I read this book the first time like 20 years ago. I remember loving the book but not being too thrilled with hero. Thought he was a bit of a jerk at the time.
Now, umpty years later, I still find myself loving the story and not really hating the hero anymore. I think my 20 years older self reads a little more critically and find that I can't just fit characters in a 'she's awesome' or 'he's an ass' slot when the author has made them much more than that.
Catherine Anderson is a young college student who lives in an incredibly dysfunctional and abusive family situation. Clay Forrester is the son of a pair wealthy and loving parents. After a fight with his girlfriend that leaves them broken up for a hot minute, Clay goes on a blind date with Catherine where they get drunk and have sex that results in a baby. The sex and the girl were forgettable for Clay, but worthy of a dissertation in Catherine's diary.
The diary is found by Catherine's drunken, dissolute lazy father and he at last thinks 'his ship has come in'. He plans to bleed the rich Forrester's for all they have in an effort to make them support the baby. But Catherine has other plans. After an awkward and humiliating meeting with Clay and his family, She is determined to be beholden to no one. Clay is freaked out. He doesn't remember Catherine at first but it becomes quickly clear that she is indeed pregnant by him. Clays gets pressure from his parents to make things right, Catherine is determined to thwart her father's plans. The two strike a deal where they will get married just until the baby is born.
But things don't quite work out the way they plan.
In my earlier reading of this book, I was squarely on Catherine's side. She was after all the heroine who was a virgin and got knocked up by a rich, privileged jerk who didn't even remember who she was. Clay was largely just said jerk in my head.
But on this reading, I felt the nuances in their characters and their situations more keenly. They were both trapped in a situation that was of both their makings. So while I blame Clay for being forgetful and casual of his sexual partner, I can also blame Catherine for believing that being a virgin makes it ok to know nothing about birth control.
The fact of the matter is Catherine was such a damaged soul, that any relationship she had with anyone was doomed until she healed. This was made very apparent throughout the course of the awful marriage where because of her upbringing she had no idea how to relate to people comfortably. She was aloof, guarded, protective of herself. She constantly pushed Clay away because she felt more for him than he did for her and she wanted to make sure she didn't get too attached. At one point she and Clay are arguing about love. Catherine is adamant about a marriage needing to be based on love and she is determined not to have what her parents have. But Clay point out that 'on order to be loved you have to be loveable'. I had been very frustrated with Catherine at that time and was in full agreement with him because all the time in her head she was blaming Clay for not loving her like she loved him, she was also constantly cold and pushing him away.
On his side, Clay's crime was full on egotism. He felt resentful and trapped. He didn't choose Catherine on his own so he felt thwarted and self pitying. This was especially evident with his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Jill. She
was the one he wanted and he couldn't have her so he blamed everyone for his supposed loss. Meanwhile he longed for her. Again, it is Clay who makes the correct observation. At one point he and tells Jill that they only wanted each other because they were told they couldn't have each other.
What worked really effectively for this book is how each character grows and changes. After the birth of their child, Catherine begins to heal and finally learns what Clay was saying about accepting & giving love. Clay also learns what is it to be guarded and uncertain and protective for of getting too close to someone. They each had to step into the other's shoes for awhile in order to finally come together in the right way.
The book was written in 1985 and initially I was concerned about it feeling dated. In some ways it did, with Catherine using a typewriter rather than a computer to write papers. But the story holds up pretty well for the most part. The most jarring thing was the total lack of concern with drinking while pregnant. Catherine had wine for dinner a few times and also drank champagne during her wedding. That, and of course the total lack of automatic condom use, just felt weird to me in this day and time.