Ruthie Knox pens funny, sexy contemporary romances and her latest release, Along Came Trouble, is ideal for any genre fan. Single mother Ellen Callahan's normal life gets turned upside down when her rock star brother starts causing trouble. With the press begins to follow her in hopes of getting a story, Ellen's brother hires personal security guard Caleb Clark, an ex-military police officer, to keep her safe. While Caleb is more than capable of protecting Ellen from paparazzi, his unguarded heart might need some protection after he starts falling for her. Today the author shares why military men are so popular and, in her opinion, what makes the perfect hero in uniform.
Romance readers just can’t get enough of men in uniform. They’re everywhere — SEALs and Marines and Special Forces guys, flaunting take-no-prisoners attitudes and six-packs and scars.
Oh, scars. *happy sigh*
But I have to confess, sometimes these guys are not for me. Super-tough, super-large, super-confident men intimidate rather than attract me, even in fiction. My soft spot is for the wiry, overmatched, smart-mouthed action hero — think Bruce Willis in the first Die Hard movie.
In the real world, of course, men (and women) in uniform come in lots of sizes, shapes, colors, and personality types. So when I found myself writing an Army veteran hero for my March release, Along Came Trouble, I gave a lot of thought to what kind of man I wanted him to be. What does my military hero ideal look like?
The character I wrote, Caleb Clark, has fifteen years in the Military Police and five deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq behind him, but he is, at base, a sweetheart. He’s helpful, he’s kind, he’s charming. One of his high school friends called him “Killer” because he was, at eighteen, so good with the ladies. I imagine him as having been a little aimless, a little lazy back then. The sort of guy who’d spend as much of the summer as possible rafting on the river, drinking an illicit beer or five.
But Caleb’s years in the Army — and more particularly almost a decade at war — taught him a number of important “habits of command.” He takes care of his men, he does whatever it takes to get the job done, and he never forgets that life is for the living.
Internalizing these habits toughened Caleb up and made him a valuable leader — someone who could be counted on even in the most difficult circumstances. He’s a leader, confident, sexy, loyal. Who could resist such a man?
Um, yes. That would be the heroine of the book. Her name is Ellen Callahan.
It’s not that Ellen doesn’t find Caleb both attractive and admirable. She does. In the abstract. It’s just that she doesn’t appreciate the way Caleb’s habits of command transfer from the field of battle to the field of woo. Because it’s one thing to watch movies where hot men in uniform bark orders and save the day. It’s quite another to have a decisive, determined, hard-working soldier all up in your face.
The habits that served Caleb well in the army create trouble between him and Ellen. He wants to protect her, but she doesn’t want to be protected — nor does she agree with Caleb that she really needs protection. Yes, there are paparazzi on her lawn, but she prefers trampled plants to a trampled sense of autonomy. Faced with Ellen’s resistance, Caleb is forced to accept that in the civilian world, he can’t take just do whatever it takes to get the job done. He can only take the measures that Ellen will accept. He has to listen, compromise, and accept that his timeline isn’t the only one that matters.
But one habit of command does serve Caleb well, and that’s his understanding that life is for the living. He’s been in enough dangerous situations and seen enough misery to understand that life is short, and sometimes you just have to follow your gut. He knows almost from the moment he meets Ellen that he wants her in his life, which is the sort of feeling that would give most of us pause. But Caleb never wavers, because he’s spent fifteen years learning not to waver. He’ll go slow or fast, he’ll make a thousand compromises, but he won’t give up until he gets what he wants — and convinces Ellen that it’s what she wants, too.
And isn’t this, in the end, what really makes us swoon over military heroes? Not the alpha-male bossiness, but the centered quality of men who have survived experiences that tested their faith, their humanity, and who came out the other side capable of knowing what they want and going after it.
I mean, really. That’s way sexier than a scar.
- Ruthie Knox