In Betrayed by Love, Francine Craft returns to Crystal Lake, Maryland, the setting of Star Crossed. It is the marriage-of-convenience romance between widow Maura Allen Blackwell and Joshua Pyne, son of one of the town’s wealthiest citizens.
As a teenager, Maura had worked in his father’s office. Josh became her knight in shining armor when she was without an escort for her senior prom. Maura went the prom on the arm of a college sophomore. They shared a chaste kiss at the end of their first and only date. “After that, he’d gone back to college and then did some traveling. He had gotten married, and he and Maura had lost touch.”
Maura retained a soft spot for Josh after all these years. She was hurt when he married the shallow Melodye Crane. Later, dentist Malcolm Blackwell came into her life and they were married. Malcolm died three years before the novel begins. Josh’s marriage ended when Melodye terminated her pregnancy. It was a child Josh had desperately wanted. He has since sworn off women, but he still wants a child.
As Betrayed by Love begins Josh is shocked to see Maura staring into the waters of the White Oak Creek Bridge. A young woman had taken her life at that spot months earlier. It’s Josh to the rescue again. However, his act of gallantry is somewhat premature. Maura’s reasons for being on the bridge were pensive, not suicidal. She had just learned her grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer and would need expensive treatment the family could not afford.
Josh is moved by her appearance and her compassion and wonders what he can do to help. He offers Maura a chance to save her grandfather. All she has to do is agree to marry him for eighteen months and have his baby. Without much thought, Maura jumps at the chance despite Josh’s warning that he can never love her or any other woman after Melodye’s treachery.
Josh and Maura are married several months after her grandfather’s treatment has proved to be successful. They settle into an arrangement, of sorts. They talk about everything. Their work, a new house he wants to build for her. Everything except the child they will be creating and what will happen to this child after it is born and its parents are divorced. Still Maura is willing to live up to her end of the bargain. As a matter of fact when, Josh has still not consummated the marriage after three weeks, Maura thinks to herself: “If there is going to be a baby, let’s get the show on the road.”
Betrayed by Love is a stiff romance with several interesting elements. The chemistry between Josh and Maura seemed somewhat forced, particularly during his continued reinforcement that he could never love her. I found the novel’s three secondary romances and the promise of a fourth more interesting. And I must say, I found the one in which Josh’s bitchy ex-wife becomes his stepmother perversely intriguing. There are also appearances by police chief John Williams and Faren and Lance Carrington of Star Crossed
The prose is a bit purple in spots. By the time I got to the phrase about Josh’s “mighty shaft,” I began to visualize Richard Roundtree and hear Isaac Hayes’ theme song. Party sequences seemed somehow misplaced. In one segment, dancers found “the Funky Chicken,” a dance older than most of the readers. In another, the well-heeled crowd at a local black tie charity ball were entertained by a band that included.a harmonica player.
An underlying theme in the novel deals with parenting and how children react to the treatment, instruction and example they are given. There is a suspenseful element in the romance in which the town’s bad seed wreaks havoc on the town residents, including a descendant of a former slave who was tragically murdered nearly 100 years ago. The ghost of Theena Marie Halaby is believed to wail when tragedy and death are about to strike Crystal Lake. It is an interesting plot twist. However, for those who have read Star Crossed, no such warnings occurred before the murders in that novel. It is a glaring oversight if the author planned on returning to that setting.
Betrayed by Love is a pleasant read which marks a continued upswing in the author’s romance writing career. My favorite Francine Craft romance is still “A Love Made in Heaven” in the Wedding Bells anthology.