Love Lies, by MaryJanice Davidson

>> Monday, October 17, 2005

Love Lies is one of MaryJanice Davidson's early books, from before she started with her vampires and warewolves and alternate realities. This one's a plain, non-paranormal romance.

Victor Lawrence has everything a man could want...until he runs into Ashley Lorentz and finds out what he REALLY wants. Ashley, for her part, can't believe the wealthy, dashing Victor could possibly be interested in a mutt like her. Their fragile trust is shattered one night when Victor, out of his head, takes Ashley by force. A child is conceived as a result of Victor's actions, leaving Ashley with some decisions to make...
This is a flawed but very interesting book. I liked what she did with her subject matter enough that I'd give this one a B+.

The short summary of the book's plot that I'm about to write might contain a spoiler (not anything the summary I quoted above doesn't contain, really), but I believe that, because of the nature of this spoiler, it's something most readers will prefer to know about before they decide whether they really want to get the book.

The early sections of Love Lies show a very sweet romance, rich lawyer Victor Lawrence meets free-lance journalist Ashley Lorentz when he donates money to the mental hospital where she volunteers, and he's immediately smitten. She resists her advances at first due to very clichéd "you're rich and I'm a nobody" prejudices, but these problems are overcome quickly and, by the time the crisis arrives, they're well on their way to developing a lovely relationship.

And then Victor accidentally gets a hit on the head while working out on his best friend's dojo and Ashley volunteers to stay with him that night and wake him up periodically to see if he's all right. All goes well until one of the times she wakes him, she finds him pretty much out of his head with a concussion.

She doesn't realize this at first, and when he makes advances, she at first agrees. It only becomes clear to Ashley that Victor isn't himself when they're already in bed, and he calls her by his ex-wife's name. At that point, she tries to make him stop but is unable to get through his fever, and what until that point was consensual foreplay, turns into rape.

By the time Victor wakes up the following morning, he remembers nothing about this, all he knows from the note Ashley left him before she disappeared is that he did something to her that she says she will never forget, and that she doesn't want to see him again. And the rest of the book deals with how Victor has to manage to make Ashley regain her trust in him.

What's best about Love Lies, what makes it unique, is how it turns the attitude towards rape by the hero that was prevalent in all those old bodice-rippers on its head.

When it came to the distressingly frequent rapes in those books, the heroine was just fine and dandy, completely non-traumatized, no matter what was done to her sexually, as long as it was the hero doing it. Violent or non-violent, outright rape or forced seduction (if there is such a thing, that is), the following morning she was, at the most, a little bit angry.

Here, however, it's the very act that was problematic. It doesn't matter that Victor really wasn't responsible for his actions that night, or that he would very obviously never act like that again (man, the way he felt when he found out what had happened almost made me cry!). The fact remains that Ashley was raped and that this deeply traumatized her, even if it was the man who she loves and who loves her who did it.

From the very beginning, Ashley pretty much fully forgave Victor for his actions, but she still couldn't bring herself to be with him because she couldn't forget what happened that night, and just couldn't see herself being with him without being reminded of the rape.

And it isn't only that night Ashley needs to get over to be able to trust Victor. There's also, and mainly, in the end, the very extreme actions he felt himself forced to take in order to make sure Ashley didn't run away and refuse to have any interaction whatsoever with him.

As I said, this isn't a perfect book. There was a lot that bothered me... from the heavy demonization of Victor's ex-wife for not wanting chlidren (Ashley, of course, just luuuurves little kids and wants a million babies), to the awkward POV switches and the fact that the author was sometimes as subtle as a sledgehammer when it came to expressing motivation. And there was the fact that Davidson's unique voice sometimes felt a bit out of place, with Ashley still cracking out one-liners when it didn't make sense for her to do so.

But really, the whole angsty situation was so good, that I could gloss over this and enjoy the rest!


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