by Jennie Lucas, contemporary (2009)
Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.19, ISBN 978-0-263-87213-2
The Innocent's Dark Seduction doesn't describe this story, because the "innocent" here doesn't get to do any "dark seduction" at all. A more accurate title would be The Psychopath's Abusive Shagging but I suppose this title lacks the grace and gentility that readers of the Modern line are used to.
You may be now thinking, "Hey, wait a minute? Did I read the score correctly? You don't sound like you're into this book at all!" Well, it's like this: the hero, Roark Navarre, is so vile and disgusting that this book is going to be one that you either hate completely or adore to pieces, depending on how you approach this book. Jennie Lucas seems to be into the joke and the story has a really absurd over-the-top quality to it so I have a hard time taking this book seriously. Instead, I view this one as a campy kind of terrible book that has the same addictive quality as those South American telenovelas that I can't stop watching. It's trashy, but oh so fun, especially when the hero ends up groveling so deliciously that I can't help but to laugh and laugh and laugh at his misery.
Lia Villani is a widow. She married her late husband due to dire need - when her father died after being bankrupted and his business eaten up by some asshole, her sister, who suffered from a brain disorder, needed expensive treatments ASAP. A friend of Lia's father told her that he would marry Lia and give her access to his money (he's a Count) so that she could use it to help her family. It was a marriage in name only as well - the elderly gentleman merely wanted to repay a debt owed to Lia's father, and he had no amorous intention when it came to Lia. Well, this is a Modern story, so just accept this and don't look at me like that. I didn't write this story, after all.
Today, the widowed Lia finds herself confronted by Roark. Roark knows something that she doesn't: he's the man who destroyed her father's business all those years ago. Roark is convinced however that no woman can resist him, and therefore he intends to walk up to her, paw her, and have her even as he uses his caveman club, sorry, "charm" to get her to hand over a slice of her late husband's land for him to build big skyscrapers on. He gets to sleep with Lia, but when he learns that Lia had already taken steps to ensure that he can't get his hands on the land, he dumps her aside. But when she is pregnant with his child, he blames her for reasons only his twisted psychopath psyche can comprehend and proceeds to make her life miserable. Lia, of course, loves him no matter what and keeps enduring his callous treatment of her...
If this story sounds really brutal, it is - the hero is one of the biggest assholes I've come across. I tell you, if my daughter announces to me that she's marrying Roark, I'd personally make sure that the marriage never takes place. Since I don't have a gun, I guess my husband's golf clubs will do - I'd bash him into a bloody coma if he dares lay his disgusting Neanderthal pig paws on my daughter. That is how cruel this man is toward Lia.
As for Lia, sigh. She's not a stupid woman in many other aspects, but her downfall is her complete helplessness when it comes to Roark. Roark doesn't even have to resort to putting date-rape drug into her drink to get into her pants - he only has to leer at her and she's giving out faster than you can blink. But I suppose Lia has to be easier than ABC when it comes to Roark, because if she puts up a fight, I suspect that this story will end up being shelved next to books that contain things like accounts of the OJ Simpson murder case.
The only reason why I manage to make it through the worst of Roark's emotional abuse of Lia is because of the blatant giveaway signs throughout the story that Ms Lucas is aware of what was happening to her story and something beautiful will happen in the end. So I keep reading, taking a deep breath and pinching my nose while imagining the lovely violent things I'd do to Roark now and then, until finally, oh finally, the beautiful moment when it hits Roark that he should be burning in hell rather than being inexplicably loved by Lia, and the man actually ends up in agony as he recalls all the horrific things he'd deliberately done to her up to that point.
This epiphany is the make-or-break point of the story: if you don't accept this scene as sincere, then you'd understandably want to write irate emails to the author. But I personally enjoy this scene, especially when Roark ends up swinging to the other extreme of his psychosis - instead of obsessively hating Lia, he now obsessively loves her and he will die if he doesn't earn her forgiveness. An over the top dramatic moment seals the deal, demonstrating the sincerity of this new Roark.
Actually, [spoiler starts] I'd like this story so much better if the author lets Lia and her child die in the fire, causing Roark to go mad with grief from the realization that he drove his wife and his child to that situation. A most fitting end, a poetic one, would be to have a broken Roark finally commit suicide by ingesting sleeping pills - the same way Lia's mother died after Roark crushed Lia's family all those years back. But that's just me - I'm not invested in the romance as much as I have great fun with the groveling moment, and having Roark completely broken and defeated by the last page would be, to me, the best way to end the story on a high note. Don't look at me like that. As much as I enjoy the way the hero experiences his dramatic epiphany, a big part of me still feels that he doesn't deserve a happy ending. My fun comes from seeing him hurting and breaking! [spoiler ends]
I can't really say I enjoy this one as a romantic story. The Innocent's Dark Seduction is a fun read to me because of the adorable way the author castrates the hero - figuratively speaking, of course - by the last page. If you love stories with mean heroes who gets it good in the end, then this baby will be the one for you. Me, all the pain Roark has put me through is forgotten when the author kindly allows me the cathartic pleasure of seeing him get what is coming to him.
I'm starting to wonder why I am bothering with books in this line after reading a few terrible books back to back, and then comes The Innocent's Dark Seduction to remind me that sometimes a good male grovel in a romance story can work wonders in putting a smile on cranky old me's face.
This book at Amazon.com
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