To Go: 57
41. Rising Tides — Nora Roberts
42. Inner Harbour — Nora Roberts
43. Slow Heat in Heaven — Sandra Brown
Finished reading: July 23, 2013
As I mentioned in other reviews, this summer I decided to read Sandra Brown’s older novels, and in an impulsive shopping spree I picked up three—including Slow Heat In Heaven, her very first novel.
In Slow Heat in Heaven, Schyler (pronounced Skyler) Crandall returns to her hometown of Heaven, Louisiana for the first time in years, when her father falls ill. But she quickly finds that her father’s sickness isn’t the only problem: the family’s logging company is on the brink of financial ruin, caused by her brother-in-law’s mismanagement and a bank loan her father can’t pay back. To complicate matters further, he offered up the family estate, Belle Terre, as collateral. In an effort to save her childhood home and prevent the collapse of Crandall logging, Schyler enlists the help of the enigmatic and untrustworthy Cash Boudreau, who has his own reasons for assisting her.
Slow Heat in Heaven cemented my belief that Sandra Brown’s newer work is better—or, at the very least, less disturbing—than her older novels. Unlike the last two SB books I reviewed, Slow Heat didn’t have an idea execution problem. But it did have the book’s romantic interest, the crass and troublesome Cash, utter the words “I should have raped you when I had the chance.”
Forgetting for a minute all the reasons why that statement is deeply offensive on a societal, real-world level, it just seems entirely antithetical to the personality a love interest in a romance novel should have. Comments like “I should have raped you when I had the chance” are generally reserved for villains, not the man who eventually ends up with the main character and lives happily ever after. What reader would be willing to invest in a character who says that? There is no context that can make that comment excusable, and after a snippet of dialogue like that it’s hard to convince me of the central premise of the novel, that Cash is the right man for Schyler. Schyler deserves better than Cash Boudreau. As does every woman, everywhere. But I’m guessing that’s not the way I was supposed to feel at the end of Slow Heat.
Even if you took the rape comment out of the equation, Cash is never, at any point, a sympathetic character: he’s angry and emotionally unavailable, cruel and caustic—and no amount of tragic backstory (and he does have one) can counteract his terrible disposition. In theory, his upbringing makes him worthy of reader empathy, and seeing him get a happy ending should feel rewarding. Instead, seeing Schyler fall in love with him is a little like watching a sheep snuggle up to a lion with its teeth bared.
As far as the actual narrative goes, Slow Heat is an interesting read and Schyler is a character worth caring about. She just deserves a better boyfriend.
Next book: Seducing Ingrid Bergman — Chris Greenhalgh