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REVIEW: A Dark Love by Margaret Carroll

Dear Ms. Carroll:

I picked this book up because I had the jones for a good romantic suspense and when I paged through it I discovered that the hero is a former football player. WIN! I love sports related books. Alas, it wasn’t a sports related book but I still liked it.

I’m not sure if this book is marketed as a romantic suspense or rather just suspense because the conflict is not an emotional one between a male and female protagonist. The conflict rests primarily on the heroine and is action driven by the plot. From your website, it appears you are calling this book a thriller and that’s exactly what I would peg it as.

Caroline Hughes married psychoanalyst Dr. Porter Moross when she was young and vulnerable. Having escaped a bad childhood and trying to find herself, Porter knew just how to reel Caroline in. He promised her constancy, affection, and a life of comparative ease – all of which were elements that Caroline had never had and lusted after.

Shortly before their marriage, Porter’s dark side began to show itself. He acted particularly difficult whenever it appeared that Caroline was paying attention to any man other than himself. Caroline, he deemed, was his most difficult patient and he hoped, his most successful cure. He employed his brilliant skills in undermining her confidence, severing any external ties, and basically imprisoning her in his home and life. For example, Caroline was “allocated twenty minutes to walk her dog.”

Caroline finally broke free and in a somewhat haphazard plan that found her away from her home and to a small town in Colorado where she is taken in by the townspeople and wooed by its favorite son, former NFL Denver Broncos player, Ken Kincaid. The book tracks Caroline’s flight and her reemergence in her chosen haven and Porter’s complete loss of control after he discovers she has left him.

The thriller part worked quite well. It wasn’t that Porter was this amazingly capable villain. He was a sadistic psycho but most of the thrill rests on Caroline’s reluctance to confide in anyone thus creating an immediate sense of danger for her. The townspeople get the sense that she’s running from someone and something and Ken is convinced that if she would just confide in him, he would take care of any pesky man problems.

The touch of romance rests upon Ken Kincaid’s immediate attraction to Caroline but to say that this moved at a snail’s pace is to imply the snail is fast moving. Further, there is little emotional conflict that is explored. In fact, despite this being billed as a psychological thriller, very little of the book is internal conflict. Almost all is external, propelled forward by just how long it will take Porter to find Caroline.

There were two aspects that I found frustrating in this book. First was all the allusions to bad things that happened at one time or another. I understand that you wanted to hint at things, but in creating the monster that was Porter, I felt like I needed more detail and less allusion. (This is probably a stylistic thing but if you hint at something, I, as a reader, like to have my guesses confirmed or rejected. It’s part of the “fun” of reading a suspense).

Second was the inconsistency in Porter’s character. After Caroline leaves, Porter reads her email and discovers a very, very mild flirtation Caroline is exchanging with another man. If Porter is such a control freak, wouldn’t he read her email every night at the very least? The emails portrayed a vastly different picture of Caroline than she appeared in the text. She was cowed, albeit with strength enough to leave, but she exhibited none of the carefree, smarty attitude that appeared in the emails. Then there was the dog. Caroline has a dog and it plays a role in the story but Porter hated that dog. It seemed odd that Porter would allow Caroline to have a dog in her life that he hated when he didn’t even allow her to speak to her neighbors without repercussion.

I really liked Ken and Caroline and wished to have spent more time with them together. The suspense worked for me as well even if I did have problems with it from time to time. It’s a book I would recommend to suspense/thriller readers who don’t mind the light romance. B-

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

16 Comments

  1. Tabitha
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 05:19:41

    The storyline reminds me of a mix of Karen Rose’s Don’t Tell and Lauren Dane’s Taking Chase.

    When you say that the romance is light, is it similar to Lisa Gardner’s books? I believe the romance in her books are light too. Or if you know another author in comparison, would be great too. Thanks!

  2. Diane V
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 07:28:16

    Crap! I almost bought this at the bookstore yesterday afternoon and didn’t because I didn’t remember seeing any reviews of it.

    Sounds like something I’d enjoy so I’ll run and pick it up after work tonight.

  3. maddie
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 09:18:00

    I didn’t read this book (yet) so I say this, with out knowing what took place with the dog thing.

    Then there was the dog. Caroline has a dog and it plays a role in the story but Porter hated that dog. It seemed odd that Porter would allow Caroline to have a dog in her life that he hated when he didn't even allow her to speak to her neighbors without repercussion.

    I take it as another way he can control her, you stated that he gives her 20 minutes to walk the dog.

    So I can see her loving the this dog, as a way for him to control her actions even more, fearing for the dog safety making sure the dog doesn’t make a mess, bark, underfoot.

  4. Miss_Thing
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 19:01:03

    I love romantic suspense/thrillers, but I’m always wary when the heroine in this type of book has a beloved pet – I spend most of the time biting my nails worrying that something bad is going to happen to it! I really, really, really hate this literary device and have started boycotting books because I get too upset. I know it’s fictional, but…. Am I the only one who feels like this?

  5. Jane
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 19:15:05

    @Tabitha: I’ve thought about this all day and I don’t have a good answer. While there is romance, the sexual tension is very mild and I think that there is only one mild kissing scene (IIRC).

    @Diane V: Let us know how you like it.

    @maddie: Possibly but in the context I felt it was just another example of his lack of control even though he made her do (supposedly) the worst things ever and she submitted to those.

    @Miss_Thing: It if makes you feel better, the dog is fine.

  6. Sam DG
    Aug 26, 2009 @ 21:43:52

    I wonder why when the romance is a “barely there” entity that publishers put covers that suggest a great deal more. I mean that is one hot cover for a lukewarm romance

    I like my romantic suspense heavy on the romance and always hate it when I feel misled by the cover.

  7. Tabitha
    Aug 27, 2009 @ 06:10:41

    Thanks, Jane. You provided more perspective re: the romance in the book — sounds like this book is definitely suspense than romantic suspense. I prefer equal parts romance and suspense!

  8. Janet W
    Aug 27, 2009 @ 16:55:11

    Good question Sam — is it the old “selling the sizzle, not the steak”? Thank goodness for reviews! Without going into spoiler territory, a putative reader can find out if there is indeed any romance and what kind of a sliding scale the villain/heroine is on. You’re right about the cover … mild kissing is not what one would except seeing that clinch.

    The Nora Roberts where the heroine ran away from her movie industry hubbie was, to me, both romantic (very!) and suspenseful. It’s a measuring rod for me. It was called “Dance Upon the Air” (I checked my keeper shelf). :)

  9. Diane V
    Sep 01, 2009 @ 08:05:46

    Finally read it over the weekend and enjoyed the suspense storyline.

    I agree with Jane that the book would have been much better if we had more interaction and romance between Ken and Caroline. The book cover definitely does lead you to believe that there would be more steam and I would have expected more romance as the spine of the book classifies it as “Romantic Suspense” — I would have just classified it as “Suspense”.

    I found myself wanting to have the story of Caroline’s neighbor Lindsey and her husband (from 20+ years ago) more than I wanted Ken and Caroline’s story. I loved how the husband thought about how he tended to think slowly and carefully before he decided on something, but Lindsey would just make a snap judgement that 98% of the time would end up being the same as his.

    The whole ick factor with Caroline’s sexual abuse by Porter after she was sexually abused by her stepfather as a child can be summed up by one of the policemen in the story who thought that he was glad they wore gloves (after finding a sexual device used to punish Caroline in the bedroom.)

    And I did find it hokey that Porter’s appearance became as ugly as his character (the purple puss postules on his face were particulary nauseating) as the story progressed.

    Thought Jane’s B- review was accurate, and since I did enjoy the story I will give Margaret Carroll’s next book that comes out at the end of the month a try (knowing that the book will once again be more suspenseful than romantic.)

  10. Jennifer
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 06:05:48

    Read 95% of this book and skimmed the last 5%. To me, the characters were interesting, the plot was solid but there were too stylistic hiccups to make it a book I’d recommend. I thought the author did a solid job explaining why the dog was allowed, how Caroline planned out her escape, and how Porter found her again seemed plausible. However, “quiet like a bank after closing” appearing a few pages before “quiet like a college after final exams” really jumped out at me. I would like to read more of her books and I hope her editor gives her more consistent feedback. Fantastic passages followed by chunks of clunky writing made for an awkward read.

  11. susan
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 17:01:25

    the book SUCKED

  12. caroline
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 09:43:54

    first of all quiet like a bank after closing? banks aren’t quiet after closing, that’s when the tellers are proving up their day. it is quite noisy.

  13. liz
    Mar 05, 2010 @ 06:18:26

    just finished the second book. actually, made myself get through it because once i start reading, i must end the book. this book was awful, all over the place. this author’s characters are not very sympathetic and seem weak (yes I read the first one). there was no one to identify with. the writing was too detailed, making it boring. i definitely will not be reading any more of her books.

  14. Jane
    Mar 05, 2010 @ 07:06:52

    @liz The second book was as far from a romance as it could be. I kept wondering, is this where the romance comes in…

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