I had some issues with Grace, the heroine of 72 Hours—issues that brought the writing of the book to a grinding halt. After reaching a point in the story where she made a decision I couldn’t live with it, I not only didn’t like her, but I thought she was a Bad Mom.
In broad strokes: Grace and Alex’s son has been kidnapped. Because I write HEA-guaranteed stories, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say they get him back. They bring him to a secure location and then…
â€œYou donâ€™t have to come looking for me. Iâ€™m leaving with you now.â€
No. Over his dead body. â€œYou are staying here with our son and then, when you get the all clear, youâ€™re taking him home.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t ask your permission, Alex.â€
He heard that tone in her voice that meant he may as well beat his head against a brick wall as continue this conversation, but he had a very hard head. â€œAfter all heâ€™s been through, youâ€™re just going to leave him here alone?â€
My reaction was much as the same as Alex’s. After all the work I went through to choreograph that rescue, she’s going to dump the kid and run off? Dude, srsly? I don’t even remember how long the manuscript sat while I tried to reconcile what I thought she should do with what the story demanded she do.
But eventually I realized that I was forcing myself onto Grace. I’m a mom. That’s my skillset, and I would hunker down in that secure location and hold my child and pray the Boogeyman didn’t jump out of the closet at us. Grace was a warrior. To her, the best way to keep her child safe was to kick down that closet door and kick the Boogeyman’s ass. That’s who she was.
Her cheeks reddened and he braced himself for her swing, but she only crossed her arms in front of her chest. â€œRicardo Escobar almost took Danny from me while he was still in my body. Now, eight years later, he did take him from me. I am going to hunt that son of a bitch down and Iâ€™m going to kill him. And then Iâ€™ll take my son home.â€
There was no way in hell he was going to let the mother of his child risk her life taking Escobar down. And the thought of losing another woman he cared about to the bastard behind it all made fear burn like acid in the back of his throat.
â€œSo what was all that about before, Grace? All that stuff about being a good mother and doing what was best for Danny. Now that youâ€™ve gotten out of the kitchen and had some fun, you donâ€™t care about that anymore?â€
â€œFun?â€ She put both hands on his chest and shoved him hard. â€œScrew you, Rossi. I tried. I tried to play nice with the PTO and I tried to bake cookies and I tried to like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spy Kids and I couldnâ€™t do it. But thisâ€¦this I can do for him, Alex. When I take Danny home and tuck him in to his own bed, Iâ€™ll be able to look him in the eye and promise him that bad guy will never, ever hurt him again.â€
He was losing. Again. Heâ€™d rarely, if ever, totally lost his cool, but now he turned and beat the living hell out of the vending machine. Plastic cracked and splintered, and packaged snacks flew around inside of it, and it didnâ€™t even help.
â€œWhat if you die?â€ he yelled, shoving his hands deep in his pockets because he wanted nothing more than to shake her until her eyes rolled back in her head. â€œWhat if you donâ€™t come back, Grace? It doesnâ€™t hurt any less when your mother dies taking a bullet for you. Sheâ€™s still dead.â€
I woudn’t go so far as to call Grace unlikeable, but I knew there was a chance some readers wouldn’t like her decision any more than I did. How could she leave her son after all they’d been through? Her idea of the right thing to do and my idea of the right thing to do were worlds apart. But ultimately one of the foundations of crafting a story is being true to your characters and that’s the decision she made. Whether I liked it or not.