Sara Craven: Dark Summer Dawn

ISBN : 0 263 76543 1 (1981, reprinted 1990)

This book took my breathe away.  No, not in that manner.  The sheer disbelief that the publishers felt that nine years after its initial publication it was acceptable to reprint a book where a virginal school-girl is raped by her much older step-brother. Hypocrite that we are here is the passage:

He picked her up in his arms and carried her to his room, kicking the door shut behind him.  She was struggling like a wild thing, biting and scratching, but he didn’t even seem to notice.

As he threw her across the bed, she sobbed out, ‘Dane-no! Please-no!’

His mocking smile made him look like a devil as he tossed the dressing gown aside and bent over her. ‘Yes, Lisa, please yes.’ His voice altered and roughened.’Sluts don’t have a choice, darling.  And you’ve forfeited yours.’ (p.93)

After fleeing two years earlier, Lisa Grayson, twenty years old, model, is escorted home to assist in her step-sister Julie’s wedding preparations.  Julie, eighteen, has found herself in quite a predicament, pregnant by a married man and engaged to another.  Lisa is needed to deflect suspicion off Julie.   Dane is all too willing to impute guilt upon Lisa as he done a couple years before when Julie associated with the slightly incestuous  Hammond siblings.      

We are unconvinced that Dane feels any remorse for what he did to Lisa.  He is physically and verbally abusive towards her. Gentleman, he is not believing that promiscuity excuses him from exhibiting any respect and moral decency towards Lisa.

As to our heroine, she is frustratingly mute.  Her assumed air of moral superiority grates after awhile.  Here she is contemplating the potential longevity of Julie and James’ (the married lover) relationship:  

There was no doubting his sincerity, but why hadn’t he thought of this at the beginning of their affair? It was probably significant that it was the loss of the baby that had made him contemplate the loss of the baby that had made him contemplate the destruction of his secure existence as Celia’s husband.  Hadn’t Julie said that Celia had taunted him over their own childlessness, blaming him for it? Might it not be Julie proving Celia wrong once and for all which had tipped the scales in he favour? If so, this was a fragile foundation for their future happiness.’ (pp.170-171) And the foundation of happiness is sooo much stronger between Dane and Lisa.

Obviously, this book resonated and resonated strongly to be reprinted but the appeal of this book is somewhat bewildering (as is the cover’s relevance to the storyline).  Dane is a creep and why you would want to prolong the association is beyond me. Perhaps in order to appreciate this storyline you need to be of a particular generation.

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