The final weeks leading up to the release of a new book are always filled with many boxes to check in preparation for the launch. Last touches to the manuscript, cover, book description, marketing outreach, all come together. Beneath it all lies the story, the narrative that’s developed over the preceding months and in that story, the characters who come to life as the plot unfolds.
In an earlier blog, I shared the character profile written to flesh out the character of Charleston free legal clinic attorney, Hanna Walsh. Hanna and Charleston police detective, Alex Frank, have been the lead protagonists in the three earlier “Hanna and Alex Low Country Suspense Thrillers.” Their often-tenuous love affair and deadly encounters with the dark forces of crime and corruption in the Low Country of South Carolina continue in the new THE SISTER TAKEN.
Here’s the story…
In THE SISTER TAKEN, Hanna and Alex again find themselves in the “troubled waters” of love and commitment. Alex returns to South Carolina with the promise of a new start but with strings attached that Hanna may never be able to live with.
When a twin goes missing, the other sister feels her terror, her pain… her death.
The shocking disappearance of a young woman and suspicious death of the father of one of Hanna’s clients puts both Hanna and Alex back into the cross-hairs of the ruthless Dellahousaye crime family. The story plays out against the compelling backdrop of Charleston, Pawleys Island and the fictional Dugganville, South Carolina.
As the new book release approaches, I wanted to share the character profile I’ve developed for Alex Frank. Again, I use these profiles to develop the full backstory of main characters. Not all of their past necessarily surfaces in the books, but it helps to guide their motivations and reactions as the story progresses.
Here’s Alex Frank…
Alex first met Hanna Walsh when he was assigned by the Charleston Police Department to investigate the murder of her husband. He assisted her in trying to uncover who killed Ben Walsh, and then later helped her through the situation with the kidnapping of her son and request for ransom by a ruthless crime family. While the relationship continued to grow close during the first book, only at the end did we see Hanna and Alex come together as a couple.
Alex was born and raised in Dugganville, South Carolina, a small fictional community on the intercoastal backwaters north of Charleston. His father was a shrimper and mother a teacher in the local schools. She died from a suspicious car accident in her late 50’s and his father never remarried. His father remains an active figure in his life as Alex tries to keep him out of trouble from drinking and crazy women. Alex was the first to go to college in the family and he attended the University of SC for two years before quitting to join the Marines after his brother was killed in action in Iraq.
Five years younger than Hanna, Alex is 37 years-old in the first book, LIES WE NEVER SEE. He is an athletic, handsome man with short dark hair, graying at the sides. He dresses casually with little pretense for style or flair. He lives simply in a small apartment and is devoted to his work and to finding common ground to move forward in a loving relationship with Hanna Walsh.
As a young boy, Alex and his older brother, Robert/Bobby, worked on the shrimp boat with their father. Alex always thought he and his brother would take over the family business, maybe even acquire another boat. His brother left to join the Marines and Alex decided to go to school. Bobby was killed in Iraq in 2004 when his Marine unit was ambushed in Mosul.
Alex served two tours in Iraq as an enlisted man and saw considerable action. He was discharged in 2006 following a serious leg Injury incurred during an IED explosion on their convoy. He still has considerable pain and a slight limp. He has a continuing problem with pain meds that will resurface. He also harbors a deep sense of guilt for his role in the death of several of his men in the attack. There was an inquiry, but he was cleared. Another man in his unit will come forward with charges of cowardice and dereliction of duty that will complicate Alex’s role in his partner’s death in Charleston.
Upon returning to the states, he went back to school and got his Criminal Justice degree before joining the Charleston PD. He came up through the ranks quickly due to his ability to deal with difficult cases and the people involved. He was named a LT. in the Detective Division.
His youth was filled with outdoor adventure on his father’s shrimp boat, fishing in the Low Country and out in the Atlantic Ocean. His best friend growing up was Chaz/Charles Merton. He’s now a crewman and a drunk, working on Alex’s father’s shrimp boat, refusing help from anyone, including Alex. He is often a good source of information for Alex and his criminal investigations.
Alex left his high school girlfriend, Adrienne Moore, when he went to college and she opted to stay in Dugganville to work. When he returned from the war they reunited and married. Unfortunately, she was not fully disconnected from a boyfriend from the time Alex was away. Alex found they were remaining more than just friends. He finally filed for divorce when he came home at an unexpected hour and found them both in his bed. Since the divorce for about five years, he had dated occasionally, was briefly infatuated with a real estate agent who helped him buy a house. Their short affair ended when she admitted to being engaged. So, Alex has a few trust issues as well. Adrienne will return with a dark secret that will come between he and Hanna.
His relationship with Hanna continues to grow and yet challenges always surface. He will also choose to continue his law enforcement career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation which will create new complications in their lives together.
Okay, now you have a little more insight on Hanna and Alex. If you missed the Hanna Walsh Character Profile, you can find it below.
Thank you again for your interest in my books. I’ll have final details out soon on the launch of THE SISTER TAKEN in late January.
Who is Hanna Walsh…?
Born, Hanna Moss, to the Moss family of Atlanta, Georgia; old Georgia money; her father is the senior partner of a prominent Atlanta firm where Hanna worked for two years after Duke Law. Her father Allen Moss, 62, continues to push Hanna to come back to the firm and continue the family lineage in Moss Kramer. She was never motivated by helping big money corporate clients and wealthy individuals in their divorces and other indiscretions.
She pursued a law degree because she thought she could help people in true need, not the wealthy clients her father’s firm served. She only agreed to join the family firm, because her father suffered his first heart attack and she felt guilty about not honoring his wish to come back to Atlanta to be near and to work with him when he returned. She met her husband Ben in law school and eventually joined him in Charleston as they continued to date. She started her own free legal clinic.
Hanna’s childhood held a few key dynamics… at age twelve, her father crashed their family plane on a trip to the Bahamas. Her mother and older brother, Josh, were both killed. Hanna and her father survived and were rescued by a nearby fishing boat as they approached the Freeport airport over water. Hanna was badly injured and continues to have back problems. She also has faded scar on her cheek from a deep cut from the crash. She carries a serious fear of flying in small planes and a resentment of her father for foolishly flying in bad weather conditions that day. Her relationship with her father is further complicated with his second marriage to an Atlanta socialite, (Martha Wellman, a 45 year-old serial trophy wife) who Hanna can’t stand; and the feeling is mutual as the woman sees Hanna as a threat to the family wealth when her much older husband eventually passes.
Hanna also lost her best friend, Amelia, to cancer when they were seniors in high school. Amelia, unlike Grace Holloway, an adult friend in Charleston, was her true and trusted friend, and her death was devastating. She had one serious boyfriend in college at Duke undergrad, but he left her suddenly. Sam Collins left school his junior year to pursue a photography career and became a successful freelancer who still travels the world on news and editorial assignments. Hanna still has deep feelings for Sam and he occasionally comes back into her life. He married a French woman some years ago, but they’ve since divorced because of his frequent travel and her indiscretions. Sam will be a challenge to Alex Frank and perhaps other men who enter her life in future books.
In Charleston, Hanna not only runs the clinic, but volunteers on several community boards including the YWCA Domestic Abuse Shelter and a local homeless shelter. She feels driven to give back to those less fortunate after her silver spoon upbringing.
Her passions also include gardening, swimming and running to stay in shape, reading historical fiction. She’s passionate in her relationships with men but struggles to ever get to an intimate level; afraid of being left again as she was with Sam Collins or betrayed like she was with her husband.
Her guilty pleasures are a little too much good wine, old movies and salted caramel ice cream.
Her happiest memory is a trip she took to Europe with her mother and best friend Amelia when they were in high school. Her saddest memory is the loss of her friend, Amelia, to cancer.
If Hanna could change one thing in her life, she would have been honest earlier about her relationship with her husband Ben. It was never fulfilling. The birth of their son, Jonathan, held her to the relationship. She always sensed Ben was seeing other women and knew he was financially irresponsible, despite a very successful law career.
Hanna has a fierce inner strength that finally comes out when she’s pushed to the edge as she was with Jonathan’s abduction. She will do whatever’s necessary to protect herself and those close to her.
What she wants most is for her son to get launched successfully in his adult life and for her personally, to find a man she can trust and be happy with. (It may not be Alex Frank).
Physically, Hanna is an attractive woman who has taken care of herself but doesn’t obsess about clothes or personal appearance. She’s more concerned with being healthy than attractive. Her favorite clothes are old jeans and Duke t-shirts. She stresses some that her son wanted to attend that “other” school, UNC. It’s become a healthy rivalry, particularly during basketball season. She drives a late model Honda sedan and lives in a small apartment on the second floor of an old Charleston house that also serves as her free legal clinic.
What is her “self-concept” and what is she struggling to overcome? Hanna is plagued with self-doubt in her ability to form a trusting relationship with men in her life. She’s been abandoned and betrayed enough to fear entering into a close relationship again. Her escape is her work and her son. She’s let her guard down with Alex Frank and early signs are good, but doubts continue to creep in; his ex-wife returns to Charleston; he gets a new partner, Sharron, who appears very interested in Alex.