Heart of Winter
I’ll be honest. Diana Palmer’s Heart of Winter, despite its pretty cover, includes a novella called Woman Hater, and I had to see just how bad a story that wears its misogyny on its face would get. Spoiler warning : very bad. So let’s start.
(O riginally published in 1987)
Nicole White works as a secretary for Gerald Christopher, who’s planning to spend a month in rural Montana at his older brother Winthrop’s house. Nicole can use a month’s pay, so Gerald takes her with him. It’s obvious, though, that Winthrop dislikes having her around, because three years ago, Winthrop was injured in an accident, and after that his fiancée dumped him.
Naturally, he now hates all women, but he also hates rich people. Nicky realizes that if he knows her father is rich, she will instantly become Satan, even though she refused even a dime of her father’s money. So she allows Winthrop to believe she’s not related to her well-known father. Of course, he finds out and then hates her for lying to him. By the way, get used to Nicky being constantly referred to as a girl (and occasionally, a little girl). Winthrop also thinks of her “firm young breasts” and “sweet young body”, and I put on To Catch a Predator reruns for appropriate background ambiance.
Winthrop is eleven years older than Nicky, but seems about twenty years younger in terms of maturity. At one point, he makes Sioux hand signals to tell her what he thinks of her, aware that she doesn’t understand them and will need to find someone to translate. Their romance follows a predictable pattern where she shows him she’s kind, generous and sweet, but then he sees her be pleasant to his brother and he goes right back to loathing women. I feared for any daughters they might conceive when I came across this line in an intimate scene :
“Do you want a son?” she asked in a husky, loving tone.
He confirms that he wants a son, and she goes to bed dreaming about “little boys”. I don’t want to imagine what steps they might take to avoid having girls. Until the end, he refuses to marry her, because he doesn’t want a woman in his house (but he tells her to grow out her hair, because he likes long hair). Nicky’s reaction to the red flags is best summed up in this quote :
Poor, tormented man, she thought. So much love in him, all wasted on the wrong woman. And now he was driven to hurt back, out of fear that it was going to happen again. But it wasn’t, she thought, her heart blazing with compassion. It wasn’t, because she’d never hurt him.
I just felt sorry for her, because the abuse will only get worse from here. Even the intimate scenes didn’t work for me, because Winthrop is a smoker, so when they kiss, she notices “the tobacco tartness of his tongue”. Nothing against smokers, but I don’t want to taste that. In summary, I can’t recommend anything about this deeply disturbing story, and it gets an F.
If Winter Comes
(Originally published in 1979)
Carla Maxwell works for a newspaper that made a mistake in a story about mayor Bryan Moreland, and when she attends a party where Bryan is a guest, he wastes no time in tearing into her. Throughout this confrontation, he seems constantly on the verge of exploding, and he doesn’t even allow her to finish a sentence, let alone explain that it wasn’t her mistake.
I’ve never particularly liked politicians who insult and threaten reporters, but he then puts the cherry on the top by discovering the truth and asking her why she didn’t tell him she wasn’t responsible. Whatever happens, it’s her fault in some way. Sadly, this sets the tone for yet another abusive relationship, and I only read through to the end so I could write a review.
Bryan is your typical old-skool alpha. He’s fifteen years older than Carla, so he calls her “little girl”. He was in an accident which killed his wife and daughter, therefore he will Never Love Again, but he secretly follows Carla out to her car so he can fight off a would-be rapist. He constantly smokes in her presence despite her not liking this, and when he suspects she saw another man before he met her, he demands details, “his fingers biting into her soft flesh”.
Carla is happy to be the rug he wipes his feet on, and this culminates in an intimate scene where she has to say no more than once. When it’s obvious she doesn’t want to have sex, he freezes her out. But actually, he didn’t realize how innocent she was, so once he does, he turns on the charm again. The message is that if you’re a virgin you can say no, but if you’ve been around the block, there’s no excuse. Naturally, she’s a complete contrast to his first wife, whom he only married because she was pregnant. This story was written in 1979, but if something is re-released in 2006, expect it to be held to more modern standards. So it gets another F.
In conclusion, I like to try winter romances at this time of year, but Heart of Winter made me want to fill a stocking with coal and hit both heroes with it. Admire the cover, avoid this book, and read something, anything else.