Wednesday, June 07, 2006
An old favorite... England's Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch
With everything my dear friend JB is going through this week, I felt the urge to reread something with depth, with emotion. Something I knew would move me like nothing else. So I pulled out England's Perfect Hero. Book 3 in the Lessons in Love trilogy, this is the story of Lucinda and Robert. Lucinda is the daughter of a general, Robert is the brother of Viscount Dare (hero of book 1). I wrote a couple weeks ago about how disappointed I was in Tara Janzen's portrayal of PTSD in Crazy Wild, and how I had read other books that had done it so much better. This, my friends, is the book. This hero, who was a POW of the French for 7 months, suffers from a brutal case of PTSD. We meet him 3 years after his return to England. He still cowers in the corner of his room. He still rocks back and forth on the floor, lost in his own world. He still cries. He still is afraid to interact with people, his own family included. Afraid of his own memories - because to remember would be to die. He still is fine one moment, and the next simply disintegrates into a quivering ball of uncontrolled fear and emotion.
Into this walks Lucinda, best friend of Robert's sister-in-law. Somehow, she manages to draw him out. Slowly. But she still reaches him on some level that no one else has before. She strikes a chord in him that reaches far into the depths of his despair and reminds him of how he used to be. And while he knows he will never again be whole, and never again be that man, he longs for some sense of normalcy, so that he can interact with Lucinda on some level. And bless Enoch, she doesn't miraculously "cure" Robert's PTSD with the love of a good woman.
I love that this book shows the effect that PTSD has on the entire family - the Carroway brothers all strive to have a normal family life, all the way from the oldest - the Viscount - to the youngest - 10 year old Edward. And they do it very well. When the chips are down, this family rallies around each other. They embrace their friends as their own. They try to let Robert lead as normal a life as possible without smothering him with concern. All right. Point taken. This is an excellent portrayal.
The romance grows slowly, out of friendship. There is no sex until 2/3 through the book. There is a very short mystery - someone is out to discredit Robert, and both he and the reader figure out quickly who it is. The last third of the book is devoted to catching the real culprit. While the PTSD does take a back seat to the capture of the bad guy, it never truly leaves the story, and for that I was grateful to Enoch. Robert is constantly swallowing his fear in order to face the world and his enemy. Lucinda is unswerving in her devotion and friendship to him. Eventually they prevail, of course. They both acknowledge the long road ahead. The recovery that may never happen. The nightmares that will never go away. The stares that may never stop. Yet they are willing to give it a go. This is true love.
This is one of the most poignant, emotional, books I have read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Robert is a beautifully drawn character, one who makes you want to cry with him over his losses and weep with joy over every tiny victory. Enoch writes him as completely human - suffering horribly, at times full of self-pity, yet incredibly strong and stoic and accepting at the same time.
Hang in there JB. You, too, will prevail. We here at Don't Talk, Just Read are thinking of you and your family, and sending you all our unswerving love, too.