The Burning Point by Mary Jo Putney

Posted by Mrs Giggles on May 22, 2000 in 2 Oogies, Book Reviews, Genre: Contemporary

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The Burning Point by Mary Jo Putney
The Burning Point by Mary Jo Putney

Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-17428-X
Contemporary Romance, 2000

“No” is a very powerful word. See what happens to heroine Kate Corsi when she can’t say “No!”to her father, mother, brother, ex-hubby, friends, strangers, dogs, cats… She ends up getting stuck in a lot of situations she doesn’t want to be in and doing a lot of things she doesn’t want to do, all the way trying to tell me that she’s happy. Yeah right. I have a word for her: doormat.

The Burning Point tackles the theme of redemption of an ex-wife beater. A controversial point for many readers used to the same old stuff in romances, maybe, but I am made of sterner stuff. I say: bring Patrick Donovan on.

Too bad that the whole execution ends up like some third-rate Care Bear episode about forgiveness. I salute Ms Putney for tackling this topic, of course, and it’s just too bad that the whole book gets bogged down by a really passive heroine and a really formulaic approach to the whole aspect of redemption.

Donovan and Kate were happily married ten years before, but she divorced him when he started whacking her bloody. She walked out, and that was the only thing Kate ever did in her own free will.

Her dad dies and leaves her money with the proviso that she lives with Donovan for a year. She also wants to work in her late father’s demolition business, and now’s her chance. Can she and Donovan be able to love again?

Me, if that stupid, meddling Sam (Kate’s father) is alive and standing before me, I’d strangle him to death myself. Nothing like an overbearing “I know what’s best!” moron to make me see red. And he’s loved for it by two spineless women, including a wife who let him off lightly for adultery.

Instead of putting her foot down and turning her back to the whole nonsense, Kate feels guilty. The company would be sold, boo-hoo. Things wouldn’t be the same, sob sob. So Little Bo-Peep wears her Joan Of Arc mantle and shacks up with Donovan. Oh, and she knows it’s what Daddy wants too.

Sam is just so hard to empathize. She wants to be a demolition expert but that sad ass Sam said no. Instead of going off to work with one of the other five demolition companies to prove him wrong, she moped and did something else she’s not happy about. In the end, I can’t help but to wonder if she falls back into Donovan’s bed because she has somehow twisted her reasons to hide the fact that it was something Daddy wanted her to, and in her guilt, here she is in Donovan’s bed. Is Daddy happy now?

While I love the fact that the author doesn’t shy away from the realities of abuse, I deplore the fact that she uses instantaneous attraction as a catalyst on Kate’s part to become closer to Donovan again. Would you be attracted to the man who caused you to go to the ICU? Instantaneous attraction can only work if Kate finds the thrill of flirting with danger an aphrodisiac. Hey, some women write fan mails to serial killers in jail, after all. Kate’s falling back into Donovan’s arms for a happily ever after in just – what, two weeks, three? – doesn’t ring true.

Not when Kate is such a Care Bear, perfect in every way. She cries happy tears when she sees a happily-married couple, and she sheds buckets when she sees something sad or thinks of how she disappointed Daddy by (rightfully) not speaking to that SOB. There’s a limit to filial piety, you know. Just because one’s a loving daughter doesn’t mean one has to give up one’s life and free will to please  the parents. Since Kate’s emotions seem to be either clear-cut “Happy! Sha-la-la-la!” or “Sad, boo hoo!”, I can’t help but to think that she is such a simple creature.

Domestic abuse is a topic that can’t be treated like a typical romance. The old formula doesn’t work, not when the hero has demons. It takes a special, strong, and clear-headed heroine to handle a man like Donovan, and that woman has to really know what she is doing. Not like Kate, a daddy’s girl who wouldn’t know her own thoughts if they come up and sock her in the face.

There are parts there are really too sweet and only serve to highlight what a simplistic creature Kate is. Case in point? She just doesn’t think of Sam having pancreatic cancer, she wonders, “How could someone as vital as Sam harbor such a swift, remorseless killer inside his powerful body?” She sounds just like Big Bird.

I’m afraid I find The Burning Point a well-written failure. It is at times too cloying and preachy – Kate’s brother Tom is gay and his coming out ends up like a Hallmark preach fest – and other times too trite and formulaic for words. And I so want to strangle Sam and his daughter. Martyrs shouldn’t deserve star billing, and this misfire drives home that point forcefully.

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