Our first introduction to Nick Armstrong in the Secret Circle is to hear Suzan say that kissing him “was like kissing a reptile.” Often seen with a cigarette between his unsmiling lips, Nick is handsome, but seemingly cold and dispassionate. A loner who belongs to the most exclusive group at school, The Club, a witch’s coven descended from the witches of Salem, Massachusetts.
The first time we see Nick, he’s standing outside of the school with Faye Chamberlain and some other members of the coven, smoking of course. Nick doesn’t seem to enjoy being part of the coven. In fact, he doesn’t appear to enjoy being a witch at all.
Nick is an individual. While everyone else will take sides depending upon whomever they are closest to, Nick makes decisions according to his own take on a situation. He doesn’t choose sides and play favorites. His extreme neutrality causes him to seem even more dispassionate than he otherwise might, such as when he’s refraining from casting a vote for coven leader.
As we’ve established, Nick is not an emotional guy. When the school principal dies, Nick is the one who informs the coven, in his usual straightforward way, as if there’s nothing personal about the event. This is one of the reasons that Nick and Adam seem to rub each other the wrong way. And yet, I’d say Nick is dependable. He’s there when you need him and does what needs to be done, beginning when he saves Cassie’s backpack from Doug and Deborah who were tossing it around at school.
Ah, Cassie. Now we’ve gotten to the interesting part because, once Cassie is in it, Nick’s life will never be the same again. Cassie learns that there’s more to Nick than meets the eye, beginning when she finds Jeffery’s body and Nick comforts her, telling her “Steady. Steady. Hang on there.”
Cassie impresses Nick because, as he says “you’re good but you’re tough.” Nick’s a realist though, and even when admitting how he feels for Cassie, tells her that he knows she’s not in love with him. He’s taking a chance. He tells her that he’ll “be there when you need somebody.” To tell the truth, I think that it’s Nick himself that needs somebody at this point. He’s spent so much of his life pushing people away. Because his parents died while he was so young, he’s probably always had a bit of a fear of trusting people, or caring for them, for fear of losing them. He also admits to Cassie that he’d always felt as if his parents screwed up when they got killed, and that he hates living with Deborah and her parents.
Nick’s opening up to Cassie is not a small thing. He’s admitting that he’s got a vulnerable side, and though he seems to be the one comforting her many times, it’s my belief that that’s his way of deriving comfort for himself. And even when he realizes that Cassie and him aren’t going to stay together, it seems that she’s touched a deep enough part of him that he’s able to continue to be more open and friendly, and finally to take a stand when the time comes to defeat Black John. Other than Cassie, Nick is the character in the Secret Circle who changes the most, and he certainly captured my heart, not always being the greatest guy around, but in the end doing what's right. That's why I've dubbed him an "LJS knight in shining armor."
The Secret Circle Trilogy by L.J. Smith
L.J. Smith "Bad Boys" by Katherine Clay
Reflections on LJ Smith