SPOILER ALERT ⚠
This review is of Karen A. Bale’s 1979 Zebra romance The Forever Passion.
The Forever Passion begins with an introduction to the heroine of the book, Lisa Jordan, 18. Lisa, chafing under the demands placed on her in her native Boston, has decided to head west to live with her brother, Tom. She arranges to travel by wagon train and falls in love with the train scout, Josh Wade. Then things take a turn for the worst.
The wagon train is attacked by Comanche Indians. Lisa tries to escape but is captured, beaten, and gang-raped. Later, Lisa is found by an Indian warrior named Nakon, the hero of the book. Nakon shows Lisa kindness, and later they are married.
Things get worse for Lisa when one of the Indians who raped and beat her before does it again to her. Eventually, she makes love with Nakon and has issues, but allows it to happen. This results in pregnancy. Later, when Nakon doesn’t come home from a raid, Lisa believes he’s dead and tries to commit suicide. She stabs herself, but survives!
Nakon was actually shot by Texas Rangers; he recovered and eventually returned to Lisa, but found out that her suicide attempt caused her to miscarry. After a time, Nakon decides to send Lisa back to the white world. He asks Josh, who has come to trade with the Comanches, to take Lisa back to her own people, despite Lisa’s strenuous objections. Later, Lisa hears that Nakon was killed in another raid, and she starts to feel romantic feelings again toward Josh; however, she still loves Nakon.
Later, we learn about who Nakon really is. He is, in fact, not a Comanche or an Indian at all. He is, in reality, a half-Spanish/half-Anglo man who goes by two names: Alejandro de Vargas and by his white name, Eric Anderson, named after his late father. Eric returns to his home state of California to reclaim his inheritance, the Rancho del Sol that his grandfather wants him to have. Standing in his way is his mother, Mariz de Vargas y Anderson, with whom Eric has a very strained relationship. Mariz’ lawyer/lover is Tom Jordan, who is Lisa’s brother. Complicating matters is Eric’s former lover, Consuelo de la Morena, who wants Eric back, and Mariz is more than willing to help her achieve that goal. To make matters further complicated, Lisa and Josh show up.
Lisa is surprised and shocked to see Eric-she thinks he’s dead-and even more surprised and hurt when Consuelo claims she and Eric are engaged. For the next few chapters, Lisa and Eric end up doing two things mostly; making love and arguing. Many of their arguments are over Consuelo, who is doing her level best to break up Lisa and Eric. Later, Lisa and Eric make a wager; if she wins a horse race at a fiesta his grandfather is holding, they will get married according to white custom. If Lisa loses, she becomes Eric’s mistress, never wife, and has to settle for being that. Lisa loses the race-barely-to Eric, but he surprises her by giving her a marriage ceremony, and they get married, much to Consuelo’s anger.
A Double Cross
For a while, Eric and Lisa are happy in their marriage. Then Mariz shows up, and all hell breaks loose after Eric goes away on a business trip. Consuelo then shows up, and she and Mariz do their level best to break up Lisa and Eric’s marriage, claiming that Lisa is having an affair (not true) with Josh, who also has resurfaced. When Eric finds out that Lisa gave Josh a necklace Eric had previously given her, he beats Josh up and stalks off. Lisa is later accosted by Eric’s former friend, now arch-enemy, Chuka, who wants to kill Eric because of their past.
Consuelo pays Chuka to kidnap Lisa, rape and kill her. Chuka realizes, however, that Consuelo plans to double-cross him, so he turns on her and has her gang-raped. Eric comes and tries to save Lisa. Chuka tries to rape Lisa but is shot by Consuelo, who is later killed by an unknown assailant. Eric and Lisa escape and then separate again. Eric eventually tracks down Lisa, helps her give birth to their daughter, and, for now, they are having their Happily Ever After; I use the term “for now” because there is a sequel to this book.
This book is a prime example of 1970’s romance novels. There are some really good points and really bad ones.
Strong characters. Emotionally charged situations.
An incredibly cavalier approach toward violence against women. A “hero” who is a rapist and an obnoxious bastard most, if not all, of the time.
The lovemaking scenes are not overly descriptive, but there are a few of them.
Plenty. Lisa is raped SIX times, including once by Eric–and nearly raped on two other occasions, also once by Eric. Consuelo is also sodomized and raped. There are also assaults–mostly against Lisa–and other killings.
This is what 1970s romance novels were. The Forever Passion is not great, but it certainly is compelling. I liked the book because of its emotional strength, but certainly not because of the constant violence Lisa suffers. Karen A. Bale continues Eric and Lisa’s romance in a sequel, Desperado Dream.
Reviewed by Blue Falcon