The economic downturn has brought a concomitant rise in escapist romance fiction. The popular novels of this genre, sometimes dubbed “housewife fiction,” feature strong, overbearing males and women who can’t help but love them.
Forget Me Not, by Christina D. Kennedy, is an uneasy representative of this style. Although the author dedicates a good portion of her narrative to the requirements of romance fare — steamy sex scenes and the muscular bodies and expensive possessions of the heroine’s paramours — her novel slips occasionally into a darker mode, with a more serious characterization of the masterful male as controller and abuser.
Kennedy states in her preface that her book is “based on true events” but mixed with “overtones of fiction.” This biographical mooring explains why the novel doesn’t read as straight-forward escapism, leaving the reader wondering why Kennedy chooses to overlay the reality of abuse with the elements of romance.
The novel begins with 15-year-old Christina living unhappily with her negligent father and abusive stepmother. Christina is extracted from this situation by Frank, one of her father’s rich friends, who has “the sexiest chiseled features” and introduces Christina to “a whirlwind of passion.” But when Frank’s brother tries to seduce Christina, Frank explodes into violence and Christina escapes.
Christina, now pregnant, returns to her family, where her stepmother imprisons her in the attic and concocts a plan to sell the baby and Christina. Christina is purchased by a widower who takes her to his mansion and mentors her. This arrangement continues until the widower dies, and another domineering man enters the field.
Although Forget Me Not might be enjoyed by fans of Flowers in the Attic and Fifty Shades of Grey, most readers will find the amalgam of erotica and abuse disturbing. As a result, the novel isn’t likely to find a wide audience.
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