Harlequin Presents #629
Sally Wentworth’s Shattered Dreams is terrible, for all the wrong reasons, although I’ve read books where far worse events occur to the heroine. Take the bodice ripper great Stormfire, for example. However, in this, Harlequin Presents what the hero does to the heroine seems more repulsive, perhaps due to its condensed nature. Where thick historical romances like Stormfire have 400-500+ pages to deal with insane heroes and their co-dependent heroines, a category romance is limited to 60,000-70,000 words. The craziness level can only be ratcheted up so far before the hero becomes irredeemable.
The Crazy Plot
Sally Wentworth always wrote very well, her prose attentive and skillful, but this was truly bizarre. Kate is happy as a bride can be on her wedding day, as she’s marrying Hugo, the man she loves. Little does she know what her marriage holds in store for her. For Hugo has had a private detective tailing his nubile young wife, and he’s found out startling information: over the past year, she’s been living with some strange man while playing the wealthy Hugo for a fool!
Of course, this strange man is not Kate’s lover; it’s her wayward half-brother, whom Hugo knows nothing about because people in these sorts of books don’t act like normal human beings on planet Earth do, speaking to each other through words.
When Hugo first met Kate, he pursued her for s strictly sexual affair, going as far as offering her money. Kate rebuffed his initial attempts, and only when Hugo changed his tune, treating her with respect, did she acquiesce to date him. She did not, however, sleep with him. So Hugo holds his new wife captive, thinking she was stringing him along to sink her hooks into his total fortune, has been cheating on him for months, and worst of all, that she lied about being a virgin.
Of course, she is a virgin, but he accuses her of being the sluttiest-slut-who-ever-did-slut. Honestly, I think Hugo was turned on by the idea… The problem was he was disgusted at himself for being turned on, so he took his aggression out on the victim, er heroine.
Hugo keeps her imprisoned, haranguing her about her slattern ways, and at one point is so enraged by Kate’s supposed infidelity that he holds her head underwater in an attempt to drown her!
Kate is not a willing victim and fights back, trying to escape several times by climbing out windows or attempting to contact friends for help. At every turn, though, Hugo is able to prevent her from fleeing. Finally, when it seems Hugo is showing some signs of remorse, that he’s willing to accept Kate as she is, a money-hungry, cheating tramp, then she reveals the truth. The other man is her brother, and she’s still as untouched as last year’s Christmas Fruit cake.
Final Analysis of Shattered Dreams
While well-written and oddly engrossing, this book is missing a critical piece in a romance novel: any semblance of romance! There is no communication, only accusations, abuse, torture, stubbornness, pride, and outright stupidity. If Wentworth had included some inkling of love and affection between the two characters, some sort of true contrition on Hugos’ part, or shown a process of healing, perhaps the story could have been salvaged.
Readers, do not take this book seriously, but if you do, take it as a cautionary tale.
The Judas Kiss by Sally Wentworth is one of my favorite Harlequin Presents (I will add a review for that one soon). Unfortunately, Shattered Dreams is on the other side of the spectrum.