4 stars

Category Romance Review: This Hell Called Love by Jane Donnelly

This Hell Called Love, Jane Donelly, Playmore Inc and Waldman Publishing, 1969, cover artist unknown

Baronet Books #4200-104

Spoiler-free review 🙂

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Power of Love

Though I try not to get too personal in my reviews, here I must note that my favorite romance trope is
“Such is the power of love.” Someone does something extraordinary for love. It might break the rules,
defy the law, or fly in the face of common sense. It typically means great effort, sacrifice, sorrow, and
angst. But a protagonist does it anyhow. His or her love is mightier than anything else.

This Hell Called Love is a remarkable example of this trope. It also deals with themes we don’t usually
find in category romances of any generation, mental illness, and substance abuse. Make no mistake, this
isn’t a light read. But if you can take a load of gritty realism, it’s a very moving one.

First, a bit of bibliographic info. The author, Jane Donnelly, was a prolific contributor to various Mills &
Boon/Harlequin series. According to her Wikipedia page and Goodreads bio, she had over sixty
romances published by these companies between 1965 and 2000.

But this isn’t one of them. The copyright page says “Copyright © 1969 IPC Magazines Ltd.”, which means
this book must’ve been originally published in the UK in the Woman’s Weekly Library series.

The edition I read was published by Playmore Inc., Publishers and Waldman Publishing Corp. in New
York, as part of their Baronet Books imprint. The numbering and format lead me to think that Baronet
was a continuation of Magnum Books, an imprint first issued by Prestige Books. There’s no publication
date for this edition, but my guess is 1977 or thereabouts. If you have information on the bibliographic
background, you’re welcome to share it in the comments.

What She Did For Love

I dig it when a romance quickly thrusts the hero, heroine, or both into an interesting situation. Which
almost always means a bad situation! Here Terry Reid, a quiet secretary at a nursing home in an English
village, is in love with her boss’s son. Dane Veness, a drop-dead handsome young physician and medical
researcher, was once the focus of her adolescent crush. She’s grown up now, but her love for him hasn’t
changed.

When Dane starts dating her, it looks like he might finally return Terry’s love. But that’s not to be. He
gets romantically entangled with a spoiled rich girl, who starts off as one of his patients. Yeah, I know;
what would Hippocrates say?

But the author doesn’t pursue that angle. Instead, she takes us to the upshot of his affair. It destroys
him. When that Jezebel dumps him, Dane falls to pieces and drops out of sight. His co-workers and
family don’t know where he is or what’s become of him.

But Terry realizes something dreadful has happened. Propelled by love, she desperately searches for
Dane. Eventually, she finds him. But his situation is even worse than she expected.
That’s as far as I’m going to go in describing the plot. Suffice it to say that a lot happens, at a nice brisk
pace that never drags. It’s a real emo storyline. One that the author handles well.

What This Book Does Right

This Hell Called Love demonstrates the right way for a romance to deal with elements other than the
protags’ relationship. Sometimes in my Facebook groups, a romance author will ask readers if they like
“other themes” in their romance reads. Mystery, adventure, family issues, medical problems, career
drama, and so on. Should they be there, or should the author focus solely on the romance?

Some readers like them; some don’t. But IMHO both are taking the wrong approach. Both the romantic
and “other themes” aspects should be one. They should be integral parts of the same narrative. And
they reinforce each other. If you take away one, you destroy the other.

Here the romance and the real-world issues and situations work together. I can’t imagine this particular
love story without this other goings-on. No matter how ghastly they get, they don’t detract from the
romance. They make it even more romantic.

What This Book Does Wrong

So why don’t I give This Hell Called Love five stars? Obviously, not all readers appreciate this much
realism in their romances. But there’s also the matter of sustaining the story.

The last quarter involves a drastic change of venue, and therefore of cast, situation, and tone. It’s
interesting in itself, but by this point the romantic aspect of the plot relies heavily on a contrivance. The
two protags don’t tell each other that which they should. And in real life, almost certainly would.

But don’t let that stop you from reading this book. If you like a seriously emo romance, this one is a
winner!

Reviewed by: Mary Anne Landers

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