by Karen Rose, contemporary (2003)
Warner, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61280-4
Do we need another formulaic "abused woman and kiddie on the run" story? Karen Rose's single title debut Don't Tell has all the familiar cast and plots that will satisfy those people that can't get enough of Sleeping With The Enemy reruns on TV. Like formulaic stories of these sorts, Don't Tell uses its ridiculously psychotic villain - the hubby - to provide the skanky and violent scenes to fulfil the "suspense" quota in this "romantic suspense" story. (Then again, "romantic suspense" is just a popular catchphrase nowadays to describe any contemporary romance novel that isn't a chick-lit novel or a smalltown comedy.)
Mary Grace Winters is the usual heroine that has been abused by her family and now her husband. But when hubby Rob Winters threaten to whack Robbie Junior up good, Mary finally finds the courage to stage the deaths of her son and herself (a car at the bottom of the lake) and run away to some women's shelter when a kind fellow survivor lady helps her get her life back on track again. And the first thing Mary does is to fall in love with a bad-tempered judgmental ex-basketball player one-man pity-party Max Hunter who's also her boss. Some women, I tell you, just never learn. Meanwhile, the hubby realizes that wifey is not dead yet and charges on like a Terminator machine, along the way beating up women and foaming at his mouth because Ms Rose will assure you that a romantic suspense novel needs skanky scenes like this one. Never mind that the whole story doesn't make sense because how on earth that psychotic Rob Winters manages to avoid being dragged to the nearest asylum is beyond me. That man is completely nuts. And he manages to last this long being a member of his society?
Then there's the whole Max and Mary love story, which would have worked if we're talking about another sad sack series novel. But Mary is an abuse victim. The author fails to do anything with Mary, and pairing her up with a one-man pity party show like Max isn't convincing me that Mary is getting any closer to breaking out of her victim cycle.
So basically Don't Tell is like a typical Lifetime TV movie and a typical series romance glued together. These two don't go well together, naturally, as I always feel that abuse victims need high-maintenance asshole men as much as one needs another lit dynamite to chew on. With its complete fidelity to the Sleeping With The Enemy formula, Don't Tell seems content to be just yet another familiar and unexceptional retelling of an overdone tale. Don't Tell may not be worth the word of mouth after all.
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