The Innocent’s Surrender
Author: Sara Craven
Publisher: Harlequin Mills and Boon (Presents/Modern)
Hero: Alexandros Mandrakis. Greek ex-playboy, now running his father’s company. Manipulative bastard.
Heroine: Natasha Kirby. Orphan, brought up by her father’s Greek friend, Basilis Papadimos. Inherited a share of the Papadimos shipping company. Idiot. Fool. Doormat.
Other: A rather nice chap called Neil, who is clearly too good for Natasha. The Papadimos family, who make the Mitchells out of EastEnders look functional and rational.
Marriage: No. Although there is a proposal which is accepted, in my personal version of this book, the instant after the story ends, Natasha recovers her sense, her pride and her gumption and calls the police on Alex, thus providing a proper happy ever after. In fact, the best thing about this book is that there is no epilogue.
Enjoyment factor: Negative. In fact, this book made my blood boil. Here’s why (there will be spoilers):
Natasha is blackmailed by the Papadimos family into offering herself in marriage to Alex. The plot justification for this is minimal, but even less clear is her internal motivation for agreeing. Much, much worse, they also secretly send another letter in which Natasha apparently offers all sorts of sexual favours to Alex. Consequently, next time she lands in Greece, she is kidnapped by Alex’s minions and brought to his house. She is locked into his room and informed that she is ‘beginning a new career’, as Alex’s mistress.
When she tells him that she did not send the second letter and that, in fact, she would rather die than become his mistress, things really start to turn ugly. She threatens to have him arrested for kidnap and rape. He doesn’t deny the accusations, but merely points out that the charges are unlikely to stick. Then he reveals that, charmingly, he has been stalking her, sneaking into the Papadimos home to watch her swim – naked- at night.
She begs him to let her go and he refuses. He tells her that she will belong to him and that he will use her to exact whatever humiliation and revenge on her family he chooses. He tells her to strip and she says no. Then he threatens to have his bodyguards come in and do it for her. She contemplates trying to escape through the window.
And then, she gives in. She does what he asks, though she is still afraid, and does not want to. I wanted her to kick and scream and yell and scratch his eyes out and make him know that he is raping her. I wanted her to hide as far from him as she could and hold her arms round her knees and force him to rip at her clothes and see her tears and know her fury. I don’t want her to let him get away with thinking this situation is in any way okay. It doesn’t matter that he thinks she had written the letter offering him these things – she’s here, standing in front of him, telling him no, and he is not listening. Even when she’s lying in bed with him on top of her, she asks him to stop, to let her go. There is no question but that this is rape, by any definition.
Natasha doesn’t fight because he’s bigger and stronger than her and she knows he could overpower her. I don’t think that’s wholly unreasonable, and maybe she does just hope it will all be over quicker. But I was frustrated that she didn’t make it more of a fight. Slap his face, scratch him, try to knee him in the balls – something so that he can’t help but realise what he’s doing.
In any event, that’s a pretty unpleasant way to begin a romance. But perhaps something could be salvaged in the rest of the book? Don’t hold your breath.
Alex’s next move is to blackmail Natasha into remaining with him by threatening to evict her elderly foster-mother from her home. He just gets more romantic by the minute, doesn’t he? He installs her on his yacht, and then his island home, where she is not permitted to use a telephone or the internet to contact anyone else. He never, at any stage, apologises for any of his actions except one – he apologises that he took her virginity.
Yes, that’s right. Kidnap, rape, blackmail, captivity – those are all fine for women who happen to have had a previous sexual relationship. Head, meet desk.
Here’s the thing. I like books with alpha males who set out to get what they want; I even like books with forced marriages and blackmailed mistresses; I like Presents/Modern books with their ludicrous plots and contrived happy endings. I get that there are a number of reasons why people choose to enter into sexual relationships, and not all of those are to do with love, joy, or personal pleasure. Sometimes they are to do with money, pride, family, or revenge. But I do not, and cannot, enjoy a book in which rape is used as a romantic gesture. It isn’t.
I needed to see recognition of his actions and remorse, from Alex. And I really wanted Natasha to recognise what he had done and hold him to account for it, as well. And I definitely didn’t need Natasha’s foster-mother to be the one encouraging her into this dangerous relationship.
Badly done, Sara Craven. Badly done, indeed. This is a bad book, not because of its prose or its style, but because of the immorality it condones, and thus encourages. Writing is a powerful job. Books, even disposable category romances, exert an influence on their readers. ‘The Innocent’s Surrender’ and books like it perpetuate an ugly, dangerous myth, that somehow rape can be sexy and romantic, and that sometimes, when women are saying no, it’s still okay to assume they mean yes.
Filed under: Category, Contemporary, Presents/Modern, Sara Craven | 11 Comments
Tags: blackmail, kidnap, rape