I am excited to welcome back author Jax Garren, who released her second Tales of the Underlight novel, How Beauty Saved the Beast, earlier this month.
Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.
The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.
Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him—or risk losing him forever…
The Decision to “Go There”
One of the most commented on aspects of How Beauty Met the Beast, the first book in the Tales of the Underlight series, has been the decision to “go there” with the hero’s looks. Wesley “Hauk” Haukon, the beast of this “Beauty and the Beast” reimagining, is a burn survivor from his time serving with the Rangers in Afghanistan. When creating him, I made the decision to not hold back from the physical horror of burning. This wasn’t always an easy thing to write, particularly in a genre known for exceedingly handsome heroes. Hauk’s face is destroyed beyond recognition, his body patch-worked with scars and he has an amputated leg (though he has a mechanical replacement which keeps him perfectly mobile). It’s been wonderful to see how readers have rallied to Hauk anyway.
I made the decision to do this because for me the heart of “Beauty and the Beast” is how, despite our best intentions, we humans have a hard time getting past appearances. We know better. Most of us don’t want to be judgmental. But it’s in human nature to stare, to question, to categorize and to judge. The more out of the ordinary the differences, the harder it is for us to overcome our reticence to engage with someone we perceive as unattractive.
In order to explore this theme, I needed a hero whose looks were off-putting enough that the reader couldn’t help thinking, “Yes. That really would be an obstacle.” That way when we, along with the beautiful heroine Jolie, fall in love anyway—when we can picture that kiss and more and be excited by it—we’ve not just watched a character’s journey and triumph, but gotten to take a little bit of our own journey and experience our own triumph. We, too, can overcome our natural prejudice and be the kind of person we’d like to be. That personal connection to both characters is why I think “Beauty and the Beast” is one of the most popular fairy tales out there.
The first two books in the trilogy deal mostly with Jolie’s reactions and journey, but the third book (releasing May 13) delves more into Hauk’s recovery. We don’t just judge other people by their looks. We judge ourselves—often far more harshly than anyone else will. At the beginning of the trilogy, Hauk had mostly accepted that he would remain single for the rest of his life due to his appearance. But as he and Jolie grow closer, he is forced to face his physical changes in ways he never expected to.
On that note, I’m pleased to present the first exclusive excerpt from the upcoming Book 3, How Beauty Loved the Beast. Alone at last after our beauty and the beast have finally decided to make a go of it as a couple…
Hauk held himself above Jolie, muscles clenched.
She didn’t know what else she could say or how she could reassure him without touching his pride. That was too fragile right now to risk. Leaning up until her mouth was a hairsbreadth from his, she said a word that rarely crossed her lips as more than a polite custom: “Please.” She kissed him gently. “Please, Hauk, for me. I want you to talk to me.”
His eyes opened, their confused shine taking her in with so much pain, so much need.
“Please,” she whispered again.
He swallowed and shook his head dismissively, but still he said, “Sudden movement. It just startled me. That shouldn’t—”
She showed him her hands then cupped his jaw firmly, getting those eyes back on hers. “There is no should or shouldn’t. There’s just what is. Things may be different in the future, but I’m here with you in the now. I want you as you are right now. Not as you think you should be. Not as you want to be. As you are.”
With a shuddering breath, his muscles began to unclench.
She smoothed her thumb across his scarred cheek and decided to push, just a little. “Can you give me one other piece of advice? I’ll take more if you’re willing to share, but please, at least one more thing.” She grinned softly. “I want to make you feel good, but I’d like some help.”
A tiny smile and a blush turned his expression almost boyish. A sense of victory warmed her. He was going to keep talking.
His fingers trailed, feather-soft, up her arm. “This?” he said, indicating the heavenly brush of his gentle touch. “I can’t feel it in a lot of places.” He ducked his head. “I don’t like it when sensation goes in and out. Reminds me that…well, you know.” He cleared his throat and straightened his spine. “It reminds me what a mess you have to face. I want better for you than that.”
Jolie opened her mouth to protest but he cut her off with a hand to her lips.
“Don’t. Don’t say anything, please.” He shifted uncomfortably, and she quieted. She didn’t really know what she’d say, anyway. His looks didn’t bother her any more, but if their positions were reversed she wouldn’t want to discuss it, either.
“As I was saying.” His hand stroked her arm, more firmly this time, with a smooth pressure that glided up her skin. “That I can feel almost everywhere. I think I would like that better.”
His “I think” struck her. In many ways, he was going to have to relearn what he liked, what turned him on the most, what drove him to the edge the quickest and how to kindle a slow burn that lasted.
And she would get to help him.
Meet Jax Garren!
Jax Garren is descended from Valkyries and Vikings (she’s part Swedish) but was raised a small town girl in the Texas Hill Country. She graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in Latin then found her own Happily Ever After with a handsome engineer who is saving the world through clean energy technology. Jax loves meeting new people, so if you see her out and about say hello! She’s always happy to raise a glass with her readers (or anyone else) to toast courage, adventure and love.
Want to purchase Jax’s novels?
The Tales of the Underlight
Thank you Jax for taking the time to stop by Literary Escapism!
Jax is giving away two ecopies of How Beauty Met the Beast or How Beauty Saved the Beast – winners choice!. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: Is Hauk alone or are there other characters you’ve fallen for who have been less than attractive? Why do you believe that society has dictated that our heroes must be gorgeous? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered.
Even though I’m not giving the additional entries any more, you can still help support the author by sharing their article, and this contest, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you can. After all, the more people who are aware of this fabulous author ensures we get more fabulous stories.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
The contest will stay open until March 15th at which time I’ll determine the winner with help from this snazzy plug-in that I have.