Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Heartless Marriage

Leigh Wilson left her husband Raoul de Chevnair five years ago after walking into her bedroom and finding a naked woman on the bed and Raoul coming out of the bathroom similarly unclothed. Now he's back and has coerced her into agreeing to spend the next three months with him before granting her a divorce.

It's immediately obvious to the reader that Raoul was innocent; Leigh did not find him in bed, but coming out of the bathroom after a shower. The naked woman happened to be Miranda, a guest staying with them with her husband. That's right, with the full knowledge that both couples were in the house, Miranda decided to seduce her host. She is either incredibly stupid, or secretly wanted to be caught, but this is never addressed. The question I asked, which Leigh never did, was if Raoul really was cheating on her, why would he be dumb enough to do it in his own home where he'd obviously be caught? Anyway, Leigh never gave him the opportunity to explain, and just screamed and ranted at him before setting fire to all her clothes and running off.

Raoul's excuse for the past five years is that among the things Leigh had yelled at him, was the accusation that he was stifling her and making her feel trapped. He decided magnanimously to let her go and spread her wings, knowing that her love for him would act as a chastity belt (please note I'm being sarcastic here). Too bad he never told her what really happened with Miranda or how he actually felt about her. It wasn't possible to give her freedom without breaking her heart? It wasn't possible to love her without stifling her? It wasn't possible to force her to listen to him tell her he was never unfaithful?

As for Leigh, she's pretty determined to believe the worst about Raoul because he's attractive and she's plain. Her father was attractive and repeatedly cheated on her mother until finally leaving them a few weeks after her birth. I understand this was unpleasant, but considering she never knew her father I can't see how this excuses her skewed view of Raoul. She jumps to the assumption that he has been cheating on her all along with multiple partners and that the many times she has seen him turn down women (in fact he always turns down women who try to make moves on him) is just a front to fool her. She doesn't even remember saying that she felt stifled and needed freedom. So all this stuff just came bursting out of her from nowhere? It just doesn't gel.

Finally, after hearing strangers at a party discussing Raoul's lack of interest in women, Leigh decided to give him a hearing. He explains what happened with Miranda and she believes him. Unfortunately the next day she sees him kissing Miranda. Ugh. Where do I start? The fact that Leigh wouldn't listen to Raoul until she heard strangers gossiping about him is simply ludicrous. It really doesn't say much about her, and doesn't give me any confidence in their relationship working out later. Raoul tells Leigh that he hadn't seen Miranda since that fateful night. She showed up that morning to apologise and offer to explain the truth to Leigh, and Raoul was kissing her in thanks. Huh? Why isn't he angry with Miranda? Even if he and Leigh are back together, even if he decided to allow Miranda through the front door and listen to what she has to say after what she did, I can't believe that he'd feel friendly enough to kiss her after her apology. Forgiving her and being friends with her again are totally different things.

I found this book very mediocre. It got great reviews at Amazon, I guess primarily because Raoul was faithful to Leigh all along (and during their five year separation), which is very rare among category romance heros. I complain every time we have heros who aren't faithful, and though I appreciate Raoul's fidelity, it doesn't save the book. His decision to leave Leigh alone for five years for her own good seems pretty high-handed and dumb to me. Let's not even get into how stupid Leigh is. I finished off agreeing with all the other women in the book who felt that Leigh didn't deserve Raoul, but I didn't like Raoul enough to care whether or not he got a happily ever after.

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