Friday, August 12, 2011

Review of Maggie Shayne’s The Husband She Couldn’t Remember

I mentioned on Monday that Harlequin is re-releasing books from the 1990s as part of their Treasury series, and while I don’t usually read category romance, I’ve been impressed with the quality of the writing in these books. When I saw that Maggie Shayne’s The Husband She Couldn’t Remember was available for review, I requested it, because I’ve read and enjoyed a few of her paranormal romances in the Wings in the Night series. The Husband She Couldn’t Remember is a contemporary romance with a bit of suspense in it, and while at times it’s a bit far-fetched, I consider that to be par for the course with category romance and thought that I could accept it as part of the genre. This novel pretty much reads like the plot of a soap opera, and if you enjoy that, you’ll definitely like The Husband She Couldn’t Remember. Unfortunately that’s not really my cup of tea, so while I liked the characters and felt that the pacing of the suspense was well done, I probably won’t be re-reading this book.  Unlike the other two Harlequin Treasury re-releases I’ve read, this e-book had several recurring typos and editing errors, but I think you can see past that fairly easily, even if it is annoying.

The novel begins with Ben Brand dreaming about his dead wife, Penny. Penny died two years ago in a fiery car crash that left only a crispy corpse and heartbreaking memories. What makes her death all the more tragic is that Penny had been suffering from a debilitating disease (Hillman-Waite Syndrome) that had no cure, and everyone wonders if the crash was an accident or if Penny committed suicide.  While Ben’s in El Paso, he bumps into a woman who looks exactly like Penny, but before he can question her, she runs away. Ben’s convinced that Penny is still alive and requests an exhumation of the body they buried, but before they begin to dig up the casket, the woman approaches him. It turns out that she is Penny, but she has a bad case of amnesia, and she doesn’t remember anything about her former life. She woke up from a coma in a clinic in England, and when the staff started acting suspiciously, she took off with only an address written on a scrap of paper. As Penny’s memories of her life with Ben gradually return, it becomes all the more important to discover what actually happened two years ago. Will what happened two years ago threaten her newly rekindled relationship with Ben? And why did she have to escape from the clinic that apparently cured her incurable disease?

Despite the outlandish nature of the plot, I did enjoy the characters and the romance between the hero and heroine. Both Ben and Penny are likeable characters, and the suspense behind her disappearance and sudden reappearance will keep you turning the pages. This book is the fourth in a series about the Brand family, and we meet characters from previous installments of the series, but the book can easily be read on its own.  The family definitely supports one another and welcomes Penny back with open arms, and I liked the interaction between the brothers and their spouses. Also, Penny and Ben were childhood sweethearts, and you get to learn about their sweet romance through flashbacks as Penny starts to recall her past.

I’m not usually a fan of amnesia plots, because they just strike me as too ridiculous. Unless a character’s suffered from a serious head injury, I have a hard time accepting them, and amnesia seems to be a frequent plot device in category romance. However, Ms. Shayne provided an interesting reason for Penny’s memory loss that I was able to accept, albeit grudgingly.

I enjoyed the book until we learn the truth concerning Penny’s disappearance two years ago, which pushed the plot too far into outlandish territory for my tastes. It completely changed the way I viewed Penny’s character and not in a good way. Ben has a very similar reaction to learning the truth, but eventually forgives Penny, which I found to be a plausible response to man mourning his lost love, so kudos to the author there. However, the villain is way over the top crazy, and I was unable to accept that this complete loon had somehow found the cure for a progressive disease that had been incurable.

Generally speaking, this book reinforced my prejudices against category romance, which is a shame, because I’ve read several recently that are quite good. There are definitely aspects of the novel that I enjoyed, namely the romance between the h/h and the pacing of the suspense aspects of the plot, but the outlandish nature of the book was just too much for this reader.

I received this book for review from the Publisher through NetGalley.

No comments:

Post a Comment