What Love Endures
by Elizabeth Glenn
This is a very old Harlequin Superromance (1983), by the same secret dev author who wrote Taste for Love, one of Devo Girl's favorite romances. All of Elizabeth Glenn/Marcy Gray's books are set in small towns in Texas, and all feature heroes with various disabilities. In this one, psychiatrist Mark Bradford is an amputee, having lost his right arm at the shoulder when a psychotic patient shot him. Now a year later, he's returned to the small town where he spent his teen years, working in a mental health clinic alongside JC, who had a huge crush on him as a girl. Now that she's all grown up, can she finally get him to notice her?
The story seems to have such promise, but no, it's an ugly story of a nasty, abusive relationship passed off as romance. Mark is an asshole, the kind of guy who even in the 80s would have been labeled a male chauvinist pig. He says outright that he hates women, and even when he's sweet talking JC, he manages to insult her, calling her "little witch." He's dark and brooding, while she's tiny, waif-like, and the whole childhood crush thing gets played up to a creepy degree, including the oft-mentioned fact that even as an adult she still looks like a child. A lot of romances feature this kind of bitter, angry hero, with the idea that the right woman makes him open up about his feelings and show her his tender side. But in this story, Mark just gets more angry and controlling toward JC as the story goes along.
Early in the story, before they can admit their love for each other, Mark talks JC into a marriage of convenience, he says to keep his many admirers from bothering him. His one condition is that JC never ask him any questions about his family, his past, anything at all. He's also extremely paranoid that the unnamed person who shot him will return. None of this makes any sense, but JC just goes along with it, even as Mark stops speaking to her, and flies into a rage whenever she tries to ask what the hell is going on. Eventually she does try to leave, but he brings her back by force and makes her a prisoner in his house. This is not love, it's abuse. Mark's behavior is excused and condoned, while JC is the one at fault for daring to ask, who is this crazy person I married. Ugh. No "love" should have to endure this kind of behavior.
This was so disappointing, because Glenn is a good writer--she really knows how to linger over the devvy details-- and there are so few romances with amputee heroes. It's really an opportunity missed.