According to snippets of conversations I’ve heard here and there, Sarah’s Child by Linda Howard is either everybody’s favorite read or complete trash. So, I decided to read it to see what all the hollering was about. And, having read it, I can see why some would love it and others would hate it. It’s the kind of story that pushes all your woman, wife, mommy, nurturer buttons, or all your what-a-jerk, get-a-life, get-over-yourself-buster, dump-the-creep, talk-about-a-spineless-heroine buttons.
33-year-old virgin Sarah Harper (it could happen), has been in love with Rome Matthews for years and years. When Rome meets and marries Sarah’s best friend, Diane, Sarah is heartbroken, but because she’s honorable, she keeps her feelings to herself and continues to love Rome from afar, focusing all her energies on her career. Sarah never dates nor marries, choosing instead to dream of Rome, even knowing he is completely out of reach.
When Diane and their two young sons are killed by a drunk driver, Rome is utterly devastated. He had absolutely adored his wife, and cherished his little sons. Two years have passed since the accident, and, while Rome has bedded many women to ease his frustrations, he has never spent the whole night with one.
Out of the blue, Rome realizes he wants to sleep with Sarah (well, stay awake with her in a prone position at any rate). Sarah’s smart, fun to be with, totally hot in bed (he has found this out by now) so, he proposes. He’s a marrying-kind-of-guy and knows it.
Knocked off her feet at the bizarre turn her relationship with Rome has taken, Sarah doesn’t hesitate to accept her lover’s proposal, even when he adds a heartbreaking caveat to his offer. She must never get pregnant. He lost the two little boys he loved, and it almost destroyed him. He doesn’t feel he could ever go through that again, and makes Sarah promise she will not betray him in this.
Therein lies the tale. Does Sarah accidentally become pregnant? Like, duh. Not much of a story if she didn’t. And it is Rome’s behavior after this revelation that will anger and frustrate many readers.
Linda Howard’s writing is good, of course. And she does succeed in providing true-to-character motivations for their actions. The sex is hot, of course. But Sarah’s Child is a perfect example of a highly unlikely, contrived plot that’s sole purpose is to wring the reader out emotionally. Sure, I was touched, I hurt for the characters, I got it – But does that make Sarah’s Child a good romance?
Not to me. This was not an enjoyable, fulfilling romance to me because both the hero and heroine are such overwhelming victims, that every page is a lesson in pain, suffering, and extreme self-sacrifice. That this couple found happiness in the end, was not enough to make up for the fact that Rome basically abandoned the woman he loved when she needed him the most, because he couldn’t get over himself. And, that Sarah accepted this behavior was equally frustrating. Rome’s behavior is meant to manipulate our emotions, so we will feel a sense of satisfaction at the end when he figures out what a big, fat jerk he’s been, and breaks down in guilt and remorse.
Reading Sarah’s Child compares to the old joke that goes — A man comes across another man who is beating himself unmercifully with a huge stick. “Why are you beating yourself?” the first man asks with astonishment. To which the second man replies, “Because it feels so good when I stop.” I don’t read romance so I can “feel so good” when I stop.
Never has a woman catered to, coddled, or pampered a grown man so much as Sarah does Rome. I’ve thunk and I’ve thunk, and I think I know what Linda Howard meant when she titled the book. You want to know who Sarah’s Child really is? It’s not her accidentally-conceived bundle of joy – that event takes place too late in the book for the author to have meant her baby.
No, Sarah’s Child is Rome.
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LLB: This book engenders very strong emotions in readers, who seem to love it or hate it. I read the book some time ago, but could not decide for months what my grade for it was. I settled on a B- because I truly loved parts of it, but truly disliked other parts.