Book Review: Forgotten Promises by Jessica Lemmon

The Lost Boys series by Jessica Lemmon takes a more serious tone than a lot of contemporary romances I’ve read. This one especially takes it to some dark places. While it’s a good read that I recommend, it is NOT a light and fluffy read by any means.

Trigger warnings: This book contains themes of physical and sexual abuse and molestation, pedophilia, and suicide.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A released prisoner vows to get the proof he needs to send his father to jail, and a girl he knew in high school may hold the key to helping him…if he doesn’t get arrested for kidnapping her. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

First World Problems
On her 21st birthday, Morgan finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her. This is the worst thing to happen in her world, so she plans to spend the rest of the night getting drunk and trying to forget his betrayal. But when she sees Tucker at the convenience store and goes to talk to him,  she sets herself up to find out that there are worse things in the world than being dumped.


From the Past
Tucker knew Morgan in high school and even once saved her from being raped. But he was also the juvenile delinquent who’s father was the chief of police. When he hears sirens and panics, he kidnaps Morgan and takes her to a friend’s cabin to hide out while he decides what to do. Morgan is understandably scared at first, but she’d been fascinated by Tucker in high school, and now she finds herself attracted to him.

Dark & Light
You’d think this was a case of Stockholm Syndrome, and I suppose there’s a little bit of that, but it goes deeper. Tucker needs Morgan’s father, a lawyer, to help him put his father behind bars before he gets involved in a camp for boys and does to them what he did to Tucker and his brother for years. Because of his past, Tucker doesn’t like to be touched and he can’t trust anyone. But Morgan represents purity for him, and when she reaches out to him, showing him true kindness and affection, he’s torn between wanting to accept her gift and wanting to push her away so as not to dirty her with what he perceives as his own darkness.

A Sad Truth
Rape is used quite a bit in romantic fiction, and it’s often something visited upon the heroine. Having the hero be the victim was definitely a turn, but one that the author handled well. Tucker knows that what happened to him wasn’t his fault. Yet he feels dirty and unworthy of love. Though he accepts Morgan’s affection at the cabin, he doesn’t believe himself worthy to be with her.

Perception is Everything
As for Morgan, even though they’re only together a few days, her whole outlook on life is changed, just by knowing what happened to Tucker and understanding that his juvenile delinquency wasn’t a rebellion against his father, it was a way to escape him. Yes, this happens only over a short time, but it’s not beyond the realm of belief, and the pacing is perfect for the intensity of the characters and their relationship.

The Romance Factor
Morgan and Tucker have a history of sorts, and though they seem to fall for each other quickly, their background keeps this from being a case of insta-love. Tucker’s tragic past makes Morgan’s need to accept and heal him that much stronger. Though there’s not that romantic angst I enjoy, the conflict and angst from other areas is powerful, and the way the characters come together is both sad and hopeful. 4/5


The Steam Factor
The few scenes there were had enough detail to “see” what was happening, but this one wasn’t hardcore erotic, and I’m actually thankful for that. In a story with such dark themes, I think there had to be a good balance between the plot and the sex, and the balance was definitely there. So while I’m only giving it a 3/5, I’m doing so with much respect Jessica Lemmon for handling this topic well.

Final Thoughts
This quick read (it’s more of a novella) isn’t going to be for everyone, and I say that because I know readers who don’t want dark themes in their romance. However, I really enjoyed it, and I especially liked that not only was a difficult subject tackled with grace, it was done in a way that shows that it’s not just women who can be victims of horrible crimes against their bodies.

The Evolution of Romance Novels

Warning: there are going to be some touchy subjects in this post. Trigger warnings: rape, kidnapping, abuse.

I love romance novels. They can be cheesy and overdone, and a lot of historical romances read like a soap opera. I’m still a sucker for them. Recently, I decided to go back and read all of the books written by one of my favorite authors in the order they were written/published.

I didn’t expect her earlier ones to be great. Most authors get better over time. As far as writing, characterization, and melodrama were concerned, the first two in her portfolio were as I expected. Not great, but still readable, with a few moments that I enjoyed.

What I had forgotten about (having read these books when I was much younger) was the use of kidnapping and rape as a route to romance. The first one was Stockholm Syndrome all the way. The heroine is kidnapped and forced to submit to her kidnapper because he wants her. But it’s okay, because even though she tells him ‘no,’ her body wants it (riiigghht). And after a hundred pages of shame and anger, suddenly, she’s in love with him. Because that’s how it works (heavy dose of snark there).

The second book is another Stockholm Syndrome love story, but the rape is more blatant in this one. In fact, it happens repeatedly. The word rape is used at least twenty times in the book. And then boom…the heroine is like “Whut? I ain’t mad.” At one point, she even says something along the lines of “Well, yeah, he raped me. But he didn’t kill anyone, so it’s okay.”

Yes, I’m taking the stories out of the context of the time they were written. Yes, I’m overlooking the fact that they fall into the category of “bodice ripper” romance, which apparently is all about the man taking control and using force to show the woman how desirable she is because he can’t help himself. Reading other reviews of these books, I found that many people were disgusted at the material. Others were very much of the mind that these were written in a different time and can still be enjoyed as a work of fiction.

Dude, you're in the middle of a field. But some pants on!
Dude, you’re in the middle of a field. Put some pants on!

These novels were also considered “historical romance.” So even if the time they were written wasn’t reflective of that time period, is this justified by the fact that during the time period it was set in, those things were common? These books weren’t without their “sweet” moments, but it wasn’t always easy to get over how someone could go from hate and anger to love and acceptance that quickly.

These books were published in the late 70s and very early 80s. I also read some novels from the mid-80s (different authors). There wasn’t any rape in these ones, but the chauvinistic male was prevalent.  In one novel, the man told the woman constantly that she was his…within the first day of meeting her. When she told him she wasn’t interested, he continued to seduce her. Which, okay, I suppose the whole “winning her over” thing was supposed to be romantic. But there was a distinct lack of respect for the woman’s boundaries.

In another one, the man verbally berates the woman to get a reaction out of her. He never apologizes. Once she agrees to date him, he refuses to allow her to do much of anything else. She can’t talk to her other male friends. She can’t go out without him. She pretty much as to let him know what she does and does not do. Yet in the end, she’s fallen in love with him, can’t live without him, blah blah blah. He never changed at all, but we’re supposed to believe that she’s going to be happy with him.

In some ways, those books were more offensive to me than the others.

There has definitely been an evolution in romance novels though. I’m not saying there aren’t still horrible ones out there that make the woman seem weak or stupid, but with regards to even the aforementioned author, her later books involve strong women who give as good as they get. They also feature women who aren’t “the most beautiful creature on earth,” but instead have something else that wins the hero: kindness, a sense of humor, etc. The heros are no longer “I take what I want” types, but gentlemen who might steal a kiss or two (which is still frowned upon…I know), but they keep it in their pants until things get consensual.

I’m not trying to make a statement about rape culture or feminism in this post. I just think it’s interesting the way literature reflects certain views of the time, possibly without meaning to. I read all kinds of things, so it’s hard to offend me, but I understand that many people wouldn’t be able to get past the scenes in these novels.

I’m reading the third book published by the author, and I’m fifty pages in with no rape of the heroine (though there has been rape of other characters…like in the opening scene). There has also been some dismemberment. The tone of this one is much darker…I’m not even sure how this is going to turn into a romance at this point.

If you’re interested in seeing the books I’m talking about, you can follow me on Goodreads. I’m also interested to hear what other people have to say on the subject.

Do you guys like bodice rippers or do you find them offensive?