Whitney, My Love

Whitney, My Love - Judith McNaught One of those rare romance novels I read during my misspent youth that I remember liking, published in 1986. I wish I could say it holds up on a reread. I rather get why I may have once liked this book: I find Whitney herself appealing and sympathetic from the start; she has a difficult relationship with her father, a painful unrequited love, and is the kind of girl that--in Regency England--wears breeches to try riding stunts on horses. I still rather love her, at least in the beginning pre-doormat; her dialogue is often witty, and there are endearing secondary characters as well, thus the two and a half stars. The problem is the "hero," Clayton--he makes me rather appalled I ever liked this book. If there's some aspect of an abusive relationship not illustrated by his character--including rape--I don't know what it would be. And mind you, what I read is the revised edition; I understand that in the original, the rape scene was more brutal--even softened, it still comes across as rape to me though. I wouldn't even say the rape is the most disturbing aspect of the abuse Clayton hands out to Whitney--emotionally the way he treats her again and again is out and out cruel. And she loves him. It makes it all the more pathetic as a drama about abuse, but I can't say it works as a love story for me--but that's what it's written as--romance. I read one review that suggests what might be appealing is the idea of having someone who treated you badly come asking you to take them back. On the other side, I imagine someone who is currently undergoing abuse might want to believe that forgiving time upon time might lead to that happily ever after. When I read it decades ago, I might have liked the idea of redemption and forgiveness. But on reread I just can't see a character arc with Clayton that makes him forgivable or redeemable. And given how he acted, the author really needs to pull out all the stops--apology, demonstrations he trusts Whitney, etc. I don't think that Clayton ever gets-a-clue he did damage beyond a moment of remorseful tenderness, or takes steps to show real change.