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Max is Kate’s longtime colleague/friend and an important element of the story. Including Max came naturally, and the development of his character evolved as the story headed toward its climax. It was only when I finished writing did I realize that his character serves a dual purpose.

The Cruelty of LoveFirst, Max provides a current love interest for Kate, the protagonist, boosting her lovability in spite of her actions. Max is one of Kate’s colleagues, and he is in love with her. He vowed never to reveal this to Kate. They’ve been colleagues for years and never once before the events of the novel did Kate ever suspect Max’s feeling.

When she finally realizes Max is in love with her, she is both flattered and embarrassed. Embarrassed because she is not in love with him, embarrassed because he is much younger, and embarrassed because she’s never gone out with a white man. For Kate, their friendship is professional and nothing else. For Max, these things are not important and he sticks by her. Unrequited love is a bore, but love can be cruel.

Second, Max provides the reader with an anchor in so-called sensible behavior should the protagonist’s behavior seem over the top. Max’s questions about Kate’s out-of-character behavior may mirror their own thoughts. Why is Kate asking about guns and hunting lodges, when she’s shown no previous interest in either? Why does she leave work a couple of days a week earlier than usual? Why has she suddenly taken a vacation without informing him?

Max’s character may be a means to affirm that no one would go to such extreme measures to confront their ex-boy or girlfriends. In spite of his moral support, Max certainly wouldn’t. He confronts Kate with what he thinks he knows in an attempt to make her come to her senses, and is genuinely shocked, as most of us would be.

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