Harlequin Presents #1706
SPOILER & SENSITIVE CONTENT ALERT ⚠
Reviewed by Introvert Reader
Charlotte Lamb‘s Harlequin Presents romance Guilty Love is crazy and full of over-the-top drama. I loved every wild moment of it. As always, YMMV, although this sort of book is right up my alley.
Lamb always tried to outdo herself in her writings. Whenever I picked up one of her books, I was never certain whether it would be a 5-star keeper or a weird slog through the heroine’s life. This one is a 5-star book. But a word of warning: it handles a dark subject that may cause readers some discomfort.
Linzi York is a married woman who has worked for Ritchie Calhoun for about a year. Her marriage is not a happy one. She’s been with her husband Barty for four years and loves him deeply. She’s always wanted a big family. But Barty was in a devastating accident that affected his brain cognition. And performance in the bedroom. He has become a changed man, full of rage and anger. The prospects of having that big happy family seem impossible now.
Ritchie and Linzi have a great working relationship. Unsurprisingly, Ritchie carries a torch for his married secretary and can sense something’s not right with her marriage.
Barty started drinking to overcome his chronic depression. He views himself as half a man and has violent outbursts that he seemingly can’t control.
Like in her book A Frozen Fire, a Charlotte Lamb heroine finds herself trapped in a marriage. In the previous book, the heroine was married to a cheating louse. Here, Linzi is married to an abusive spouse. Both Lamb heroines are intensely loyal to their partners for some unfathomable reason. They are the for better or worse types; even it makes them self-inflicted martyrs.
Barty’s affliction has made him homicidal. He beats Linzi constantly. He even tries to rape her but can’t perform.
Linzi has to spend more time working as Ritchie has a big project to finish. The late hours make Barty jealous. One night when Linzi gets home, Barty flies into a jealous rage and begins to beat her. Then events take a strange and horrific turn. Ritchie shows up. Barty is killed. What did Ritchie do?
The police arrest Ritchie for Barty’s murder. Ritchie goes to prison for several years.
Upon his release, Ritchie comes back into Linzi’s life, seeking revenge. Altered by years of incarceration, the formerly nice beta-male boss is now a cruel, remorseless being.
For her part, Linzi wants nothing to do with the man who killed her husband. Ritchie won’t be thwarted. Revenge turns into passion. Then a shocking revelation changes everything.
Final Analysis of Guilty Love
I won’t analyze this book with a realistic outlook; that’s too depressing.
With Harlequin Presents–especially certain authors like Charlotte Lamb–you’re bound to have a crazy, emotional time. Lamb would tackle controversial issues like rape and abuse with a psychoanalytical intensity that was riveting. (Usually.)
At 190 pages, Guilty Love is too short to delve properly into the very serious issues of abuse, trauma, and repression. It’s fair to make an argument that the violence displayed here was for gratuitous reasons.
In a lesser author’s hands, this would be a failure. When Lamb pulled out all the stops, she made a dark premise work. Rather than dwell on grim reality, Lamb ramped up the melodrama. It does create a heck of a page-turner.
Guilty Love is a twisted tale of revenge and dark revelations. Full of continuous action with a quick-moving plot, it’s hard to look away. It had me hooked from the first and never let go.