Saturday, January 5, 2013

"A Dark Love" by Margaret Carroll

Caroline Hughes decides to escape from her highly abusive husband, Dr. Porter Moross, who has quite the impressive list of high-powered clientele. She hotfoots it to Storm Pass in Colorado where she passes herself off as Alice Stevens and takes a job as a housekeeper for elderly local Nan Birmingham. Nan and the other locals, particularly Ken Kincaid, take a real shine to her (although God only knows why), and Caroline fears breaking their hearts because she will inevitably have to move on, thanks to the fact Porter will hunt her down and kill her rather than let her live a life free of him.

The plot of A Dark Love is quite similar to Don't Tell by Karen Rose, which I recently read. There's no doubt that A Dark Love is the better novel, with a faster-paced and more streamlined plot. The main problem - yet again - is with the main character. I couldn't help but feel that Caroline Hughes really dug her own hole in this case. Before I get anybody worked up - I worked for a long time in Restraining Orders at the law courts, and talked a lot with Victim Support workers, and learnt a lot about the behaviours involved in abusive relationships.

While I understand that every domestic abuse scenario comes with its own set of circumstances, what was going on here? Most abusers are Prince Charming whilst reeling their victim in, before cutting off the channels for help and showing their true colours. Here, Porter is a described as a freak from the get-go. Not only is he presented as a near-albino with purple pustules dotting his chin, he behaves like a total freak during his first dates with Caroline - berating her for being late, acting like a child and refusing to talk to her, crying at random moments, putting her down....the list goes on. The fact she didn't run for the hills made it very difficult to feel sorry for her. Instead she just wanted to "fix" him. Yeah, right.

The novel makes a few references to her history as an abused child....but really? Anybody in their right mind would pick Porter for the psychotic freak he is and hotfoot it out of there. Nevertheless, Carroll has a good handle on pacing and suspense, and I appreciated the fact that Caroline stepped up to the plate when Ken Kincaid came into the line of fire.

As for Ken, he was a refreshing change of pace from the usual romantic suspense hero you find in this sort of novel. He's very laid-back, patient and understanding. In fact, probably a bit too much. But I didn't mind. It was a nice difference from the melodramatic alpha-male you usually get. He takes things as they come and I even struggled to understand why such a down-to-earth decent guy would expend so much effort in trying to land such a fidgety, stand-offish woman like Caroline, no matter how abused she was.

I also liked the fact that Porter didn't waste any time in tracking down Caroline, and made a bee-line for the man he thought was taking his place. In fact, the novel does a good job in getting into Porter's mindset to let us understand his attitude to Caroline and women in general. The benefit here would be to give us a greater understanding as to why Caroline accepted Porter's psycho bullshit in the first place and hooked up with him.

As far as Sleeping With The Enemy-style knock-offs go, this is a quick, effortless read that draws you in despite its lapses in logic.

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