“When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.” - Dmitri Shostakovich, Testimony
Warning: Spoilers below if you haven’t read Love Left Behind.
It’s been fascinating to see all the different responses to Jackson Reynard. They run the spectrum – from swoonworthy to certifiable, and it made me want to do a little character study on him. Everyone comes to the table with their own experiences, beliefs and background that color their view of a character, and this is how I see Jackson with my filters.
Jackson in the first part of the book is pretty much a woman’s ideal. I mean, who doesn’t want a hot, sexy guy to have eyes for you, and you only? Jackson’s led a pretty normal life up to this point – he comes from a loving family, he’s dated and had a few relationships (although nothing too serious), and has a good group of friends (well, with one notable exception, if you know what I mean!). He has a healthy sense of self and will undoubtedly be a good boyfriend/husband/mate for the right woman. So when the right woman comes along, i.e. Emma, he dives right in with no inhibitions. Jackson isn’t afraid to admit what he wants because he doesn’t know how to function any other way. When he’s in, he’s in all the way.
Now, this is where things get a little screwy! Jackson five years later is the Jackson of the past, but with a layer of anger, bitterness and betrayal that he’s never been able to swallow. Just as fiercely as he loves, he feels pain and anger. His motivation is no longer building a life with the person he loves; it’s trying to forget the person who betrayed him, knowing all the while that for him, that may be next to impossible.
Jackson has always been assertive, but now that assertiveness has been paired with pain, which morphs into something much more troubling. Jackson feels he’s been robbed of the life he was supposed to have and doesn’t know how to let go of the “what could have beens” and the “if onlys.” He can’t get past losing Emma, so he copes in the only way he knows how to allow him to continue his superficial life; he recreates a world where he can pretend that all hope isn’t lost. That he’s just holding her place for her; that Emma will return to him someday and they can continue their life together. His apartment represents the life he was supposed to have, the life he’s enraged to have lost.
But he’s not thinking of trying to win back Emma and start anew at this point. He’s holding on to what they used to be together because he can’t think in terms of the future. He believes that any real future doesn’t include Emma. I mean, if he really wanted to win her back, he could look her up and rip her away from Sean (since he believes they’re together). But he thinks that’s impossible, so he creates a fictional world where the impossible can still happen. But there’s always a seed of hope inside Jackson, that maybe the impossible doesn’t have to mean never.
So when Jackson finally meets up with Emma again, he can’t keep away from her even though he’s pissed. Not only is he angry about her betrayal, but he’s angry because the present day Emma makes him face the fact that the Emma of the past isn’t going to magically appear and love him again. Rationally, he knows that was never going to happen, but in his desolation the only thing he can hold onto is an irrational belief that makes it a little easier to breathe. He acts out in ways with Emma that are at times inexcusable and would make most people run for the hills. Except for Emma, because she’s been struggling as well, and to her the inexcusable is forgivable because she believes that Jackson is worth saving.
If you got to this point, thanks for wading through my long-winded ramblings! Everyone has their own opinion of Jackson, and personally I love him (I would hope so since he was my creation!). Would I want Jackson Reynard barging through my door in real life? Probably not. At least not without some therapy! (Plus I think my husband might have something to say on the matter). But a fictional Jackson Reynard is right up my alley: devoted, possessive, hot and a little unhinged when it comes to the person he loves. I think the best thing about Jackson is he does everything fiercely. He loves fiercely, he feels pain fiercely, he fights fiercely, and he embraces redemption fiercely.