Title: A Tainted Beauty
Author: Sharon Kendrick
This time around, Things I Might Actually Remember About This One isn’t going to cut it, so I’m dividing that into two sections:
Things I Loved About This Novel: The heroine in this was superb. I liked her from the first instant, partly because she bakes and wears retro fashions, but also because she’s one of those “alone in the world” heroines I get such a kick from. Evil selfish stepmother: check. Somewhat menial job, which she nevertheless enjoys: check. Devotion to family/pet: check (a younger brother, in this case).
But the BEST thing about this heroine was that she was sweet, innocent, old-fashioned, innocent, and yet NOT A VIRGIN. My God, it’s as though there are categories of women other than “virgin” and “whore next door.” So stunning. And this heroine had a relationship–complete with engagement, sex, and being left at the alter–WITHOUT losing her slightly old-fashioned scrupulousness about men. FANTASTIC. Well done, author.
Things I Hated About This Novel: The Hero.
In a sense, though, I have to say “well done author” with regards to this too, because she clearly set out to show him mistreating the heroine horribly because of his own Incredible Freaking Damage, and boy, did she succeed. I HATED this hero. Flat-out hated him. The way he behaved towards the heroine once he found out she wasn’t a virgin was cruel and, well, insane.
In the book this is slightly-explained-away by having the heroine APOLOGIZE for not having told him she wasn’t a virgin, but there’s absolutely no “So, are you a virgin?” conversation anywhere along the way, so why the hell should she have? He could have taken enough interest to ask her about her past relationships. Instead he acts as if her refusal to leap into bed with him is, in itself, dishonest. Because she’s not a virgin.
So in the BOOK there are categories other than Virgin and Whore Next Door, but in the hero’s head there aren’t.
If I had to pick out one single most hateful thing about him, it’s that for nine-tenths of the book you think his incredible jackassery about women, and his particular hatred for his own mother, is justified by his mother’s having brought home lots of men when he was a child. She sounded like a sort of Christian Grey’s Mom, only without the actual crack. But then you find out all she did was date a handful of men after being abandoned by her husband, because she thought she should find a stepfather for her child, and in that moment my opinion of the hero flipped from “damaged, but with reason I guess” to “incredibly freaking self-centred and INSANE.”
I may be giving the impression I didn’t like this book–but I did. It was infuriating, but utterly enjoyable.
Conversation I would have liked to have seen: “Of course I forgive you, darling. I love you. And yes, I want to stay married to you and Live Happily Ever After. But for that to happen, you need absolutely truckloads of therapy. So find someone qualified–a credentialed therapist, a wise and experienced priest, whatever–and go see them twice a week for like FOREVER, because otherwise I expect this epiphany you’ve had about how emotionally abusive you are will fade away and leave us right where we were just now when I left you because you assumed I was a money-grubbing slut. Got it?”