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The Flaws of Romance

Fiction needs conflict to be compelling. Romance sometimes gets a bad rap for being light and fluffy and not as “serious” as other genres, but I’d argue it’s especially crucial in romance to have those flawed characters and imperfect situations. After all, who wants to read about two nice, attractive, well-adjusted people meeting each other, deciding to date, and having everything work out swimmingly for them? Even though that’s probably what happens in real life much of the time, it’s not very interesting.

Enter Ro, the main character of The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions. In a way, it was easy to create her flaws when writing because the book is a sequel. In its predecessor, Disintegration, she serves as the love interest and not the protagonist, but she comes out of that book worse than how she went in. I already had a foundation established, a backstory, a series of events and experiences to shape her.

She has loved and lost. (Twice, actually.) She has seen and done terrible things, which she admits to readily. Some of those terrible things she feels little to no guilt over (while others do keep her awake at night). She keeps people at arm’s length, afraid to let them get too close. She’s flippant, sarcastic, and acknowledges she sometimes acts like a bratty teenager.

Is this groundbreaking stuff, a totally unique characterization? No, not really. I don’t even want to count up how many documented tropes I included in the previous paragraph. And I’m sure that as soon as readers see “afraid to let anyone get too close” for any character in any story, they know exactly where the plot is headed. (Spoiler alert: someone gets close.) But even though it’s all been done before, would the book still be as engaging if she didn’t have a checkered past and she readily accepted the hero into her arms? Probably not.

Since I brought up the topic of common tropes, I’ll pose the question to readers here: What are your favorite (or least favorite!) flaws you like to see in your romantic leads?

The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions (Sequel to Disintegration)


Can Ro and her teammates take down a dangerous mercenary organization and find her lost love?


A year has passed since Ro Bernard escaped from the Midnight Scorpions, a clandestine group of mercenaries that exists in the outside world as little more than myths and rumors. Though haunted by the reprehensible acts she committed and witnessed as a member of the organization, her primary focus is keeping a roof over her head and food on her plate. A chance encounter leads her to Karin Cassels, whose son died in the Scorpions’ underground laboratory. While sharing details about her son’s research, Ro reveals the most disturbing information she has on the group. Their leader, scientist Dane Zedek, has been integrating cybernetic parts with human soldiers in the hopes of building himself a lethal army that will help him achieve even greater political power.

The women hatch a plan to take down the Midnight Scorpions with two ultimate goals: kill Zedek, and rescue Callum, Ro’s lover who was the first of the scientist’s experimental hybrids. For additional assistance, Dr. Cassels directs Ro to Reggie Quinn, a drifter who is no stranger to odd jobs and risky situations. Reggie agrees to join the cause in exchange for a percentage of whatever they loot from the Scorpions’ base.

They embark on an adventure throughout three warring countries to assemble their team and gather the necessary materials for their schemes. Along the way, Ro tries to fight her growing attraction to Reggie, especially as reminders of her unhappy past keep resurfacing. Love and redemption wait for her at the end of her mission to defeat the Midnight Scorpions…assuming she makes it out alive.


Ro pondered how many details to disclose and the best way to convey them for a few more steps. “I have a friend down there and I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I didn’t have time to find out for sure before I escaped, and obviously I couldn’t take him with me.”

“So we add springing your friend to our list. I don’t see what the big deal is.”

She didn’t say anything.

“Oh,” Reggie said after a few beats of silence. “Let me guess, I stumbled across one of those love affairs I was joking about.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be that way. He was a project, an assignment, a responsibility.” The words tasted bitter as they rolled off her tongue. “And he deserved better than what he got.”

“From the Midnight Scorpions or from you yourself?”


The street shifted from asphalt to dirt beneath their feet. “If you loved him, I don’t think he got such a raw deal from you,” Reggie said quietly.

“Zedek and the lab rats were responsible for fucking up his brain and his body. His emotions, his soul, that was all on me.”

“It couldn’t have been that bad.”

“It was.” Nauseating guilt churned in her stomach, but she’d come too far to leave her confessions unfinished. “As soon as we started caring about each other, I should have walked away and put an end to it. Not only would it have been the professional thing to do, I knew nothing warm and bright and good could ever come from Zedek’s dark pit in the ground. I was right.”

“When things look bleak, people want to cling to whatever glimmers of hope they can find.”

“Are you referring to him or me?”

“Both,” he said, repeating her prior answer.

They trudged along the dusty paths. The settlement of gray and brown hovels appeared in the distance, swathed in the illusion of murky shadows despite the mid-day sun. Before they reached Ted’s house, Reggie grabbed her shoulder and spun her around to face him. “Look, Rosie, I’m not going to tell you not to beat yourself up over whatever happened with this guy,” he said. “You and I both have our skeletons and scars, and sleep comes easier some nights more than others. I’m not going to sit around and play psychiatrist with you, and you’d probably tell me to go fuck myself if I tried.”

Ro shrugged, though the motion didn’t dislodge his grip. “Very likely.”

“For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re a horrible person, and I seriously doubt anything you could tell me would change my mind. I don’t go following just anybody into hideouts filled with hordes of deadly mercenaries, you know.”

She stared up into his gold-flecked eyes. “You’ve heard enough evidence that everything I touch turns to shit. Let’s just follow through with the plans Ted has helped us solidify and get the job done. Assuming we come out alive on the other end, we can then worry about whether your assessment was right or wrong.”


They arrived at Ted’s door. “One more thing,” Reggie said as she reached for the knob.


“Your friend, boyfriend, lover, whatever.” Sympathy softened the strong lines of his cheekbones and jaw. “We’ll find him and get him out, no matter what.”

Author Bio:

Author Thea LandenThea Landen lives in New York with her husband and two children. A former educator, she strives to encourage creativity and passion in all those around her, and uses writing to help inspire. Though she reads and writes in nearly all genres, she has a special fondness for science fiction, fantasy, and adventure and anything that pushes the imagination beyond its usual limits. When she’s not writing, or thinking about writing, her hands and mind are occupied by either yarn crafts or role-playing games.

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