So I'm starting a new discussion for HPs mostly for the ones that are currently being read, and just to discuss ones that aren't really great, or bad.
That said, I just read Valley of the Devil by Yvonne Whittal.
This reminds me of Lost in Love by Michelle Reid, only more contrived.
The heroine, Jo, was married to the hero, Rafe, three years previously. This is one of those heroine is made an outcast by hero's family. Hero is too busy or uncaring to help the heroine out and eventually they part.
In this case it's the hero's mother. She basically overrules everything the heroine wants when it comes to the house.
Eventually Rafe moves out of the bedroom and then within two weeks decides they just need to get divorced.
But the story really takes place when Jo's brother asks her to ask her ex for a personal loan to save the family business. Jo agrees, but Rafe will only give them money if she marries him and gives him a son.
I really didn't like that after three years of not seeing each other at all, he just makes that demand and she just agrees.
What I did like is that she managed to have an epiphany after they were married that she'd just sold herself and done a pretty horrible thing by agreeing. Not to mention I thought it was really contrived that he'd immediately ask that and she'd immediately agree for something as flimsy as family business. Family, operation, imminent death, I understand. Helping out the family business, well, you know what to do with your suggestion.
Then, it's all about how the heroine was more assertive now so could fit in.
Supposedly the hero realized as soon as he asked for a divorce that he made a mistake, but pride wouldn't let him stop the divorce proceedings. Then after two years he finds out that his mother was completely horrible to the heroine while she was there. That's when he starts his campaign to get her back. He confronts her family, and they tell him he doesn't really have a chance in heck. They also tell him she hates Satanslaagte, which is where he lives, and would never go back.
So he had to use blackmail. He also said that he felt like a horrible person, during their marriage, by expecting her to love the place just because he did. And expecting her to stay there.
So now he knows that she hates it, but he still forces her back because it has to be all his way. To me it seemed more like he wanted her back but only on his terms. So he'd try again to make her live by his rules and then he can have everything he wants.
He never really spent more time with her, and he dragged her back to that place.
It was all her fault, of course, for not trying to fit in more. Later she blames herself for not being more assertive, but I just had to wonder why he got away with no blame.
At one point in the book it mentions something about how he always catered to what his mother wanted. So when the heroine wanted to change things in the house a certain way, the mother said no it'll be this way, and the hero allowed the mother to get away with it.
I finished the book and the most I can say for it was it was just okay.
The fact that it reminded me of Lost in Love, where the heroine and hero still maintained contact despite their years apart, and the heroine married him again because she was so worried about her SIL, going through what she went through. There was just more.. mental anguish, reasons that I could understand behind the actions. And despite everything I felt like both the characters in LIL realized where their own failings were, and that they both had to work to change things.
This book was just the hero saying he wanted her back, he was wrong to divorce her, but it was her fault for not trying to fit in, and his mother's fault for making her life miserable. He really took no blame in it. It left me feeling like the book could have been so much more but failed.
Also, there's the OW angle. This time it's a neighbor who is the same age as the heroine. Both the neighbor and the mother-in-law made the heroine feel like she was the outcast and it was really the neighbor that belonged there. The neighbor was pretty obvious about it so it was just another oblivious hero moment that he never got it or did anything about it. Later he walks in on the heroine telling the OW that if she couldn't be nice to her she wouldn't be welcome and he supports her, but to me it was too little too late. Like it was all about the heroine asserting herself, where I would have liked it better if he'd taken some action first instead of just following her lead.
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