Mills & Boon, £0.30, ISBN 0-263-72253-8
Contemporary Romance, 1976
Jane Connelly’s Dark Pursuer is a pleasant surprise in that the heroine, Kate Howard, is a striking anomaly when compared to her peers: she is genuinely her own person, doesn’t act helpless or submissive to other people, has a network of friends unrelated to the men in her life, and is very self aware. Unfortunately, the hero Connor Lammas is a raging asshole with creepy tendencies.
Kate works for the Publicity and Advertising Department of Lameass and Lummox, oops, Lammas and Lammas, one of the biggest stores in Yorkshire. The biggest guy in charge is Andrew, but everyone (including Kate) knows that the true power sitting on the throne is Andrew’s older brother Connor. When Andrew strikes an acquaintance with Kate, Connor assumes that she’s trying dig her talons into his brother and starts being very objectionable, to put it mildly. At one point, he actually threatens her with violence when he can’t buy her off, and she fears for her life. Still, she generally rolls up her eyes at Connor’s antics, and shares with Andrew his brother’s nonsense. Andrew decides to invite her to the family castle (there is always a castle in these stories) for family time with the Lameass Lummoxes and she decides to accept, mostly to spite Connor.
It is harder to tell whether Connor Lameass or the ridiculous jealous other woman is the more irritating character of the two, but these two makes what could have been a refreshing kind of category romance that was published back in those days a bog of a read. They behave more like cartoon villains, sneering and sniveling, and I assume Connor is designated an attractive husband material only because he has a penis and lots of money. But Kate is not desperate for both, so I don’t know what gives.
And I don’t know because the author hardly touches on the romance. And I say “hardly” because those two decide that they are in love by the end so I can’t, technically, use the word “never” here. Whatever moments Connor and Kate share tend to be unpleasant, as he’s as always doing his usual threatening/jealous/rude/obnoxious “romantic alpha male” act and she is not having any of that. Connor mellows a bit when Andrew becomes a plot device for Kate and him to go into some kind of truce, but every time those two get to share a scene that is almost pleasant, something will happen (usually with Connor doing his aloof act) that ruins any pleasant build-up. He will do or say something that will have her going, ooh, he hates her, blah blah blah, and we go back to square one again.
Therefore, I don’t see any believable romantic developments or tender feelings, and thus, Connor’s declaration that she is “the flesh” of his “flesh” towards the end makes me wonder how that came about. And come on, do we really need a hero who reminds me of a violent bunny boiler to talk about human flesh? It’s a shame, though – Connor does have his creepy-romantic moments during the last few pages of the story, but alas, the author has him being just creepy instead in the chapters leading up to that point.
And needless to say, I also have no idea why Kate decides that she too is in love. She doesn’t seem to like him much for a huge chunk of the story. Her “romantic” feelings are more of jealousy that Connor must have had zillions of girlfriends in the past, just like how he’s “romantically” jealous over her possibly paying attention to other men. These two’s “love” is more like wanting something that he or she believes is unattainable. There is also some lust on her part, but it’s hard to see how she can love someone who makes her doubt herself or becomes exasperated beyond belief all the time.
I want to like Dark Pursuer because Kate for the most part is a very likable and sensible heroine when she’s not with Connor, and it’s not often I find such female characters even in romance novels today. But the romance relies too much on me assuming that the most boorish the hero is, the more affectionate he secretly is towards the heroine. Sorry, I can’t buy that kind of notion, so I don’t believe one bit that these two would ever last past the honeymoon phase.