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-