By Paula Detmer Riggs, 1995, Series Romance (SIM #667)
In Her Secret, His Child, Paula Detmer Riggs confronts the delicate issue of date rape head-on when she brings hero Mitch Scanlon, disabled now but still potently attractive, back into Carly Alderson's life. This book earned its place on my keeper shelves because in Mitch, Riggs created a hero so poignant, so lovable, that I frequently wanted to reach out as I was reading and shake the woman he loved. I could have resolved my conflicts over Mitch far more easily than Carly did - as a woman if not as a writer.
Mitch comes with mixed emotions to the financially strapped college where Carly is president. A star professional football quarterback before the injury that left him a paraplegic, he has put his dreams of coaching aside. Now he has the opportunity to coach the college's struggling team, and he is instantly attracted to Carly. Although he has a feeling that he has met her somewhere in his past, she lets him believe they are total strangers. Even after they have made love and admitted to themselves that they are in love, Carly keeps her secret.
A rapist certainly is everything but lovable, but as a reader I empathized with Mitch, cut down from athletic stardom in his prime and looking for the special woman he believes he has found in Carly. When she inadvertently tells him he was the man who couldn't stop eighteen years ago - the man who fathered seventeen-year-old Tracy, I felt his devastation.
Guilt, regret, and love for the woman Carly is today drive Mitch. I felt his loneliness, the sense of being unworthy, even his belief that his becoming paraplegic is fair punishment for what he did to Carly when he was a thoughtless college boy. I suffered with him when his daughter tells him her boyfriend has raped her much the way he raped her mother so long ago.
Both rape scenarios bring a willing girl into a motel room with a young man, a couple mutually enjoying heavy foreplay, and a girl changing her mind and saying no only as consummation is taking place. When Carly and her daughter want out, things have gone past the point of no return, giving me the option to love a hero who is technically a rapist.
Her Secret, His Child made me cry, something I don't do easily. It made me cheer mentally whenever Mitch found a crumb of happiness. The ending brought tears of joy to my eyes as Riggs gave this complex, tortured hero his clean shot at "Happily Ever After." Paula Detmer Riggs has proven once again with this story that she is a master at creating characters that touch the heart - and dealing with subject matter many romance authors would consider taboo.
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