Friday, November 2, 2012

Tainted Love by Erin Cawood

Tainted Love is the debut novel by Erin Cawood.  It follows Faith McKenzie from 1978 to the late 2000s.  When we first meet Faith, she’s a 20 year old student nurse who is beginning a career just as she’s beginning a romance with Calvin, a psychiatrist ten years her senior.  Cawood does a good job explaining why events that we shrug about in the 2010s were much more serious in the late seventies.  By then end of the year, Faith and Calvin are married new parents.

We know from the beginning that Faith’s story is not a happy one, and we see the slow decay of her marriage as Calvin goes from charming and understanding new father to a controlling husband who is unpredictably abusive.  Faith is a perceptive woman whose internal alarms ring frequently as her husband’s violence escalates, but she’s all too willing to believe Calvin’s excuses and justifications.

By the middle of the story, the only dignity Faith has left is that which she derives from her children.  Her conviction that her husband, despite his abuse toward her, is a good father, is what keeps her in the marriage.  It is when she sees that he is also a failure as a parent that she finally has the strength to leave.



Faith’s journey to find herself as she evades her violent husband is the heart of the book.  Is she paranoid to worry for her life?  Is it possible to make friends while running from her past?  Will she ever be able to provide her children with the financial security their father did?  And is it possible for her to find true love after 25 years of abuse at the most intimate level?

Readers should be warned: this isn’t a happy story, and it doesn’t have a happy ending.  The cycle of abuse Faith suffers rings true: disbelief, injury, apologies, justifications and forgiveness until it repeats and all interactions are shadowed with fear and self-doubt.  Cawood did an excellent job showing how an intelligent, empathetic woman could find herself trapped in such a situation- and how she could finally leave.

This is the first book in Cawood’s upcoming series, Valentina Secrets.  I look forward to reading the next installation.

Full disclosure: I met the author last year and have been hosted on her blog.  I received an advance review copy of this novel.  Please note this did not influence my review.