by Loribelle Hunt, contemporary (2009, rerelease)
Liquid Silver Books, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-531-2
If I am not mistaken, Defending Serenity was first published by Cobblestone Press back in 2006. There are no indications that this latest edition had been revised in any way, so I'd just assume that this is a simple reissue.
Anyway, say hello to Boyd Graham. He had spent ten years in Holman Correction Facility, and when the story opens, he is finally released from the can. He'll accept a job at a buddy's car repair garage back in Duluth, Alabama, and he'll be good. The only hiccup to his plan is that the police chief of Duluth is Serenity Jameson. He had a one-night thing with her, and it was during their second rendezvous when he accidentally killed a man who was coming on too strong to Serenity. Because Serenity was the judge's daughter, the man made sure that Boyd served all ten years of his subsequent sentence. So Boyd spent time in the slammer while Serenity ran off to do her own thing. And now they will be staying in the same town. You see the potential problem there?
Not that Boyd cares. He considers taking what he wants from his "cunt" (his term of endearment for the woman who got his ass into the slammer) fair payment for his imprisonment for saving her behind. And you know, I think I agree with him in this situation. I mean, if I were in his shoes, I'd be feeling far less sanguine about Serenity.
It doesn't help that Serenity is like, gee, she doesn't understand why he hates her. I don't know about you, but I think she's a little on the stupid side. When she says that she had "paid penance" for what happened to Boyd ten years ago by dating proper "good guys", I can only say that her idea of "penance" is far different from mine.
Years ago she was sure she had loved him, and where had it gotten her? She knew he would never physically hurt her, and he might even protect her if necessary.
Yet she knew he wasn't asking for that kind of trust. Did she dare trust him with her heart? With her soul? Could he be trusted not to shove her out of his life again on a whim?
My god. He went to prison for her. Spent ten years in jail, and she described that as "shoving her out of his life again on a whim"? On a whim? I'm confused. And then much later, I learn that Serenity is miffed with Boyd because he "made it clear" back then that he didn't want to see her. Naturally, she believed him, which explained the earlier remark about how he "shoved" her out of his life. And then I also learn that she has been feeling guilty all these years about being the cause of his incarceration. Okay, and so... she can't write? No, instead on page 35, she blames him for "ten years of silence". What does she expect? Boyd to send love letters to a woman who didn't even show up to hear his verdict? "Dear darling, today I dropped the soap, but it's okay, I called out your name when Bubba made me his woman because I love you. Write soon! Love, Boyd"?
The romance is unsurprisingly catalyzed by secondary characters who insist that Boyd and Serenity really, really love each other. But that's just the tip of the iceberg where the problems of this story are concerned. Serenity is ridiculous - she is way too self-absorbed in playing the martyr when she has no right in this story to call herself a victim of any kind. I don't understand why she is the one moaning about her father and Boyd when she's in a far better place than Boyd.
Defending Serenity feels so wrong in so many ways, I find myself scratching my head in befuddlement very often as I try to figure out whether there is any limit to Serenity's capacity in making other people's genuine problems into all about her. Sorry, Ms Hunt, but this story just cannot make the passing grade for the very reason that everything about it feels wrong in one way or the other.
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