As a teenager, Grace Adams was brutally raped by her father for several, with the approval and assistance of her dying mother. When Grace Adams was just 14 years old, her mother prepared her to be violently sexually assaulted by her father. Her mother, dying of cancer, assisted the abuse by holding her down for earlier assaults and providing her with access to birth control pills. Grace was told sexual submission to her father was necessary because her mother was no longer able to satisfy those needs, due to the progression and treatment of her cancer. If she attempted to decline or to say no to these advances, her father would beat her mother, regardless of how frail or ill she was from her lethal illness and the debilitating treatments. He would then rape her, anyway.
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He created a situation where nobody would say anything about the abuse, until the situation changed. When her mother died, he mistakenly thought that she would continue to be his victim. At only 17 years of age, on the night of her mother's funeral, he began an especially brutal rape and Grace could no longer stand it. They fought, she was able to grab his gun, and while attempting to defend herself she accidentally killed her father. As a successful attorney who was widely respected in their town, the fallout from his death was swift and she soon found herself on trial.
Through the assistance of her lawyer, with whom she became friends, she was found guilty of a lesser offense and sentenced to four years in prison. While in prison, she is almost assaulted by a gang of female prisoners and is saved at the last minute from mutilation or death, by women that other prisoners feared, Her new friends were lovers and continued to protect her, as she finished high school and earned a degree behind bars. Once released on early parole, she finds a job in Illinois and dates a photographer. After fending off unwanted advances from her boss and the man she was dating, she moves again to New York.
In both places that she lived after prison, she consistently volunteered with domestic abuse victims. In New York, doing so is more dangerous, due to the neighborhood it is in and the number of people needing assistance. In her new job, she attracts the attention of her employer, Charles Mackenzie, but due to her background and her concerns about intimacy, she has rarely dated and has no intention of doing so. When she is assaulted after leaving the shelter, Charles shows up at the hospital and the two cautiously become friends, which turns romantic. She tells him about the incest that was forced upon her and her time in prison.
As time passes, she is able to overcome her fears and the two fall in love. After they marry, even though she was concerned that her abuse damaged her physically, they have several children and Charles goes into politics. She starts a non-profit group that is devoted to preventing and reporting child abuse, but a problem occurs when the unscrupulous photographer that she previously dated releases manipulated pornographic pictures of her and the time she spent in prison also gets reported.
The stress they are both under results in a rocky relationship for some time and to their surprise, they find that another baby is on the way. This child was quite unexpected and allowed them to reconnect. As the novel ends, Grace is allowing the truth about her incarceration made public, evidence proves that the nude photos were not of her and Charles wins the election.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved that it was not the typical romance novel that the author is known for and instead delves into the trauma associated with and caused by incest. Grace was a young woman who survived a horrific situation and used her experiences to help others.
Best scene in story:
Shortly before she found out that was expecting their youngest baby, she became upset and fainted near the police officers with whom she was speaking. The character has asthma, which was used throughout the novel as a bargaining chip. Being in the hospital with the presence of law enforcement, it reminded her vividly of her arrest after her father's death. It was an interesting scene because it serves as a reminder that the memories of rape never go completely away and are part of life for many abuse survivors. It also relayed that asthma attacks can be triggered by emotional upsets and few books address that.
Opinion about the main character:
Grace Adams, who becomes Grace Mackenzie after she marries was a very empowering character. Even though she experienced domestic and sexual assault by the people she should have been able to trust more than anyone else in the world, she did not become bitter and she tried to work through her fears. I found both Grace and the book itself to be empowering.