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Ruthie Knox | The Appeal of the Curious Hero

When readers learn the nickname I use for the hero of my latest book—Sean Owens, the "stuttering hacker"—they usually get caught on the "stuttering" part. A romance novel hero who stutters? What the what?

Yes. He stutters, and he's sexy and awesome, competent, caring, somewhat screwed up in the head—all the great hero stuff. I promise. Today, though, I want to talk about the "hacker" part. Why write a hero who's a hacker? What's the appeal?

The first thing I knew about Sean Owens was that he doesn't talk to the book's heroine, Katie, at all, and it drives her crazy. The second thing I knew was the reason why: he had an enormous crush on her in high school, and he's afraid that if he tries talking to her, he'll stutter.

The third thing I knew about Sean wasn't a thing, it was an image of a fifteen-year-old kid sitting all by himself at the front of the school bus, trying not to be too obvious as he watches the beautiful, popular girl he's got a crush on make her way to the back row with her far-more-popular-than-Sean-will-ever-be boyfriend. This image is at the heart of how I see grown-up Sean: alone, looking from the outside toward what he wants, longing for it, but refusing to make himself vulnerable enough to take the risk necessary to get it. (Or, in this case, her.)

Now, a lot of men are late bloomers when it comes to girls—especially the smart ones. Teenage Sean was way ahead of the curve in other areas. Particularly areas that didn't require him to talk. If he could develop expertise in something that didn't require him to talk? If he could master it, bend it to his will, best it? Sign him up. So teenage Sean went to college and became a hacker.

Hackers are, above all, curious people. They tend to be smart, with a wicked sense of humor, a bit of an anti-establishment bent, and a desire to know how things work. These are the men and women who are always curious, always cataloging, always pushing to see if they can take it this one small step farther. In Sean's case, the hacking paid off big-time: he founded his career on it, and by the time he returns to Camelot, he's a well-off, successful man.

Sean's curiosity, his interest, his desire to know—all of these traits pay off for Katie, too. Here's a snippet from a conversation Sean and Katie are having about the cover of the sci-fi paperback he's reading:

Katie dropped the book in her lap, liking that it was his from back then. Liking that he'd wrapped his big hands around it a minute ago. "I suppose you're right. The cover could be worse."
"The c-covers don't t-tell you anything, anyway. Some of that stuff you read at work looks pretty trashy, and it still m-manages to hold your attention."
That stuff you read at work. Oh, not good. Not good that he was turning out to be the sort of person who noticed things. Wedding rings and erotic novels.
What would she know about Sean if she'd only been more perceptive? He hadn't shaved this morning, and she hadn't realized a stubbled dimple was sexier than a regular one. Now she did.
"I'm not sure what books you're talking about." She leaned forward to turn down the heat controls for her side of the car. It was too warm, suddenly.
"That b-book about phone sex," he said. His voice had dropped to a lower register, and even though he kept his eyes on the road, her skin tingled as if he were looking. "The bondage one." He paused, then added, "The one with the three-way."
Oh, mama, the one with the three-way. "I never thought anybody paid any attention to what I was reading."
Sean glanced her way, and the mischief in his eyes made her breath catch. She remembered that look from the aftermath of the kiss, and remembering it made her remember the kiss, and remembering the kiss made her pulse pick up and start throbbing in some very personal areas.
"I p-pay attention to everything."

Mmm. Yes. My kingdom for a man who pays attention to everything.


Camelot series, book 3 Releases June 10, 2013

In the latest eBook original novel in Ruthie Knox's scorching-hot Camelot series, a no-strings fling looks an awful lot like falling in love—or flirting with disaster.

Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother's security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn't want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she'll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can't keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It's time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie's newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

E-book. 342 pp. ISBN: 978-0-345-54170-3.

Buy the book

Amazon (US) | Barnes & Noble | iTunes Bookstore | Amazon (Canada)

Other Links: Ruthie's website | Random House | Goodreads

About Ruthie

USA Today bestselling author Ruthie Knox writes contemporary romance that's sexy, witty, and angsty—sometimes all three at once. After training to be a British historian, she became an academic editor instead. Then she got really deeply into knitting, as one does, followed by motherhood and romance novel writing. Her debut novel, Ride with Me, is probably the only existing cross-country bicycling love story. She followed it up with About Last Night, a London-set romance whose hero has the unlikely name of Neville, and then Room at the Inn, a Christmas novella—both of which were finalists for the Romance Writers of America's RITA Award. Her four-book series about the Clark family of Camelot, Ohio, has won accolades for its fresh, funny portrayal of small-town Midwestern life. Ruthie moonlights as a mother, Tweets incessantly, and bakes a mean focaccia. She'd love to hear from you, so visit her website at and drop her a line.

What do you think is a fatal flaw in a hero? One commenter will win the complete Camelot series (e-book version, US only)




30 comments posted.

Re: Ruthie Knox | The Appeal of the Curious Hero

Sounds like a very likable hero. I want to read this book.
(Mary Hay 5:06pm June 9, 2013)

I think a fatal flaw is if the hero is mean or indifferent to those lesser than he---like the physically impaired or even animals.
(Sue Farrell 5:31pm June 9, 2013)

I found the "hero" from a couple of books I read that I did not consider real ... they didn't listen, were right all the time and just didn't seem to really care. It isn't perfection that makes a hero it's the willingness to take what you have been given (speech impediment, less than perfect looks, what ever)and give back more than you thought you could. All because that person means the world to you! I would love to read this book. Loved the other ones.
(Annetta Sweetko 5:45pm June 9, 2013)

If only guys were like the Heroes in most books. They are always so perfect
and unfortunately not true life. I guess it could be said the same is true with
women. But most of the books I have read lately, the men are perfect and
the women screwed up. Nice change of pace!!!!
(Vicki Hancock 6:02pm June 9, 2013)

The fatal flaw in the hero is that he blamed himself so a mistake that impact his life and the people involved. He doesn't believe in himself and has lost his way. He avoids commitments but when it comes to doing the right thing, he can't turn his back. He has to follow through and yet he still punish himself mentally.
(Kai Wong 6:57pm June 9, 2013)

Being flawed is what makes a character believable in my mind, we are all with whoops and I wish I could do-overs good for you to embrace it in your novels, look forward to this read!
(Darci Paice 7:23pm June 9, 2013)

sounds like a great book would love to read this
(Denise Smith 7:32pm June 9, 2013)

Sounds like a fantastic read!
(Cheryl McEwen 8:11pm June 9, 2013)

we al have flaws. Sometimes even a hero may have a flaw but it is only due to the goodness of their heart.
(Lisa Fitzgibbons 8:26pm June 9, 2013)

I dislike a conceited, cocky hero. A bit of humility is very inticing.
(Gladys Paradowski 9:22pm June 9, 2013)

I agree with Gladys(previous comment),too. If the hero puts his/her needs first, I'd most likely not finish the book.
(Joanne Hicks 10:25pm June 9, 2013)

I think a fatal flaw of a hero is when he is so self centered he can't even see the needs of others nor does he care when he hurts them.
(Jamie Fortney 4:16am June 10, 2013)

A fatal flaw for me would be control-freakery. The kind who puts a woman down to make her insecure, isolates her to make her dependent on him.
(Clare O'Beara 8:55am June 10, 2013)

Sounds like a great story. Thanks for the chance to win. Best of luck with the book.
(Nancy Reynolds 10:10am June 10, 2013)

Your book sound great. I look forward to reading it.
(Carol Woodruff 11:23am June 10, 2013)

Fatal flaw?? Bad breath.
Congratulations, Ruthie. Hope your release day is mahvelous!
(Lisa Hutson 11:53am June 10, 2013)

Self centered would be my opinion, but then is still the hero?
(Leona Olson 11:59am June 10, 2013)

What do I think is a fatal flaw in a hero is when a person
is a pushy type bully person that likes to belittle others
and goes around thinking that he or she is a better person
than others. God made all of us the same and on the same
page but some people go around playing mind games and acting
bigger and better than others. Yes, no one is perfect except
GOD. Thank goodness and we all have flaws and all make
mistakes. I believe that people stutter in life because they
have a low self esteem. I know how Sean Owens feels because
I grew up in small town in Kansas and was picked on and
bullied when going through high school. When, I liked a nice
guy they always seemed to end up with cheerleaders or
popular girls and not with a nice farmer's daughter like me
so I felt I had to move away to the big city. Big mistake. I
should have stayed in my small town and I can really relate
in my Life to this great book You have written. I would
really love to win and read your books. Thanks for the great
contest. Cecilia CECE
(Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez 12:46pm June 10, 2013)

Abuse of those who are in your care (physically or emotionally) would be a fatal character flaw. Thanks for visiting, Ruthie.
(G S Moch 2:29pm June 10, 2013)

Fatal flaw for a hero... when he wants revenge and ends up hurting innocent people.
(Colleen Conklin 2:33pm June 10, 2013)

Fatal flaw in a hero?...Being self centered and cruel. He has to be caring and protective of the heroine. If it's all about him and his needs without consideration of her then I'm not interested. I DNF a trilogy from a big name author recently because the "hero" was an a$$ and a jerk.
(Lenna Hendershott 3:15pm June 10, 2013)

Fatal flaw in a hero - cruelty, bigotry, uncaring. Who cares if you can bench press 350 if there is nothing but darkness upstairs. Give me a flawed smartie-pants any time.
(Janis Milford 4:06pm June 10, 2013)

A fatal flaw in a hero is being too perfect. That's a hard standard to live up to. Too serious a person is not good either. The ability to laugh is a great thing to cultivate.
(Laura Gullickson 5:14pm June 10, 2013)

A fatal flaw in a hero hmmm ego and no sense of humor.
(Donna Antonio 6:40pm June 10, 2013)

makes him more human
(Debbi Shaw 7:34pm June 10, 2013)

If he isn't loyal and cheats I think that would be a fatal flaw. I could probably deal with anything else (at least in a book) as long as those other horrible things like murder have really good explanations.
(Maria Smith 7:45pm June 10, 2013)

Sounds interesting. I'm looking forward to reading it.
(Shauna Rivera 8:19pm June 10, 2013)

The title sounds interesting and fatal flaws are excrutiating.
(Alyson Widen 8:54pm June 10, 2013)

Some of our heroes start out as mean and selfish. Then they fall in love and low and behold, they change. Few people really change but it is possible, especially in books.
(Kathleen Yohanna 10:59pm June 10, 2013)

A hero without flaws would not seem real to me. A fatal flaw would be if he were verbally or physically abusive to others. That would be really hard for me to overcome and give the guy a chance to win me over.
(Marcy Shuler 5:13pm June 12, 2013)

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