Rebecca Wesbrook was brought up in wealth and privilege, but she's proof that money can't buy everything. Although she's loved and adored by her father, she has a troubled relationship with her mother whom she can never seem to please no matter how hard she tries. She has no idea that she's adopted until the night of her high school graduation when this fact is revealed in the cruelest possible way, and at the same time, she's traumatized in a way that will forever change her. When Rebecca's mother doesn't believe her claims about what happened, she decides to take the car and money that she received as graduation gifts and start over in a new city where nobody knows her. With her dreams of becoming an attorney dashed, she instead decides to seek out employment in a law office only to discover that the lawyer in question is none other than Trevor Houston, a man whose car she'd accidentally damaged a few days earlier. With no other choice, she accepts his offer of a job, intending to move on as soon as her debt to him is paid off. But she soon discovers that the man who initially rubbed her the wrong is really a kind person. As she continues to work for him, Rebecca begins to search for her birth family. But will finding them bring her the peace she's longing for? And will she ever be able to reclaim the life she once had?
Years ago, I used to belong to the Heartsong Presents reader subscription service, so I have dozens of these little books that have languishing on my bookshelves, waiting for me to read them. Thanks to a reading challenge, I have several on my scheduled reading list for the coming months, and Ragdoll is the first. I was kind of looking forward to reading it, because I had heard that it deals with some deeper subject matter. However, several aspects of the story leave something to be desired. In it, the heroine, Rebecca, is given up for adoption as an infant. She was taken in by a wealthy couple who gave her a nice life. She has a good relationship with her father, but a troubled one with her mother, whom she can never seem to please and who harbors jealousy over Rebecca's close relationship with her dad. Then on her high school graduation night, Rebecca's life implodes when her alcoholic uncle rapes her and also tells her she's adopted, a fact her parents hadn't yet shared with her. When her mother, who's having an affair with the uncle, doesn't believe her about the rape, she thinks no one will, not even her father or her nanny who've been her support system all her life. So, she runs away, trying to start a new life while searching for her birth family. While on the run, she accidentally has a fender bender with a guy at a gas station and gives him false information to maintain her anonymity with the intention of making good on it some day when she has more money. Then when she gets to her destination and applies for a job at a law firm, she discovers the lawyer she'll be working for is none other than Trevor, the guy she hit. He coerces her into accepting the job to pay off her debt to him, and as she works with him, she discovers he's a much nicer guy than she'd originally thought.
As an inspirational women's fiction story, I'd say Ragdoll is an OK read. However, I did feel like the author tried to write a story that was far too ambitious for this short format, which is hardly more than a long novella. There are just way too many plot points for a story of this size, and none of them were really given the gravity I felt they deserved. There's the adoption and Rebecca's difficult relationship with her mom and her later search for her birth mother, which by themselves could have easily filled up the pages. But then the author adds in the rape, which gives an even more troubled dimension to the story and which never had a truly satisfying resolution. Then there's Rebecca's mom, who's pregnant from her affair with the uncle, coming to her, asking for help to keep the uncle from gaining custody of the unborn baby by testifying about what the uncle did to her. Helping her mom is literally all that Rebecca does with regards to the rape and I didn't particularly feel like the woman deserved that help after the deplorable way she treated Rebecca. Rebecca doesn't report the rape to the police, the uncle doesn't go to jail, and there's no real comeuppance for him at all. I know that many women don't get justice, but since this is a romance, I feel like it needed something more to genuinely have an HEA ending. Rebecca doesn't even deal with the rape at all in any emotional sense. Other than telling her mother right after it happened, she only tells one other person, a conversation that's overheard by Trevor. But then Rebecca gets angry with him for seeking out a counselor who specializes in this type of trauma without even allowing him to explain why. I feel like she had a long way to go to address this issue before she'd be ready for a relationship with him, much less marriage. Aside from the rape, all the other plot points had some resolution, but I felt like everything fell into place too easily with little introspection or conflict surrounding it.
Despite my issues with the story, I probably would have given this book at least three stars if it had been classified as women's fiction. But it's not. Right on the cover, it says "Inspirational Romance." This is where the story really faltered for me, because there is no romance to speak of. And I'm not kidding when I say that. Rebecca strongly dislikes Trevor when she starts working for him, and only begins softening toward him when she sees how he treats his widowed, pregnant sister-in-law. Then, out of the blue, she's suddenly in love with the guy. They never go out on a date or spend any kind of quality time together outside of work and caring for the sister-in-law, they don't ever kiss - not even once - within the pages of the story, and yet on the next-to-the-last page, Trevor not only declares his love, but tells Rebecca he wants to marry her. In addition to them never having any physical contact whatsoever or any genuinely romantic interludes, Rebecca is only eighteen, and Trevor is eight years older. She's barely done any living at all, still wants to go to law school, and hasn't dealt in any meaningful way with the traumas of her past. It's like "Hi, I barely know you, but hey, let's get married." This was just too much to be in any way believable.
Bottom line, there just wasn't enough character or relationship development for Ragdoll to be a truly satisfying read. It's like the author tried to dream up every kind of conflict she could possibly throw at Rebecca but never really delved deeply into any of it. This is definitely a plot-driven story and not a character-driven one, which I much prefer. The entire story is also told solely from Rebecca's POV, so I didn't feel like I got to know Trevor at all. He seemed like an OK guy, but it's hard to tell since Rebecca alternates between running hot and cold around him and they spend little time in each other's company. On the upside, aside from the occasional glaring typo, the mechanics of the writing are sound, making the book a pretty easy read. I also appreciated that while Rebecca's faith does play a part, it was never preachy, which is a problem I've had in the past with other inspirationals. All things factored together, though, this was ultimately a rather lackluster read for me, OK in some respects, but not truly satisfying on the romance or characterization fronts.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook