While I enjoyed many of the old Zebra Lovegram and Heartfire lines, what I disliked about some of them is that when they were bad, they were awful, either boring or just freaking bizarre.
Rosalyn Alsobrook’s Runaway Bride was about Katherine, a pregnant woman who left her drunk, abusive husband. She’s on her own in the wilderness, when the hero, Jason comes upon her naked in a water pond. Jason, a rancher, takes her in and helps her heal. Katherine eventually finds love with this new man, who is a fundamentally decent guy, and was even willing to be a father to her child.
Katherine’s abusive husband finds her and begs for forgiveness. I didn’t care how sorry he was. In my eyes, the husband could never redeem himself. He beat her so awfully while she was pregnant that was black and blue and forced to flee in fear for her life and her child’s safety.
The book was written to keep you guessing up until the end who she would choose. The heroine genuinely thought that besides beating the hell out her, her husband was a good man. And maybe at one point in his life he was, but he let major demons take over and he ruined that goodness. Fortunately, the heroine ended up with Jason, but the fact that this book even tried to pull a love triangle plot was disgusting. Katherine should have had nothing but hatred for her husband.
And at the final pages of the story, do we see the happiness that Katherine and Jason should have had? Well, sure, they lived a long married life together, but the epilogue was bizarre and floored me. The son of Katherine and her first husband stands at his father’s grave, weeping for him, and pretty much says, “No matter what happened, Dad, you were a great man and I’m sorry I never got to know how wonderful you were.”
Look, I’m no pearl-clutcher when it comes to controversial issues at all. I love unPC bodice rippers, can deal with a lot of craziness, and don’t take offense to much (except boredom). Having a heroine be in love with her drunk husband who mercilessly beats her is a very difficult pill to swallow and I just don’t think the topic was handled well. I remember feeling sick after reading this, and that was 30 years ago. The feeling stays with me to this day when I think about Runaway Wife.