souls novel, DARKNESS UNDONE, is Sidney Westerbrook, a Bookkeeper for the Chicago league of talyan. The talyan are immortal warriors possessed by repentant demons, which lend demonic nerves and musculature plus supernatural fighting skills to the battle against evil. Unlike the talyan, Bookkeepers are… Well, they are pretty much like bookkeepers with a little b. As plain ol’ boring humans, Bookkeepers tend to sit around a lot in front of computer screens and behind dusty tomes, which does NOT lend itself to musculature, demonic or otherwise. To make matters worse, Sid is nearsighted, so he has to wear glasses. Also, he is British.
I was picturing a sort of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, complete with a touch of tweed. Yup, Sid is a nerd.
Except, as one reader recently pointed out to me, that ain’t no nerd on the cover! Where exactly, she wondered, do Bookkeepers get rippling abs?
Nerds as heroes have become ever more popular, I think, as technology takes over our lives, and the only one who can save us from being forced to reformat our hard drive is a guy with a metaphorical slide rule in his pocket. During the recent SOPA hearings in Congress, when the congressmen repeatedly called for more nerd input, a friend of mine was offended on behalf of nerds everywhere. She thought the term was being used derisively. But I didn’t hear it that way. I think nerds have successfully reclaimed the word from schoolyard bullies.
But the reality (or should I say, the fantasy?) is that the nerd romance hero has to come with rippling abs beneath his Space Invaders tshirt, and behind his spectacles are piercing eyes completely focused on his heroine.
Even though romance readers are calling for more diversity of body types in heroines – and writers are responding with less-than-perfect leading ladies — the hard-bodied hero endures. Probably because his abs are chiseled out of pure rock.
But maybe — rock-hard musculature notwithstanding — nerd heroes on romance novel covers look like any other romance hero because they aren’t that different under the skin. Sid contemplates as much one night early in DARKNESS UNDONE. Recently arrived from London to take over as interim Bookkeeper in Chicago, he has had one run-in with the elusive heroine, Alyce, and is doing more research on rogue talyan.
* * *
Sleep circled in the same way his inbound flight had gone endlessly round O’Hare, so he grabbed his specs and pulled one of his favorite books into his lap. His father hadn’t been thrilled to part with the illuminated texts, but Sid had convinced him the opportunity to study female talyan with original manuscripts in hand superseded jurisdictional pettiness.
He donned archival gloves in deference to the old man and the old paper and hoped if he fell asleep he wouldn’t drool on the pages.
From somewhere on the street outside, a truck honked, but through the gray concrete walls, the cacophony of the industrial district was more distant than a dream, as if the real world weren’t allowed to intrude on this demonic sanctuary.
His churning thoughts slowed. No wonder the talyan clung so tightly to their monastic seclusion. Personality studies indicated that disconnection from close human relationships made a person more vulnerable to demonic possession, so statistically more talyan would display antisocial behaviors. But the real reprieve wasn’t the teshuva’s escape from hell; it was the talya’s freedom from the tyranny of meddlesome life.
With league training and Bookkeeper tricks, the talyan stiff-armed death and life for the sake of their mission.
No wonder no right-thinking, right-souled woman would have them.
He and the talyan had more in common than he’d appreciated.
Eventually, his eyelids drooped. Through the haze of his eyelashes, the intricately drawn illustrations danced with strange wildlife, a tangle of angels and demons without clear distinction. That was probably true for most people — at least for those who’d avoided possession by some force more definitively aligned.
He blamed his gritty eyes for making him blink dumbly when he looked up and saw the visitation, as if one of the ethereal figures from the primeval text had stepped off the page, a fever dream come to life. He fumbled his drooping specs higher. “Alyce?”
She ghosted across the room, her bare feet silent on the linoleum despite the slight hitch in her gait. Through the dark curtain of her tangled hair, her pale eyes glittered, amethyst over ice. “Shh. I’ve come to free you.”
* * *
What Sid doesn’t know is that she hasn’t come to free him just from this demonic sanctuary, but from his standoffish Old World nerdiness too. He is so doomed!
So what do you think about nerd-morphs-to-alpha-male romances? And how many crunches does it take to get to the rippling abs at the center of a bookworm?
Leave a comment for your chance to win a signed copy of DARKNESS UNDONE, a set of Marked Souls Romance Trading Cards, a music download card with the album containing the Marked Souls theme song, and a pair of earrings inspired by the storyworld. And everyone who stops by today can download a free copy of my science fiction romance novella, “Enslaved By Starlight,” in the HOTTER ON THE EDGE anthology. Just go to http://tinyurl.com/hotter4free and use coupon code UW37U, or download at Amazon, BN.com and other ebook retailers for 99¢. Thank you for reading!
* * *
The war between good and evil has raged for millennia,
and as a powerful new enemy ascends,
the Marked Souls are pushed to the ragged edge…
Sidney Westerbrook has always studied darkness and damnation from a sensible distance. Now, to earn his place as a league Bookkeeper, he must discover why Chicago is such a battleground of soul-linked warriors. But the research becomes personal when he finds himself over his head and under attack — and at the mercy of a waif with demon-lit eyes and a deep yearning in her heart.
Alyce Carver has been alone longer than she can remember, battered by the living nightmares that haunt her city. Cornered by yet another gang of demons, she unwittingly joins forces with a handsome scholar who can salvage her past, and she in turn may be the key to his investigations. But she won’t let him go until he shows her everything she’s been missing.
What begins as an experiment in possession becomes a trial by desire so powerful it threatens both their lives, even as it binds their souls.
“Slade’s plot packs plenty of action…in a group of forceful personalities.”
– Publishers Weekly
“[A] fish-out-of-water story that keeps a rapid pace, delivering a strong plot, enjoyable characters and a stunning world.”
–RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
Read Chapter 1 of DARKNESS UNDONE and find links to favorite bookstores at:
Read the first chapters of all the Marked Souls novels at http://jessaslade.com
You can find Jessa online at: