Of all my books, perhaps The Last Resort is the most conflicted. It’s also the book one of my beta readers swears is the best I’ve ever written. It’s the book that nearly won a contest, but won one of the judges’ hearts – she asked to be notified if it ever reached print. (It has!) It’s also the book that receives the most mixed reviews – primarily a complaint that too much is going on. Which I have to admit makes me laugh even as I struggle with it.
Because life is messy, and complicated, and so much of events of The Last Resort are based on reality. Events that took place almost exactly as they happen in the book, and at the same time. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Or innocent. I have to admit to being tempted to hold a contest asking readers to tell me which characters in The Last Resort are real…and which aren’t. I’m also grateful that some of the participants in those events are probably dead by now although I doubt they’d recognize themselves. People never do.
One reviewer even commented on the level of detail, objecting to a mention of the heroine raking leaves. Yet that rake shows up in a later scene. As a writer I had to explain why it was so conveniently placed there. I had to make it real.
Even the ‘rescue rangers’ are based in truth. Some time ago, I read about a woman who had organized a group of retired cops and ex-service people to help battered women escape their abusers. It was difficult and dangerous work, as they and any police officer could tell you.
I sometimes wonder if people have just seen too many Lifetime movies where the victim escapes into the arms of the one man who will love her, who will fight for her, and in the end save her from her abuser.
In real life, that just doesn’t happen. Most women who escape run to their families (where their batterers frequently find them) or live in shelters on subsistence. They have no money because their abusers made sure they had no access to any. Most are ashamed.
When they do call for help, they frequently panic immediately afterward. Many times cops become caught between the abuser and the victim, because the victim is all too aware that the laws don’t really protect her. In all likelihood her abuser will be back out on the street within hours. And looking for her. Unless she finds a shelter – most counties don’t have domestic violence shelters – he’ll very likely find her. A protection from abuse order is worth the paper it’s written on, it’s a formality that must be part of the record…but one that is almost guaranteed to infuriate the abuser – who never considers himself the bad guy. It’s shaming, and inflaming for them.
Leaving is the most dangerous time for most women, and the time when most die. One to three women in the United States daily.
So I wrote The Last Resort from my own experience, and it translated fairly easily. All the events in the book took place around the same time.
What I didn’t want to write was just another domestic violence book. I didn’t want it to be primarily about domestic violence. I wanted to write something that would be entertaining as well. I wanted the book to balance what I frequently see as a culture of constant victim-hood, with women and those around them defining themselves always by this one event for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I wanted to write about someone who would give women hope, an example of someone who had broken the chains of domestic violence. I wanted to write a book about a woman who had not only survived, but thrived and grew stronger because of it. I also wanted to show that it was possible to love and be loved again, to have a healthy relationship.
Someone like me.
Twenty percent of all the proceeds of The Last Resort will go to charities benefiting the victims of domestic violence.
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It’s always been hard for me to talk about it, at least partly because of the assumptions that are made about me. Because of the questions that are asked. You seem smart, how could I not have known? I know the judgments that are made…and they are made. Silently. Because they really don’t want to know. No one does. There’s a part of me that is curious to know what people make of the idea that I went back, since it’s so much a part of the pattern, and part of me is glad that I don’t.
Back to those assumptions.
How could I not know?
It wasn’t like he had a great big A tattooed on his forehead. He was handsome, with beautiful blue eyes. He was more romantic than almost any man I met, hearts and flowers. If he was a little jealous, well…when you’re nineteen it just seems sweet. After all, isn’t that what they show on TV and the movies, the guy who’s just a little bit jealous because he loves you so much? And if he’s just a little uncomfortable that other men are looking at you? At your clothes and how well they fit. He just doesn’t want to lose you. What’s more romantic than that…even if it’s a little overboard. That’s the first time that he gets a little too heated, though, and his anger is just a little disturbing. Frightening. But you forget, you let it go, because he loves you, and he’s so sorry. Until it happens again. But still, he’s loving, and there’s the flowers. And you’re nineteen, isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? That’s how they do it in books and movies. When he proposes, its on one knee, and it helps you forget that his temper and criticisms of your clothes are getting worse. You quit the job to make him happy. Maybe now it will be better. Except of course it isn’t and it doesn’t. It gets worse. Only now there’s no one to talk to, no one to tell. Every little thing can cause a temper tantrum. There are guns all over the house. And then one time he pulls the gun, spins the cylinder, and points it at your head.
I was lucky. I got out. But, like many, not the first time I tried.
Most domestic violence victims run to family the first time. It’s easy to track them down. They have no money – he controlled all that – so where else can they go? It was easy to track me down, but a neighbor got me out of the house. It was my pastor who betrayed me, under the guise of ‘trying to save my marriage.’ I told him I didn’t want to save my marriage, I wanted out. He said he’d help me convince my husband. I asked him if there would be other people there. He told me there would. What he didn’t tell me was that they would be in another part of the Church, and many wouldn’t even know we were there. What he didn’t know was that my ex-husband would show up with a gun. He’s lucky to be alive.
That’s what many women face, in addition to the rest. Even so, most don’t go back because of threats of violence, but because of poverty. For their children. Without jobs, battered women have no money to support themselves or their children – while their exes do. Child support doesn’t really kick in until after the divorce has been decided. Meanwhile the ex has the house, the children’s toys, their pets. Even if they can find a shelter – many counties don’t have one, in fact you’re more likely to find a dog shelter – they will live one family to a room and subsist on charity. For many of these women, returning to the abuse is better than living poor. Of seeing the judgment in eyes of others as they pull out the food stamps.
After being stalked for a time, I found shelter at one of the resorts, living on property where there would be no record of my residence.
For me it’s been a few decades, but one of the things I noticed when the discussion about domestic violence comes up among those who survive is the victim mentality.
So, being a writer, I wrote. The idea was to create an entertaining mystery novel about a victim of domestic violence who not only survives but thrives. I based the novel on real events taking place at that time. To my amusement the book has been criticized for having too much going on, and yet all of that was happening around the same time. Life is messy, it doesn’t always go predictably, and when you don’t have enough time, it throws even more at you. That’s the way it goes sometimes, and I’ll stand by that.
More than anything else, though, I want to stand for those women who want more than what society expects from them. I want to show them that it can be done, that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger and you can survive. You can even live happily ever after.
20% of all proceeds go to Domestic Violence charities. Read More »
If you love my books and there’s that fantasy or romance series you’ve just been dying to buy, this is the month to buy them. If it’s epic fantasy you’re looking for you’ll love The Coming Storm series with it’s Elves and Dark Wizards. Or perhaps you’d like the thrill of The Heart of the Gods as an archaeologist unearths an ancient tomb and resurrects more than he bargained for. Maybe you’d love the heroic fantasy of Song of the Fairy Queen when Fairy join with men to restore a King to his throne.
If it’s romance you’re looking for, try The Millersburg Quartet – Irish Fling, Dirty Politics, Director’s Cut and Two Up – about four women who were the geeks in high school. Now they’re all grown up and finding the right one.
Then there’s The Last Resort, where troubleshooter Carrie Anderson just might be coed Gwen Smith’s only hope.
Oh, and did I mention… Cooking Class… a hot and sweet little erotica, about a hot-tempered chef and the woman who heats him up.
Fantasy, romance and excitement, it’s all right here – http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Valerie+Douglas. And all for 50% off. Just use the code SSW50 when you make your purchase.
And while you’re visiting, take a look at all the other great books featured there. Read More »
Writing The Last Resort was such a strange and wonderful experience. It’s very loosely based on real events and some real people (names changed to protect the guilty). A part of me is curious if readers will be able to tell which is which, some of the characters definitely felt as real to me as their living counterparts.
It’s also the only one of my books written in the first person and of all my characters, Carrie is the closest to me as a person. And, strangely, it’s been a bridge between the past and the present – the description of the character of Drew, based on a real person I never met, closely resembles my husband in a lot of ways. Who I didn’t meet until after I wrote it.
A mix of thriller, mystery and romance, despite that at its core it has a lighter heart than many of my other books. A missing coed, a group of people dedicated to helping people escape domestic violence, and a budding romance between two people who haven’t have much luck at love. All that’s about to change.
The Last Resort
When Jack Spencer, the Head of Security for Fairview Mountain Resort calls to ask her to find a missing coed, computer tech and sometimes troubleshooter Carrie Anderson answers. The last thing the resort needs is bad publicity. Jack knows that on the side, Carrie is part of a team that help domestic violence victims escape their homes and abusers. Complicating things is the handsome new attorney that just joined the team.
What she finds though will test all her skills at making people disappear and put all their lives in danger.
(My name is Carrie Anderson and this was a helluva first rescue for Drew…)
There was banging on the doors above us.
“Can you hear him?” I asked the 911 operator.
“Yes, ma’am. I heard that. Officers are on their way.” “How long?”
In rural areas like ours, it could be as short as twenty minutes – too long – or even longer, before help arrived.
She hesitated. “They’re coming as quickly as they can.”
In other words, too long. Okay. Back to Plan A.
I peeked out the window. He was standing out there pacing in agitation, pulling on his hair. He kicked the door, pulled something big, shiny, and metallic out of his pocket, and pointed it at the door. He thought about it. Now I could clearly see it. Definitely a gun. Abruptly, he turned and started across the parking lot. I hit mute.
“Everyone up the stairs,” I said.
I led the way. “I go first. If I yell ‘back’, get back inside the door, lock it, and go back downstairs into the bathroom. Okay? Don’t argue, don’t stop, just go. Got it?”
They nodded. Sandy looked very shaky.
“Don’t fall apart on me now,” I cautioned. “Remember the children.”
Her eyes widened, but she seemed to steady.
No window in the door. Take a chance, unlock it, and look? I had to.
Easing back the lock, I pulled open the door a crack and peeked out.
He was standing at the edge of the parking lot by the road, irresolutely. He glanced back and I prayed he couldn’t tell the door was ajar. I held up a hand to the others. Wait.
Turning, he looked both ways and trotted down the road with determination. It made sense. If no one was here, the most likely place the Pastor would have taken them would have been the parsonage. His home. I wanted Miller on the porch. The parsonage was an old forties style two-story, with a wide porch that wrapped around one side. Two windows overlooked the porch and the door into the house was along the side. For thirty seconds or so we’d be out of view. Please.
The wait seemed interminable. I kept praying for sirens, but I didn’t hear them yet. Come on, come on. Down the road, Miller was trotting now, in a hurry. If he heard sirens, he’d turn around, make a run for his car. In his state of mind, he’d be almost sure they were coming for him. I wasn’t sure which to root for. Go, just please go.
He was up on the porch. Please let the Pastor’s wife be gone, or let him be on good behavior. Then he was around the corner.
“Now.” I sprinted out the door and hit the remote lock release on my car. “Drew, front seat. Pastor and Sandy, back. Dog and kids on the floor.”
Doors flew open as I rammed the key into the ignition and started the car. Doors slammed.
“Seatbelts,” I shouted, ramming mine into place before throwing the car in gear. My eyes were glued to the rearview mirror.
The slamming doors on a quiet Thursday afternoon had gotten his attention. I could see his tiny figure come flying off the porch at a dead run.
I hit the gas and shot the car toward the dirt road. Dust plumed behind us. I heard a noise, a bang, something. Please let it be too far away. Drew had a hand braced on the dashboard of the car, the other cradling a child’s head against his knee to keep it from bouncing off the bottom of the dash. Good man. The child looked up at me with wide, frightened eyes.
The Last Resort – available through Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/62262,
Barnes & Noble http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Last-Resort/Valerie-Douglas/e/2940012614605
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