The Burning Point
by Mary Jo Putney, contemporary (2000)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-17428-X


Spoilers are peppered all over this review

No is a very powerful word. See what happens to heroine Kate Corsi when she can't say No to her father, mother, brother, ex-hubby, friends, strangers, dogs, cats... She ends up getting stuck in a lot of situations she doesn't want to be in and doing a lot of things she doesn't want to do, all the way trying to tell me that she's happy. Yeah right. I have a word for you, Kate - doormat.

The Burning Point tackles the theme of redemption of an ex-wife beater. A controversial point for many readers used to the same old stuff in romances, maybe, but I am a reader who think that the hero of The Wisdom Of Crocodiles (vampire) dead romantic hero material. I say bring Patrick Donovan on.

Too bad that the whole execution ends up like some third-rate Carebear episode about forgiveness. I salute Putney for tackling this topic, of course, and it's just too bad that the whole book gets bogged down by a really passive heroine and a really formulaic approach to the whole aspect of redemption.

Donovan and Kate were happily married ten years before, but she divorces him when he starts whacking her bloody. He couldn't help it, really, but he did it nonetheless. She walked out, and that's the only thing Kate ever did in her own free will.

Her dad died and left her money with the proviso that she lives with Donovan for a year. She also wants to work in her late father's demolition business, and now's her chance. Can she and Donovan be able to love again?

Me, if that stupid, meddling SOB Sam (Kate's father) is alive and standing before me, I'd strangle him to death myself. Nothing like an overbearing I know what's best moron to make me see red. And he's loved for it by two spineless women, including a wife who let him off lightly for adultery. Bah.

Instead of putting her foot down and turning her back to the whole nonsense, Kate feels guilty. The company would be sold, boo-hoo. Things wouldn't be the same, sob sob. So Little Bo-Peep wears her Joan Of Arc mantle and shacks up with Donovan. (Oh, and she knows it's what Daddy wants too.)

She wants to be a demolition expert but that sad ass Sam said no. Instead of going off to work with one of the other five demolition companies to prove him wrong, she mopes and does something else she's not happy about. In the end, I can't help but to wonder if she falls back into Donovan's bed because she has somehow twisted her reasons to hide the fact that it was something Daddy wanted her to, and in her guilt, here she is in Donovan's bed. Is Daddy happy now?

While I love the fact that the author doesn't shy away from the realities of abuse, I deplore the fact that she uses instantaneous attraction as a catalyst on Kate's part to become closer to Donovan again. Would you be attracted to the man who caused you to go to the ICU? Instantaneous attraction can only work if Kate finds the thrill of flirting with danger an aphrodisiac. Hey, some women write fan mails to serial killers in jail, after all. Kate's falling back into Donovan's arms for a happily-ever-after in just - what? Two weeks? Three? - doesn't ring true.

Not when Kate is such a Carebear, perfect in every way. She cries happy tears when she sees a happily-married couple, and she sheds buckets when she sees something sad or thinks of how she disappointed Daddy by (rightfully) not speaking to that SOB. There's a limit to filial piety, you know. Just because you're a loving daughter doesn't mean you have to give up your life and free will to please your parents. Since Kate's emotions seem to be either clear-cut Happy! Sha-la-la-la! or Sad, boo hoo, I can't help but to think of what Bartleby said to Loki in Dogma:

You are such a simple creature, you know that?

Domestic abuse is a topic that can't be treated like a typical romance. The formula of meet -> lust -> bed -> solve mystery -> love doesn't work, not when the hero has demons. It takes a special, strong, and clear-headed heroine to handle a man like Donovan, and that woman has to really know what she is doing. Not like Kate, a daddy's girl who wouldn't know her own thoughts if they come up and sock her in the face.

TBP is well written, I admit, although there are parts there are really too sweet and only serve to highlight what a simplistic creature Kate is. Case in point? She just doesn't think of Sam having pancreatic cancer, she wonders How could someone as vital as Sam harbor such a swift, remorseless killer inside his powerful body? She sounds just like Big Bird.

I'm afraid I find TBP a well-written failure. It is at times too cloying and preachy - Kate's brother Tom is gay and his coming out ends up like a Save the world Hallmark preachfest - and other times too trite and formulaic for words. And I so want to strangle Sam and his daughter. Martyrs shouldn't deserve star billing, and TBP drives home that point forcefully.

Rating: 57


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