I’m a fan of a good romance novel once in awhile. And I’m also a fan of Karen Robards. So, even though To Love A Man (1988) was published 24 years ago, I went in with relatively high expectations. I chose this book because I was craving some romance, and this was one of the few books available on kindle from my library. That should have been my first clue, but I figured since I enjoy her writing now, I probably would enjoy what she’s written in the past. But I was wrong. This was one of the worst books I have ever read. The writing was repetitive and boring, the characters were unlikable, and the hero was a complete asshole.
Lisa Collins comes from a family with money and works as a journalist at one of the newspapers her grandfather owns. She married her college sweetheart who turned out to be gay and had one child who died of Leukemia. In an effort to get away, Lisa Collins accepts an assignment in war-torn Rhodesia. When the farm where she is staying is attacked by rebels, everyone is killed and everything is set on fire. Lisa manages to escape and runs into Sam Eastman, a mercenary hired to--I don’t know, start a war or make the current leader look bad, or something. Because Lisa is making too much noise when she is running for her life, Sam punches her in the face, knocking her out. Sexy.
I don’t even know how to explain the rest of it. Lisa is all drugged up and has some sex with Sam. Sam has some bad history with his ex-wife, decides that Lisa is a "slut" like his ex-wife, and treats her like crap. I don’t even want to go into all the details because it’s embarrassing that this was even written down. It’s probably enough to know that Sam “shamed and humiliated” Lisa more times than I wanted to read. That included carrying her naked through camp after she was almost raped by two of his men (and he blamed her for that, of course). Then he forced her to have sex with him for the remainder of their stay. Lisa also always “took an instinctive step backward” whenever Sam was around—a good sign that he's a keeper. Unbelievably, Lisa does decide she loves him. Yet when they get out of Africa, Sam suddenly becomes jealous of Lisa’s wealth. So he calls her a “spoiled bitch” and leaves her. Eventually, of course, they get back together, but at that point I’d rather they kept their distance.
I was disturbed that this book was published and was even apparently popular. It made me wonder if I would have been more accepting of this book if I had read it when I was younger and more naïve about the reality of relationships. I hope not. There were so many red flags: any woman would be smart to run from that guy as fast as she could. He was violent, mean, jealous, and incredibly immature. His drastic mood swings forced Lisa to constantly attempt to soothe him. He was, in fact, the definition of an abusive boyfriend. I understand that domination can be sexy, but if that’s what this book was going for, it was not successful.