What, then, to do with a heroine whose life experiences have made her anything but? Wedding planner Sarah Murphy is very good at pretending—pretending that the color of the bridesmaids' dresses matter. Pretending that the order she creates out of the chaos of each wedding can extend to her own life. Pretending that the guarded face she shows the world—the nice girl face—is all there is to see.
But the real Sarah, the one behind the façade, knows the truth. Knows that the gleam in her eyes that brings men running, the one that "promised easy sex and plenty of it, the gleam that said she didn't give a fuck about anything," isn't natural, but forced. Knows that the ease with which her overripe body draw a man's eye is simultaneously a thrill and a source of self-disgust. Knows that no matter how much she's been turned on by any of the hundreds of guys she's slept with, at some point they all "trip the fuse that was always waiting to be tripped, and she would go cold inside, and wait for it to be over." Knows that she uses sex to gain a sense of control over her life, a control wrested away from her childhood self by a man who was supposed to love her, supposed to keep her safe.
Because of its brevity, because it is told completely from Sarah's point of view, and because several other people, not only Joe, play a role in Sarah's gradual coming to terms with her victimization, Maher's novel works better as women's fiction than as a straight romance. As a romance reader, I wished Maher had given me more time with Joe, and with Joe and Sarah together, rather than just showing them during the intense turning-point moments that mark Sarah's emotional growth. But despite its shortcomings as romance, Fault Lines has taught me the valuable lesson of not writing off a heroine because she's too something to be immediately likable. And, in real life, to look for the bravery in those people who may not be living up to my ideals, but who are trying as hard as they can to struggle through the aftermaths of their own individual traumas.
What romances have you read that made you feel for an initially unsympathetic heroine?
PTSD word map: Anxiety.org
Carina Press, 2012.
Next time on RNFF:
Back to the usual Tuesday book review,
Friday general topic rotation