Another year, another tbr challenge. I don’t think I’ve missed a month for the last two years! And my print TBR has definitely shrunk to what I find a manageable size, though it would probably still make the average person run screaming into the night. I really should figure out what would be a good tipping point at which I could give up my “print books only” rule.
The challenge: A short book.
Why this one: Since I’m going with print, I naturally veered toward category romance. I haven’t read Palmer in a while and her siren call of “older alpha male who treats the innocent heroine badly” was calling to me.
I have what I’ve described as a hate-hate relationship with Diana Palmer’s books. I generally think they’re dreadful; it’s quite a shock if I give one a rating higher than 2 stars. But they hit some very weird spot, and I have a few on my keeper shelf.
Connal is her usual formula: Innocent but feisty heroine who adores the much older, tall dark and hairy hero. (In this case, I think he’s only 8 years older — practically younger than her by Palmer standards.) Meanwhile he gaslights her in the traditional way of “c’mere c’mere c’mere, get away get away get away.” It’s less cringe-worthy than many later books in the mold because the heroine hasn’t been made completely downtrodden; she has a loving father, a nice home, and a sweet boyfriend. (Who will never get his own book, or if he does, will have been transmogrified into a complete Alphole.)
The conflict is that Connal goes on a bender every year because his insanely jealous wife — a pot/kettle situation if ever there was one — died while being insanely jealous, and also while pregnant. And if you know Palmer at all, you won’t be surprised to learn that that’s what really upsets him. Penelope — Pepi — is the one to succor Connal during these yearly lapses, but she gets more than she bargained for when a soused Connal insists she marry him or he’ll shoot up the joint. They’re in Mexico at the time and Pepi assumes the marriage won’t be legal. Wrong-o.
Pepi decides it would be better to deny the whole thing and convince Connal that he was dreaming — which gives Connal the perfect excuse to be cruel to her when the truth inevitably comes out. Of course, in Palmer land, any excuse will justify a hero being cruel.
As you know, Bob, I kind of like these stories. Much in the way I kind of like 5 gallon vats of ice cream. But this one was somehow a little too squirmy… I felt like the book was gaslighting me. When Connal assures Pepi that she can do anything in bed and he’ll never use it against her, all I could think about was how he used her most sensitive points against her before (she think’s she’s fat, for one) and then had no compunction about doing it the next time he got pissed off. Pepi very sensibly worries about this issue herself, but then it’s all blown away in the joy of requited love. Unfortunately, in my experience, requited love doesn’t stop the occasional fight, and a lover who immediately goes for your jugular when he’s in a bad mood is a poor marriage risk. Add in the way he constantly talks about how possessive his late wife was, while demonstrating ridiculous levels of possessiveness and jealousy himself, and I’m pretty sure Pepi is eventually going to find herself all alone on a ranch with no car or phone service.