A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: Connal by Diana Palmer

on January 21, 2015

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.

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15 responses to “TBR Challenge: Connal by Diana Palmer

  1. azteclady says:

    This is why I stopped reading Palmer years and years ago. Not only was the hero always an absolute asshat at the drop of a hat, there was never a change in his behaviour. At most, some groveling on the last page or so. Yet the reader is expected to believe that, as soon as he admits he loves the heroine, he’ll stop being a dick over everything.

    As if.

    I think the only book of her I half way liked–and the only one I actually remember by title–is Lacy. The hero is seriously scarred physically and emotionally, so that at least helps explain why he’s an ass.

  2. That sounds…dismal. I’ve never read Palmer and sadly, you’ve not inspired me to start. I guess I don’t have much tolerance for deliberately cruel heroes. Unless they’re totally damaged. Then they can be all the cruel they want. I’m fickle. I’ve come around to certain flavors of alphaholes, but apparently not all of them.

    That said, this TBR Challenge thing is great! This was my first month and I already crossed three books that have been languishing in my TBR for ages off my list. One because I read it and two more because they no longer appeal. I feel so accomplished!

    • willaful says:

      Awesome! Many of my TBR books have gone the same way… I often go through several before I pick on The One and my rule is if I decide against it, out it goes.

      It’s not actually that dismal by Palmer standards… in her later books, Pepi would be a sexually abused, poverty stricken orphan with a heart condition. I’m not exaggerating.

  3. Jennifer @ Feminist Fairy Tale Reviews says:

    I’ve never read Diana Palmer and I’m not sure if I ever will based on this review. I hate alpha a-hole heroes who treat the heroine like crap. But, thanks for the honest review! Yeah for another book off the old TBR shelf!

  4. Barb in Maryland says:

    I think I quit reading Palmer about 25 years ago when I had exhausted my tolerance for her schtick. Can’t remember if I read this particular one, because, alas, it sounds like all her others.
    I did get a giggle out of your reaction to the small, for Palmer, age difference. I also got sick of the 18 year old heroine and the 30+ year old ‘hero’ dynamic.

  5. librarianlizy says:

    I read a lot of Palmer in early high school and have maybe read one more in the last 10 years. I find them highly amusing but ridiculously insulting so I stay away. But y’all are right…every once in a while she writes one that is really good and reminds you of why people continue to buy her books.

  6. Marilyn says:

    Whoa. I haven’t read anything by this author and now I am warned. Ick. That “I hate you, don’t leave me” bit is way past my tolerance. Thanks, Willa! That’s another hit you’ve taken for me.

  7. SuperWendy says:

    Palmer just has that kind of hold on some of us. Not me, as I’ve never read her. I can tolerate Alphaholes, but I NEED The Grovel. No grovel = no go. So….no Palmer for Wendy. But I get your fascination with her books. I really do. I have more than one romance reading friend who suffers from the same condition 🙂

  8. Olivia Dade says:

    I read a lot of her books as a preteen. After reading your review, I was wondering why, since those kinds of heroes are now my anti-catnip. But then I remembered: I read literally anything resembling a romance back then. Thrift store paperbacks of old Harlequins like NURSE AT NOONGWALLA (can’t believe I still remember the title of that one!). Library copies of Barbara Cartland. Anything.

    I was so hungry for romances from such a young age. Over the years, I think I’d forgotten how much so. Your post helped remind me, so thank you. And sorry you had to read about such a dickish hero!

    • willaful says:

      I’m astonished now at the stuff I read then… and Palmer is very… basic. The first time I read one of her books, I wrote that it read like a rough draft. There’s no subtlety, everything is just put right out there. It can be restful, in a way, along with the predictability.

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