Today we're joined by author Kara Braden, whose The Longest Night is a contemporary romance with a military heroine suffering from PTSD and the brilliant criminal defense lawyer who is suffering from his own hurts. Together, they find a way to overcome their respective odds. Kara's brainy hero has his roots in two very smart iconic characters, Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Spock, and she is here to discuss just what makes them so, so appealing. Thanks, Kara!
In the BBC’s modern Sherlock remake, A Scandal in Belgravia, Irene Adler states, “Brainy is the new sexy.” For me, though, there’s nothing new about it. Brainy has always been sexy—because hiding under the coldly logical exterior is the potential for an incredible depth of love.
That’s why Ian Fairchild, the hero of my debut romance, The Longest Night, is a genius criminal attorney, rather than a buff, brawny type. While it’s fun to have the eye-candy that comes with a firefighter, special forces soldier, or MMA fighter, there’s something glorious about a brainy hero, especially for a heroine who knows all that brainpower is focused on her.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was my close companion all through childhood. I read and re-read the original mysteries, always delighting in how Sherlock could piece together the most obscure clues to solve the mystery and catch the thief or murderer. It seemed extraordinary that someone valued logic so highly could have such deep insight into human emotion and motivation.
Of course, as a genius, Sherlock can be spectacularly dismissive of illogical human practices. Witness Sherlock’s speech, as John Watson’s best man, in the BBC’s season 3 episode, The Sign of Three:
“All emotions—in particular, love—stand opposed to the pure, cold reason I hold above all things. A wedding is, in my considered opinion, nothing short of a celebration of all that is false and specious and irrational and sentimental in this ailing morally compromised world.”
But even a sexy genius has an emotional side. Sherlock shows hints of this emotional side in all of his incarnations, from Doyle’s original creation all the way to the two biggest modern remakes, where Sherlock is played by Robert Downey, Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Sherlock plays his violin with both technical expertise and passion, showing his hidden heart through his love of music—an act of creation that exists not to further one’s knowledge but simply to express emotions. And Sherlock has always showed a deep dedication to his faithful companion, John Watson. From Doyle’s short story, The Three Garridebs:
“You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!”
It was worth a wound—it was worth many wounds—to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.
I have no doubt that Sherlock would have given anything, including his life, to save the man he considered his dearest friend.
Star Trek’s Spock was another childhood hero of mine. I was always more drawn to the Enterprise’s Chief Science Officer than I was to her captain, Jim Kirk. Sure, Kirk always got the girl, but Spock was calm, in control, and utterly self-assured. While Kirk was solving (or creating) diplomatic incidents off the cuff, Spock was putting all of his considerable intelligence and logic to the task of finding the most efficient solution. He’d then sweep in and deliver his brilliant insight in a deep, steady voice at just the right moment.
Even as a half-human, half-Vulcan, Spock learned to disdain such things as love at an early age. He once said to his father, “You suggest I should become completely Vulcan, and yet you married a human.” Sarek’s response is telling:
“As Ambassador to Earth, it is my duty to observe and understand human behavior. Marrying your mother was... logical.”
Later, Sarek confesses:
“You asked me once why I married your mother. I married her because I loved her.”
How cherished Amanda Grayson must have felt, knowing she’d thawed Sarek’s icy heart! To break through the barriers of logic and find love from a man who cherishes intellect over emotion...that’s a rare, precious thing.
Vulcans are experts at hiding their potential for love and passion, even for friends. In Amok Time, Spock thinks he’s killed Kirk during ritual combat. When Spock returns to the Enterprise to transfer command and submit himself to a court martial, Kirk walks nonchalantly out of sickbay. Spock’s first response is a reserved, “Captain!” But then, he grins, openly and widely, and grabs hold of Kirk’s arms as he exclaims, “Jim!” (47:20 )
Half-human or not, Spock has embraced the Vulcan principles of logic. This outburst of joy has nothing to do with escaping the court martial and everything to do with seeing his dearest friend alive. Even his attempt to cover up his emotional response with logic falls flat:
“I am pleased to see you, Captain. You seem... uninjured. I am at something of a loss to understand it, however.”
For a brilliant, reserved genius, “I am pleased to see you” is practically a declaration of eternal loyalty.
Once a genius falls for you, you’re in for a treat. With one look, he can tell if you need a comforting hug or a toe-curling kiss. He reads body language and takes his cues from behavior to know when to give you alone-time, if you need a backrub, or if you’re really craving an intimate distraction for a few hours to take your mind off the day’s stresses. Even better, he doesn’t jump to conclusions, but prefers to wait until he’s got all the facts before speaking up.
That’s not to say that he’s perfect. A person who prizes intellect and logic above emotion and sentiment can be cold, dismissive, and even oblivious, especially when engaged in a mental puzzle. He can be exasperating and challenging, but he’s also caring, in subtle ways, and deeply loyal. There’s nothing simple or easy about living with a genius, but the appeal is undeniable.
Who are your favorite brainy heroes?
Learn more about or order a copy of The Longest Night by Kara Braden, available now:
Kara Braden makes her debut in modern romance with a story of love in isolation. She believes that engaging, romantic fantasy can be found everywhere in the world, even in the most unlikely places. With the support of her wonderful husband, cats, and dogs, she writes from her home office outside Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends her time hiding from the sunlight and heat.