Some apologies are clearly long overdue (see yesterday's, from Romance Writers of America, for issuing a survey in 2005 to its members polling them on the question "should romance be redefined as between one man and one woman"). But others can serve a less worthy purpose, given the attitude of the apology's recipient. For when the one done wrong by continually demands that a wrongdoer apologize, only to then reject each and every apology said wrongdoer proffers, penance can start to look an awful lot like punishment. To find a romance novel willing to say that enough apologizing is enough is pretty rare; to find one in which the apologizer is a mother, and the wronged one her child, practically unheard of.
Which is why I so enjoyed Sugar, the second novel in Seressia Glass's erotic contemporary series Sugar and Spice. The series focuses on four female friends, all working to get their lives back together after recovering from various addictions, which gives the books' storylines a lot more emotional heft than the average erotic romance. Sugar's female protagonist, Siobhan Malloy, co-owner of a bakery in small town Crimson Bay, California, has not taken a Percocet or OxyContin in over four years. But she knows she can't absolutely promise that she'll never take too many again. She made that promise once before, and broke it by getting hooked all over again. Her husband and parents may have liked her better when she was on drugs than when she wasn't, but getting hooked on painkillers a second time led to an accident that put her daughter's life in danger. She knows that's why her second fall from grace cost her her marriage, her relationship with her parents, and even her own daughter, who refuses to speak with her even after Siobhan's recovery.
When should someone with an important life secret, a secret that may affect the way others view her, share that secret with a sex partner? Siobhan's business partner, Nadia, told her sex-only guy of her past addiction before they even slept together (see Sugar and Spice book #1), but only because her former job on a cooking show made her descent into addiction headline news. For herself, Siobhan decides to be more circumspect, especially because she is determined to keep things casual between herself and Charlie. But when he wants to push their relationship deeper, and reveals a secret of his own, Siobhan knows it is time to come clean.
Is it fair to turn Charlie's family into a surrogate for her own? Or does she owe it to her daughter and her parents to keep trying to mend the fences her drug addiction brought crashing down? Even when her family keeps yanking the ground out from underneath each fencepost she tries to re-erect, then blames her for when they fall?
Romance novels are chock-full of characters who have been traumatized by the behavior of their parents, especially their mothers. To read one in which a child's ability to emotionally wound a mother is the underlying message makes for a refreshingly feminist read.
FYI, Sugar is one of the nominees for the 2016 RWA RITA award, in the erotic romance category.
Burlesque dancer: Rebel Circus
Apology not accepted: Wiki How
(A Sugar and Spice Novel)
Heat/Penguin Random House, 2015