Love Me True

Secret Child

 
Inseparable by Ann Major
(Mira, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-55166-548-4
*
I guess I should consider myself fortunate that it took me until December to find my nominee for Worst Romance of the Year. I always try to look for the positive aspects when I review a novel, but Inseparable has me stumped. The two-dimensional characters frequently act in ways that make no sense, the plot has major holes in it, and the romance doesn't work at all.

Actually, the first 70 pages or so aren't too bad. Mike Greywolf is fleeing from the hogan where he has just found his father and grandparents brutally murdered. During his flight, the adolescent Navajo falls into an underground cave. At the same time, Emma and Kara Shayne, twin daughters of wealthy Frances Shayne, evade their older brother's supervision and go exploring near their Santa Fe home. They discover the cave where Mike is trapped, and Emma attempts to rescue him. But Emma winds up seriously injured at the bottom of the cave as well. While Emma and Mike wait to be rescued, they form a strong connection, despite Mike's mistrust of White people.

Through a convoluted set of circumstances, Mike ends up living with the twins' aunt Czarina. During the next few years, the rebellious Kara pursues him, while quiet Emma pines away with unrequited love in silence. Mike avoids Emma because he knows Frances thinks he's not good enough for her lily-white daughter.

But one fateful night, Emma finally confesses her feelings to Mike and the two make love (despite the fact that he freely admits, "Yes, there have been other women. I used them to try and forget you." Is that supposed to be a compliment?). Afterward, she leaves him in embarrassment, ashamed of her wanton behavior. Then she returns to him later that night, behaving like an experienced temptress. Mike makes love to her again, only to discover at the moment of ecstasy that he has just made love to Kara instead and broken Emma's heart.

Having the alleged hero sleep with both twins is pretty repugnant. But things get even uglier from here. A child results from that night, but is the red-haired daughter Emma's or Kara's? Mike doesn't know, but he does take over custody of the child, despite the fact that "blood tests proved he wasn't the father." Huh? I read over that statement three times, and even checked my advance copy against a published one to make sure it wasn't a typo. This is just one of several careless mistakes in the novel. Obviously, he is the father. If someone switched or falsified blood tests, the author forgot to mention it.

For the next 14 years, Mike rears his rebellious daughter, whose behavior borders on incorrigible. He becomes a successful sculptor and encounters both Kara and Emma again. Kara becomes a famous actress and Emma becomes a best-selling but reclusive author. Sometimes Mike sleeps with Kara but he always hates himself (and her) for it later. This is one of those dreadful throwback novels where the characters are always muttering "I hate you," even as they are ripping each others' clothes off. And Mike is quite a prince indeed. It's easy to see why the twins both want a man who fills their hearts with lines like these:

"Damn your soul to hell for being so f*ckable," he whispered. He wound his free hand in her red curls and viciously yanked her head back. "Now it's my turn." He brought his mouth down on hers. Violate. Bruise. Destroy. Surrender to the dark. He couldn't do any of those things without violating himself. And Emma. Why did he care? He didn't. "Whore," he whispered, even as he savored her sexual response. His voice was strangely controlled. "Get out. Before we're both sorry."

If that's not enough to warn you away from the book, let me mention that Inseparable also includes Mike's ex-wife, whose behavior is inconsistent and illogical. One minute she's sleeping with Mike, the next she is accusing him of murder, the next she is asking him for an interview. And that for some unfathomable reason, Mike and Emma eventually get back together, and the spoiled teenaged daughter instantaneously becomes a perfect angel.

The book is filled with awkward writing and dangling plot lines. I didn't care what happened to any of the two-dimensional characters, especially Emma, who is primarily a passive doormat. The only genuine emotion occurs in the first part, when young Mike and Emma first meet. By the time I closed the book on page 377, that somewhat encouraging beginning was long forgotten. The last line of Inseparable reads "(Mike) had promises to keep." Well, I do too. I promise I will never again read another novel by this author.

--Susan Scribner


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