by Gwyneth Atlee, historical (1999)
Zebra (Splendor), $4.99, ISBN 0-8217-6227-3
Touched By Fire, in my opinion, should be retitled Scorched By Fire. Because that's what this whole book is about. The heroine Hannah Shelton goes through so many trials and tribulations in what seems like an extravaganza TV special on the All-Sadism Network that after a while the whole romance morphs into a bizarre spectacle akin to watching a time bomb slowly clicks away before my eyes.
Not that Touched By Fire is a bad book. There's just too much Hannah has to go through that her happy ending seems more of an act of mercy from the powers-that-be than anything else.
Hannah is divorced and shunned as an adulteress. She has lost her father's farm and is now homeless. Desperate, she fakes her own death and runs off to answer a mail-order bride ad. Then, she meets hubby-to-be's suspicious brother Daniel Aldman. John Aldman, her husband-to-be, thinks that "Mercy Wilder" (Hannah's new name) is a pretty enough bride, but Hannah's ex-hubby soon arrives in town to stir up things.
Once again Hannah finds herself homeless and alienated by everyone she grows to care for. She works like a slave for her next ticket out of town. She sleeps in a rickety leaky house. Husband tries to kill her again and again. And again and again. And again. Daniel, whom she is attracted to, refuses to listen to her.
It takes the whole town to go up in flames literally - this story is set against the 1871 Great Wisconsin Fire - to make Daniel and Hannah to start seeing sparks. By then, half the book's gone, and these two get separated soon enough again, leaving Hannah alone to fend herself (again) from ex-hubby's Energizer Villain act. Marred, battered, brutalized, assaulted, bloody, and weepy, Hannah then decides that she is too soiled for pure Daniel and runs away to hide in shame.
Here, I reach for the TV remote and switched on to something funny.
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