Most romance novelists choose the safety of creating perky heroines and strong heroes who serve as inspirations for their readers. Slightly idealized yet still relatable, these characters overcome minimal obstacles (such as misunderstandings or embarrassing lies) to experience true love. In Storybook Passion, Darlene S. Hanes bravely explores domestic violence and emotional abuse in her story of Gabriella Bonura, a young bride in rural Louisiana nearly beaten to death by her new husband.
Gabriella could never be described as perky. She’s emaciated and humorless, having barely survived a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her father and then her husband. When successful businessman Taylor Boudreaux finds Gabriella battered and bloodied on the road with a young child, he takes the forlorn duo home to his luxurious ranch and the care of his family.
Over the next several months, Gabriella struggles with the situation: should she and Nicky, her husband’s son from another relationship, stay with the Boudreaux family even if it means accepting Taylor’s growing attraction to her?
While clinging to the traditional man-as-rescuer romantic scenario, this book takes a different tack in terms of the severity of the physical abuse. Hanes’ boldness in tackling such a difficult subject is to be admired; unfortunately, the novel falls short in its implementation. One-dimensional characters such as the hero Taylor, little Nicky, wife-beater Billy Zack and family physician Doc Blue have no back stories to explain their current circumstances.
In addition, problems with style weigh down the prose. Repetition of a name or word within a paragraph, different speakers in the same paragraph and wooden dialogue (“Gabriella, I know that you were running for your life and the life of Nicky the day I found you.”) may discourage readers who might otherwise like the plucky concept.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.