Cover Artist: Tiferet Design
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Cooper West here today talking about her new novel Mixed Signals. Welcome, Cooper.
When Beauty is a Mixed Signal
By Cooper West (2/18/2019)
Is there such a thing as “too beautiful”?
This question came to my mind years and years ago, when I made the accidental acquaintance of a truly astoundingly beautiful woman. By any measure of traditional beauty, she scored a 100%. Why she wasn’t a model, I’ll never know, but what I did come to know about her was that she was creative, intelligent, witty, a great dancer…
…and almost pathologically insecure.
It opened my eyes to the unique and often overlooked problems that people who possess exceptionally good looks have to deal with. For my friend, her astonishing features meant that she was in a constant state of being objectified and used by everyone around her. Men wanted her as eye candy and a status symbol; women wanted to be associated with her, or wanted to hate her for what she had that they felt they lacked. She believed that most people who tried to connect with her could not be trusted, and not without reason. On top of that, she was fully aware that her looks were transitory, that someday she would age out of the “beautiful young woman” category that she felt (incorrectly) was her only real social advantage, and that terrified her.
For someone whom I at first thought “had it all,” she was a person I eventually came to feel sorry for. What good is having it all if you are always alone and wary of everyone around you?
Years later, I decided to write that into a character, and that character is Frank (Francis) Sheldon in my new book Mixed Signals.
(Full disclosure: it’s not a new book, it’s a second edition, but instead of being a super short novella it is now a long and plotty book full of intrigue and, of course, romance!)
Frank is that guy: rich, privileged, gorgeous, popular. He’s got everything most of us think any guy would be thrilled to have.
My goal with Frank was to show that sometimes, a charmed life might be privileged but not easy. Frank got washed out of the US Air Force under the old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that ended so many careers of LGBTQ+ service members. He doesn’t particularly want to inherit all the responsibility and drudgery of his father’s corporate empire, nor does he want to go into politics like his older sister. He’s constantly preyed upon by people who are out for his looks and his money, and he finds it hard to trust anyone completely. He spent years carefully living in the closet only to be outed and have his career goals destroyed in one fell swoop.
He’s a lucky guy, is Frank, but he’s the only one who doesn’t think that’s true.
Well, he was until he met Benjamin.
Benjamin is not quite the everyday-Joe character, as he’s a bit of a brilliant computer nerd and a brat. He shares some of the insecurities most of us would identify with, I think (or maybe just me!): not spectacularly handsome, not spectacularly wealthy, and not spectacularly noticeable at all. Unlike Frank, Benjamin’s life has been marred by tragedy after tragedy as well as financial frustrations. He got a free ride for his doctorate but he also had to raise his younger sister after the deaths of their parents. My goal with Benjamin was to make him the one we can all relate to, despite his IQ and social klutziness.
Frank’s expectation is that he can pretty much seduce whomever he wants without working for it while also not having to commit to a relationship with someone he doesn’t trust. But, in a nutshell: Benjamin is not impressed!!! Frank is used to people seeing the surface-value aspect of his life — handsome! Rich! Envied! — and not seeing him as a person. Benjamin, though, pretty much only sees Frank as a person, and not only that, but as a person he is not particularly interested in (or is he?).
It was fun to write his story because I enjoy turning tropes upside down. This could have easily become a “billionaire daddy” romance because technically, yes, Frank’s family are billionaires and he can drop millions of dollars on a hobby without thinking much about it. While I have nothing against billionaire daddy stories, I wanted to show how that kind of advantage in life can work against a person in unexpected ways. I hope you enjoy the twists and turns Frank and Benjamin go through on their way to true love!
Devastatingly handsome pilot Frank Sheldon is doing his best to avoid his inheritance of money, charm, and good looks by rebuilding his life on his own terms after being discharged from the Air Force just before the repeal of DADT. When he unexpectedly meets the eccentric geek Benjamin Kaplan, sparks don’t quite fly, despite Benjamin’s obvious interest. Frank is not one to back down from a challenge, but what does any of that have to do with his sister’s campaign for governor, or the muckraking political website attacking her opponent, who just happens to be Frank’s unlamented, very closeted, ex-boyfriend? It’s hard to fall in love when all you are getting is mixed signals!
About the Author
Busting out of the fanfiction scene in 2012 with the publication of her first original full-length book, Dawn in the Orchard, Cooper West writes stories that capture the heart and imagination. She is now known for her bestselling book The Protector, set in her unique Guardsman’verse of weredogs and bonded pairs, and plans to continue to release more books in that series but also enjoys writing modern, quirky contemporary romance stories.
She’s still a fangirl at heart, with an everlasting crush on Chris Evans and an ever-rotating list of OTPs. Bisexual and raised in a queer household, Cooper has been writing “slash” since she was a teenager and did not understand much about biology. She’s learned a lot since then! *wink wink nudge nudge*
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