Saturday, September 18, 2010

Marriage Under Suspicion

After five years of marriage, Kate Lassiter returns home from a business trip to find an anonymous letter waiting for. It simply reads, "Your husband is in love with another woman." Shocked, Kate finds an empty bottle of champagne with two glasses; apparently her husband, Ryan, has been celebrating with someone in her absence. Later, she overhears him talking on a phone assuring someone he addresses as "sweetheart" that his wife doesn't know anything yet, and that everything will be all right. He tells Kate that he is meeting his editor for lunch, but lies about the restaurant they are going to, and doesn't bother to correct her misconception that his editor is a man (when in fact he has a new editor who happens to be a sexy young woman). And so it continues...

This was really, really stupid. I mean, really, really, REALLY stupid. It started off all right, with Kate trying to find out the truth. She keeps reaching out to her husband, who in turn keeps rejecting her and lying to her. Everything points towards him having an affair with her best friend, but of course the reader knows it will all turn out to be a BIG MISUNDERSTANDING and Kate and Ryan will live happily ever after. Well, it turns out that the mysterious letter was actually written by Ryan. Apparently he was worried about the state of their marriage, so naturally instead of trying to talk to his wife, he decided that making her think he was cheating on her was the smart thing to do. He keeps rejecting her because, well, he's obviously an idiot. Apparently he decided a time of celibacy would be good for them to work out their differences. Sure, if both parties know what's going on and actually communicate. How refusing to spend any time with his wife was going to save their marriage, I have no idea. Finally he succumbs to his lust and they spend a passionate night together. Ryan is worried that he and Kate only seem to connect on a physical level, so instead of trying to talk to her (gee, you think the reason you don't connect outside of bed is because you refuse to talk to her?) he mocks her for making herself so sexually available to him, and tells her that the sex didn't mean anything. Finally, he goes off on a business trip, turning down Kate when she offers to go with him. She calls his hotel after he leaves, only to discover that he is not due there for another day, and that he has booked into a suite for himself and his "wife". It all finally comes to a head when Kate goes there in a rage, ready to confront her lying, cheating husband and his woman. No other woman can be found, and the truth comes out. For some reason Kate is perfectly happy with all of Ryan's excuses. The champagne in their apartment is never explained, by the way. Personally, I don't see much hope for their future. For all Kate knows, Ryan could very well have been cheating on her all along. She is just so relieved when he claims to love her, that she swallows all his excuses. I find it hard to stomach that after five years of marriage, Ryan's method of conflict resolution is lying to, rejecting, and hurting his wife, rather than open and honest communication. I wouldn't want to stay with a man like this. At the very least, Kate and Ryan should probably get some marriage counselling.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Bride Said No

This was one of the worst books I have ever read. I couldn't keep up with the heroine's constantly changing motives and bizarre thought processes.

The day before her wedding to Sean Hinton, Miranda Boston overhears her father's secretary explaining to someone that Sean is only marrying her for her father's company. Apparently her Sean and her father made an arrangement before Sean proposed to her. Shattered by the thought that the marriage is based on money and ambition rather than love, Miranda runs away leaving a note to say she can't go through with the wedding. Naturally, confronting her father or her fiancé is out of the question. She spends the night with an old friend, Carol, who is the sole voice of sensible reasoning in the whole book. She advises Miranda not to pay attention to malicious gossip, but rather to question why she was so willing to believe her father's secretary. Did Miranda already have doubts about Sean? She should speak to Sean and work things out. Unfortunately, Miranda doesn't follow Carol's advice, and Carol is never heard from again. Sean shows up in the morning to drag Miranda back for the wedding, ranting about how inconsiderate she has been. Miranda decides that she must never let him or her father know about the conversation she overheard, and simply tells Sean that she can't marry him. He jumps to the conclusion that she is indifferent to him and proves her wrong by kissing her. Please note, at no point did Miranda actually say she wasn't attracted to him, she just said she was worried that he may be marrying her for her father's money. Anyway, Sean tells her that cancelling the wedding at this late date would be an administrative nightmare, what with having to return presents and so on. Miranda, bright spark that she is, agrees with him and "realises" it's too late to do anything but go ahead with the wedding. She then does what any self-respecting heroine would, and waits until after the vows are said and the certificate signed, before informing her new husband that she won't have sex with him.

Sigh. It just gets worse after this...

Sean and Miranda jet off on their "no-sex" honeymoon. By this stage, Sean is convinced that Miranda must have found some other hot young stud, because that's the only reason she wouldn't want to get married to him. As for Miranda, she begins to realise that Sean was never very passionate during their six month courtship, which must prove that he never loved her after all. She decides that the only way to get Sean is to play hard to get. It's not clear why she suddenly decides this. She goes from being broken hearted and betrayed to wanting to be a femme fatale.

Anyway, things get ever more convoluted with no one really talking to each other. Sean finally admits that he was never in love with Miranda, but challenges her assertion that he doesn't love her by telling her that he is fond of her. She decides that he really does love her, and is also in love with her after all, so they can have sex and live happily ever after.

I had no idea what was going on in this book. Miranda spends a lot of time in her head. There seems to be a lot of empty space there so I guess it's nice and roomy. At one point, Miranda thinks to herself,
"What was the point in talking yet, anyway? They weren't using the same language. Sean wouldn't understand the confused tangle of motives making her act the way she was and she couldn't tell him how simple it could all be if he really felt anything for her."
Well, Sean isn't the only one who wouldn't understand. I couldn't even understand her sense of betrayal over Sean's feelings. It is clear that Sean never lied to her, either by pretending to or telling her that he loved her. Miranda seems to have jumped to that conclusion all on he suggested they get married.

Ugh. I think I've ranted about this book enough. Miranda was just so incredibly irritating. Take my word for it, leave this one alone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Heir for the Millionaire: The Greek and the Single Mom

After being Xander Anaketos' undemanding mistress for nearly a year, Clare finds herself replaced. Unbeknownst to Xander, Clare is pregnant. Four years later they bump into each other and Xander finds out about his 3 year old son. He will do anything it takes to have him.

This was awful, simply awful. The plot was common enough:

  1. Rich greek who changes mistresses like clothes.
  2. Sweet girl who goes against all her common sense and becomes said Greek's mistress because she's in love with him. Somehow she lasts longer than any of his previous women.
  3. Hero dumps heroine before she tells him that she is pregnant, so she decides to engage in the "Secret Baby" plot and live in honourable poverty.
  4. Years (and countless women) later, hero discovers secret baby and tries to force heroine to marry him.
  5. Heroine refuses marriage (this part is rare!) so hero has unprotected sex with heroine to get her pregnant again.
  6. They all live happily ever after.
Even trite plots like this can be salvaged, but there was absolutely nothing likeable about Xander. In Clare's own words,
"How can I love a man who threw me out like rubbish, who packed me off with a diamond necklace, who last night used me for sex because I was convenient and on hand...?
How can I love a man like that? A man without feelings, without conscience, without remorse, or the slightest acknowledgement that he was so coldly callous to me?
I musn't love a man love a man like that! It debases me to do so."
Couldn't agree more. It seems that the only reason Clare is in love with Xander is that he's a stud. I read this story with gritted teeth. Clare was just so unbelievably pathetic. And what can I say about Xander's "brilliant" plot to get her pregnant? He doesn't know her menstrual cycle, doesn't know whether she's on the pill or not, yet thinks that having unprotected sex with her once will be enough to see the deed done.

Ugh. Don't bother reading this one. I feel dumber for having done so.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Italian Tycoon's Bride

Maisie Burns has just been dumped by her fiancé when she meets Blaine Morosini, the uncle of one of her best friends. He hires her to go to Italy with him to work for his parents for a few months. Their mutual attraction grows over time, but Blaine doesn't want a long-term relationship with anyone. Is Maisie setting herself up to get dumped again?

Maisie is basically a nice, ordinary, girl. The type of girl who could only capture the attention of a hot Italian stud in a romance novel, but I guess that's why we read these books. As for Blaine, he was caught in a bad marriage with an unstable wife who didn't like sex and eventually died of leukaemia. He took to his freedom like a duck to water, by becoming a consummate playboy with never-ending one night stands. He knows from the beginning that Maisie will not indulge in casual sex, but can't deny his attraction to her. Finally, he finds her a permanent job and offers to help her find an apartment so that she can remain in Italy and they can see each other as much as they want for "as long as it lasts". Maisie turns him down flat. I cheered. Finally! A heroine who isn't ruled by her hormones, and actually has enough self-respect to turn a good looking guy down. She returns to England, he eventually follows her there to propose to her, and they live happily ever after.

This was pretty much the epitome of dime-store paperback romance. The sweet, plain, ordinary girl meets the hot studly Italian playboy. They fall in love at first sight and he gives up his playboy ways to marry her. Sweet and totally unrealistic. If you like romances that provide escapism and don't make you think, this one's for you.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

His marriage ultimatum

Like so many books in the Harlequin Presents line, the title of this one is completely misleading. It gives the impression that this will be some sort of "Blackmailed into marriage" plot, but it isn't. Carter Blake meets Liberty Fox one day and asks her out. They have a nice relationship that progresses along fairly normal lines, albeit at an accelerated rate. These are small books, so I suppose we don't have time for a normal courtship. Liberty has some serious hang-ups regarding marriage and children, and this is where the "ultimatum" comes in eventually. Carter and Liberty are happy to admit they love each other, but Liberty does not want to commit herself to marriage, preferring instead for them to live together. Carter tells her that he won't have sex with her until they are married.

This was a nice, fairly simple romance. Liberty's hang-ups became very frustrating and annoying, mainly because her reasons for them seem pretty unreasonable to me. Her mother has spent her life going from rich husband to richer husband, and is now on husband number six. Although I can see this affecting Liberty, the degree of angst it causes her is unbelievable. I kept expecting Carter to send her off to therapy. Anyway, they sort themselves out in the end, get married and finally have sex. An enjoyable, if unexciting, read.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kept by her Greek boss

Katie Connor decides to end her affair with her boss Alexi Demetri. She knows that there is no future in it and wants to have a real and meaningful relationship with someone. She breaks up with him and finds a new job a month later, only to discover that her new boss is none other that Alexi, who has bought over her new company. Then she discovers that she is pregnant. Since his divorce years ago, Alexi has sworn that he will never love anyone again, but when he finds out that Katie is expecting her child, her forces her to marry him.

It was nice to see a heroine working in a high powered job (as opposed to being a secretary or personal assistant). Unfortunately it was not quite believable that a 24 year old would hold the position that Katie does. Someone does comment on her age, and I guess that's supposed to make it all right, but it really didn't ring true. Putting that aside, I started off liking Katie but that didn't last long. She let herself get into a purely physical relationship with Alexi even though it went against her personal beliefs. By the time the story starts, she has realised that she  can't continue like this and chooses to get out. I thought I was finally seeing a heroine with some self respect. Unfortunately, as soon as Alexi finds out about her pregnancy, she lets him walk all over her. He threatens to sue for custody of their child if she doesn't marry him. When she tentatively agrees to the marriage and tries to gain some control by insisting on a long engagement, he railroads her again by making her marry him immediately. The whole time my mind kept screaming "Prenup!". I can't believe all these "Blackmailed into marriage" and "Marriage of convenience" plots where the heroine doesn't insist on a prenuptial agreement, especially in this case where custody of a child is at stake. Katie is terrified of losing custody of her unborn child, yet it never occurs to her that once she marries Alexi, if he divorces her she will almost certainly lose custody. Instead, Alexi whips out his prenup agreement and she doesn't even bother reading it properly. They get married with Katie knowing she loves him but will never be loved in return. I can deal with Alexi not loving Katie, but some basic respect would have been nice. On their wedding night Katie asks if Alexi missed her after they broke up, to which he replies, "You know I've missed you.  You're great in bed, Katie." Yuck, yuck, yuck.  It's excused by the fact that Alexi is fighting against his feelings for Katie, and is thus deliberately rude. Personally, I cannot abide heroes treating heroines like this, and I hate heroines that allow it. Katie is hurt by it, but then immediately has sex with Alexi again. Sigh. Eventually, Alexi realises that Katie isn't happy being married to him and things culminate when Katie has a miscarriage scare. This being a category romance, the baby is not lost, but it forces Alexi to admit that he loves Katie and doesn't want to lose her even if they lose the baby.

I suppose in the end I did enjoy this book, but the miscarriage scare was too convenient. I would have found it far more believable is Katie had actually had a miscarriage rather than just thinking there was a problem. This book was pretty standard fare. Arrogant jerk of a hero finally succumbs to love. It wasn't bad, but there was really nothing special here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Salvatore Marriage

Two years ago, Luca Salvatore ended his engagement to Shannon Gilbraith after catching her cheating on him. They are reunited after his brother and her sister (who have been married for six years) die tragically, leaving a new-born daughter behind.

Since this is a category romance, it is clear from the start that Shannon was not unfaithful to Luca two years ago, but was wrongfully accused. It turns out that Luca came home unexpectedly one day to find Shannon cleaning up the bedroom, with the bed unmade, a pair of men's boxer shorts on the floor, and a packet of condoms on the table. He came to the obvious conclusion; unfortunately for Shannon, it was actually her sister who was guilty but Luca would not believe her. This whole scenario was pretty tacky and unbelievable... What kind of woman conducts an affair in her sister's home, and not only that but in her sister's bed? Ever heard of hotels? Anyway, I thought it was excusable for Luca to think what he did, but his pride caused him to completely cut Shannon out of his life without allowing her to tell her side of the story at all. In fact, he admits to himself that he regretted the fact that they were only engaged and not married, because his pride would have allowed him to try and reconcile with her if they had already been married. Not very admirable. As for Shannon, it's understandable that after a while she gave up trying to convince Luca of her innocence. He believes unequivocally that she was cheating on him and would not even entertain the possibility that her sister would cheat on his brother.

Anyway, after Luca and Shannon find themselves joint guardians of their baby niece, they agree to marry each other without actually resolving any of their past. Shannon agrees to the marriage on the priviso that Luca doesn't bring up the past. I found this pretty fatalistic. Does not mentioning it make it all right? Luca eventually discovers the truth that it was Shannon's sister who was guilty, and that his brother also knew about it and never told him. Finally everything comes out, Luca and Shannon forgive each other and everyone is happy. Everyone apart from me. Shannon seems to think that Luca's willingness to marry her means that he has forgiven her; if he has forgiven her for cheating on him, then he must love her. That reasoning would be fine except for the fact that he is marrying her for the sake of their niece, and not because he loves her. Luca's lack of trust in Shannon is never really addressed. Luca's family is another loose end. They all hate Shannon for being unfaithful to him. Looks like Shannon just has to continue living with their condemnation. Luca's brother and Shannon's sister were willing to let Luca believe Shannon cheated on him rather than tell him the truth; since they are dead, this can't really be resolved, but I still found it hard to stomach.

Overall this wasn't a bad book, but I was left feeling dissatisfied. I guess the whole conflict in the first place is so sordid and hard to stomach that I needed a more complete resolution. The guilty parties didn't really suffer. Luca himself was forgiven far too easily. Shannon just seemed to get short-changed and I don't think she deserved that.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Valentino's Love-Child

Faith Williams and Valentino Grisafi have been lovers for almost a year. The relationship has been strictly physical with no intention of making it anything more. Then Faith discovers she is pregnant. She knows that Valentino will do the honourable thing and propose to her, but can she marry a man who doesn't love her for the sake of their child?

Valentino was actually a pretty decent guy. After his wife died six years ago, he swore that she would never be replaced in his heart. He cannot resolve his feelings for Faith with his feelings for his dead wife; loving Faith feels like he is betraying his wife. Faith also lost her husband six years ago in a car accident. Unlike Valentino, she has worked through her grief and been able to let go of her husband. She loves Valentino and accepts that he doesn't love her, though she knows that he will marry her when he finds out that she is pregnant. She doesn't mind the idea of being married to a man that doesn't love her, but then she discovers how adamantly opposed he is to the idea of marriage (before he finds out about her pregnancy). Marrying someone who doesn't love her is one thing. Marrying a man who actively doesn't want to marry her is something else. Faith breaks up with Valentino before telling him that she is pregnant. He subsequently finds out about her pregnancy and proposes to her. She turns him down saying they should at least wait until the baby is born since she may miscarry anyway. Valentino finally admits that he loves her and wants to be with her regardless of the pregnancy, but he can't stop feeling guilty about it. They resolve their issues and live happily ever after.

Overall this was a nice read, but everything was resolved far too quickly. It just didn't flow. Suddenly Faith believes that Valentino loves her. Suddenly Valentino is able to finally let go of his wife. Some of this abrupt emotional change is put down to the Faith's hormonal changes due to pregnancy, but I found that something of a cop out. There is this big build up where you slowly learn why Valentino has been holding himself back from Faith and he gradually begins to accept how he feels about her. He struggles through about 95% of the book, then, bam! Right at the end, he's happy and all right with everything. Since this is a category romance, I knew there would be a happy ending and I knew he'd sort himself out, but I still felt blind-sided by the suddenness of it all. This abrupt ending stopped this from being a great book, but it was still very enjoyable.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Convenient Marriage

Javier D'Alessandro needs a British passport to say in England and adopt his orphaned niece. He meets 37 year old Sabrina Kendricks who needs an injection of capital to boost her ailing business. He offers to give her business whatever assistance he can in return for marrying him; once the adoption has gone through successfully they will have an amicable divorce and go their separate ways.

It was nice to read a marriage of convenience plot with characters who were not antagonistic and were actually making an effort to respect each other. Another thing different in this story was that Javier was 30, whilsts Sabrina was 37. It's was a nice change to have an older woman, though Sabrina does have quite a few hang-ups around this which get tedious quickly. Javier and Sabrina are basically strangers who find themselves living together and trying to look after a grieving 11 year old girl. They don't really know what to do with each other. On one hand, Javier is grateful for Sabrina and wants to make her happy. Sabrina is attracted to Javier and cares deeply for his niece, but is wary of letting herself get too involved when she is aware that their marriage is a temporary one.

I found Javier a little bit annoying. He gets frustrated that Sabrina doesn't want to have a sexual relationship with him, basically accusing her of being frigid and scared to live passionately. However he himself acknowledges that he only wants a physical relationship with her; after the grief of losing both his sister and his brother-in-law, Javier is afraid of caring too deeply for anyone. Sabrina's concerns about their relationship are quite valid. The purpose of their marriage was to allow Javier to migrate to England, providing more stability for his niece. If Sabrina gets too close to either of them, what will happen when they break up? I kept expecting Javier and Sabrina to discuss this, but the conversation never happens. As for Sabrina, I found her to be quite bland. When Javier's sexy ex-girlfriend appears at the breakfast table (after having spent the night), Sabrina jumps to the obvious conclusions and has a brief spark of life. Unfortunately, this is very short lived and ends with her apologising to Javier. Sigh. No backbone at all.

Overall, this was bland and disappointing. It had potential and was generally pleasant to read, but  not really worth the time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Desperate Measures

Philippa Roscoe needs money for expensive medical treatment for her father. Alain de Courcy wants a wife to counter rumours of his involvement with a married woman. He offers to give Philippa the money she requires in exchange for marrying him.

Yes, yes, the plot is silly and clichéd but I'm not one to hold that against a category romance. The problem was, Philippa was an idiot. She agrees to the marriage with the understanding that it will eventually be consummated and is not merely a marriage in name alone. When Alain comes to her bed on their wedding night, Philippa objects strenuously and he rapes her. In the ensuing weeks, Philippa realises that she is attracted to her husband but decides that she must never give in to that attraction. Meanwhile, rumours are still rife regarding Alain and the married woman he has been involved with. Philippa is mugged one day and rescued by the charming Fabrice. She happily hops in his car and lets him drive her home (never mind that he's a complete stranger). The relationship with Fabrice progresses until the fateful day that Philippa decides to run away from Alain. Fabrice offers to go with her and Philippa accepts, reasoning that  she can now tell Alain she is leaving him for another man. She has no intention of sleeping with Fabrice but assumes she can handle his amorous advances. Right, because she's so smart and experienced I suppose. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I spent this whole book being irritated with Philippa. This was written in 1992 but reads more like something written in the 70s. Philippa enjoys painting and was studying at art college at the start of the book. After her marriage, she decides to continue studying painting. Alain can't understand why she would want any hobby but learning to please him in bed. Philippa's art teacher can't understand why she wants to keep painting when she has a husband rich enough to support her. Huh? Really odd views to have in something written in the 90s. Anyway, my final verdict is simply give this book a miss. There are certainly worse ones but reading this would be a waste of time.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Love in a Stranger's Arms

Arabel wakes in a Spanish hospital with total amnesia. She is told that she is married to Cortez Ildefonso de la Dura. After being arrested in Venezuela for sheltering two arsonists, Cortez married her in order to take her away from prison and safely to Spain.

Yes, this is yet another amnesia/forced marriage story. I found it very difficult to relate to Arabel. She spends much of her time being alternating between being hysterical, childishly cruel, and terrified. She doesn't remember anything but she has a gut feeling that she hates Cortez and would never have willingly married him, so ends up being very nasty to him. For some reason, she doesn't ask him the obvious questions that I would ask, such as , "How long have we known each other?" His family hate Arabel for being a foreigner, and for not loving and revering him as they feel she ought. They end up being very nasty to her, telling lies about her and try to persuade Cortez to get rid her of. When he is sick in bed and asking for her, they confine her to her room and tell him that she doesn't want to see him although she is actually begging to be by his side. At the end, she regains her memory and everybody gets to live happily ever after. I found it quite unbelievable that Cortez's family never seem to get their comeuppance and magically accept her once she realises that she loves him. Furthermore, the return of her memory was just too convenient. It happens all in a rush and then everything is all right. It would have been more realistic if small pieces had gradually come back to her, giving tantalising hints as the story progressed. Instead, she suddenly remembers how she knew Cortez and everything is resolved. I did enjoy reading this book, but I was left feeling a little unsatisfied.

The Honey is Bitter

Domini Dane agrees to marry Paul Stephanos in return for not having her cousin Douglas jailed for stealing from him. Domini was mentioned in By Love Bewitched and I was intrigued by her story. This book opens just after Paul and Domini's wedding (and before they have consummated their marriage). Domini is bitter at being blackmailed into marriage whilst Paul is quite frank in admitting that he intended to have her since they met no matter what the cost; the opportunity to blackmail her presented itself, so he took it. I really liked this book. Paul was generally very gentle and treated Domini with respect. He really didn't act like he just wanted her for her body though she seems convinced of that. I guess I just didn't really understand Domini. It was her own choice to marry Paul yet she can't seem to accept that and keeps wanting him to let her go. Her uncle discovered what his son had done and suspected she was being blackmailed. Paul prevents Domini from speaking to her uncle until after they have consummated their marriage, and she hates him for it. Why? How could her uncle's suspicions change anything anyway? It still wouldn't change what Douglas had done or keep him from prison. Anyway, they stay together and their relationship gradually progresses in spite of Domini's objections. At the end we have two climactic events which cause Paul and Domini to reveal their love for each other and live happily ever after. I'm never fond of these sort of "forced" endings. I'd much rather something more natural, where they act like adults and just love each other. Nevertheless, this was a very enjoyable book and I recommend it for your reading list.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Lissa is a sweet 20 year old happily living a comfortable life until she meets Luc Ferrier, also known as Lucifer. He stirs up a passion in her that she has never felt before and reveals shocking facts about her long-term fiancé and childhood friend, Chris. Lissa finally realises the truth about Chris and realises she needs help to get away from him. Luc rescues her, but at what cost?

This was great, although it took me a moment to get past the stupid nickname of "Lucifer". The relationship between Luc and Lissa progresses at a nice pace. Lissa knows that Chris is dangerous and that she can't stay with him, but she also doesn't want to swap from one user to another. Unfortunately she does need to accept Luc's offer of help or she won't be able to leave Chris and start a new life for herself, but she has more self respect than to just go ahead and jump into bed with him. The final declarations of undying never-ending love are somewhat sudden, but I suppose that's not uncommon in category romances with limited pages. Overall I recommend this if you want a nice read.

By Love Bewitched

Dinah has been Jason Devrel's ward since she became an orphan at nine years old. Once she finished college they ended up getting engaged but one night she overhears two women speculating on Jason's reasons for marrying her; the women believe that the only reason a rich, attractive man like Jason would marry the quiet and plain Dinah is to avoid gossip about their guardian/ward relationship. At this point I started to actively dislike Dinah. She is incredibly immature. She just goes ahead and believes what she has heard and decides to run away with a broken heart without even confronting Jason. The whole thing doesn't even make sense. If he's worried about his reputation, he could always marry someone else, or encourage Dinah to get a job and move out. Anyway, Jason finds Dinah madly packing her bags to leave and they get into an argument concluding with Jason raping her. Yes, he rapes her. This is no "forced seduction" but straight out violent rape. It was at this point that I started to actively dislike Jason. Not surprisingly, in the morning Dinah runs away. Two months later, Jason manages to track her down only to discover that she is pregnant. He persuades her to marry him and give the baby to him, after which he will give her a divorce with a healthy settlement.

This book was incredibly disturbing. Jason himself says that he has tried to be a father to Dinah, and he is constantly calling her "child" or "my girl". In fact he addresses her using those terms right before he rapes her. Dinah is naturally quite traumatised by this; bad enough to be raped, but to have it done by the man who raised her whom she loved and trusted is obviously much worse. Also, keeping in mind that this book was written in a time when girls who had illegitimate children were ostracised and you can see Dinah's turmoil and the reason why she agrees to marry Jason. Both of them are quite frank that he raped her, though Jason tries to imply at one point that he suspects she enjoyed some of it. This just made me sick. It's common for child abusers to claim the complicity of their victims. Dinah is not a child, but she is about 17 years younger than Jason and obviously sees him as an authority figure. Jason concedes that Dinah has every reason to hate him now and claims to accept it, yet he then goes on to reprimand her for her bitterness and lack of joie de vie. Gee, you think being raped and impregnated by your father figure then forced to marry and live with him might just spoil your mood? As for Dinah, she gets all caught up in "dealing" with now having to see Jason as her husband instead of her father. I found this quite odd considering they were actually planning on getting married before he raped her anyway. Surely she would already have worked through those conflicts? Apparently not. Generally speaking, I found Dinah's responses reasonable, even her conflicted emotions regarding Jason. She is simultaneously attracted to and revolted by him. She feels used and dirty and wants to feel attractive, but he's the only man around. I actually found her quite realistic, but then before you know it she's happily jumping into bed with him and declaring her love. That's about when I wanted to throw up. This relationship was sick. Don't bother reading this unless you want an interesting psychological study.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mistress to Her Husband

Five years ago Sean suddenly told Kate he wanted a divorce. She found out later that she was pregnant but decided not to let him know. Now Kate has a new boss who turns out to be her ex-husband.

First of all, let me say that this is not the sleazy story the title implies. In fact, the title has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. At no point does Sean ask Kate to be his mistress. What actually happens, is that five years ago Sean discovered that he has a low sperm count and would be highly unlikely to father any children. He does the macho thing and decides all on his own that he has to set his wife free to have children with someone else. Instead of telling her the truth, he tells her that he has been sleeping with someone else and has no interest in having children with Kate; in fact, he only acted like he wanted to have a family with her to get in her pants. Obviously this is so much better than telling her the truth (rolls eyes). As for Kate, she keeps trying to tell herself how much she hates Sean for what he did to her, but keeps trying to jump his bones. Every time they get together they get it on. I couldn't help but wonder if they talked as much as they made out, they may have been able to sort out their marital problems long ago. I got so sick of all the make out sessions that I started skimming through them. The author seems to have gotten a little carried away with being able to use the word "erection" (instead of all those other euphemisms we have seen so much of through the years). I counted it 9 times; in other words there are at least 9 separate sex scenes (though very few of them end up with actual intercourse), which is a lot for a wee little book.

Am I giving the impression that I didn't like this book? Actually I found it all right, but the premise of the plot really annoyed me. Sean's whole self-sacrificing rubbish was so annoying. He loves Kate so much that he can't allow her to stay with him and never have children, even though he knows that he will never want anyone else. It doesn't occur to him that she might feel the same way about him? Then when he finds out that she has a son, he gets mad at her for "betraying" him by sleeping with another man after they were divorced. This, after he told her that he was cheating on her. To add insult to injury, he also tells her that the other woman was just a meaningless fling... so he divorced her and broke her heart over a meaningless fling? He gets brownie points from me for not having another woman over the past five years, but it doesn't make up for his high-handed decision to divorce he due to his low sperm count. Kate's lack of self-control around Sean was really annoying, too. We see this kind of thing a lot in category romances; the heroine is so overcome with passion that she forgets all common sense. It's supposedly a sign of love. I personally see it as a sign of lack of character development. Kate was especially annoying in this aspect because she has a five year old son to protect. I would expect her to be more careful of not letting her son form attachments or get his hopes up, but Kate is too busy jumping Sean's bones. All in all this was not one of Penny Jordan's better works.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Twelve-Month Mistress

Joaquin Alcolar has never been in a relationship with a woman that lasted more than 12 months. With their 1st anniversary rapidly approaching, Cassandra is fearfully awaiting her marching orders.

This is the first book of the Alcolar family series and it certainly hasn't encouraged me to read the others. I could barely force myself to finish reading it. Cassandra has got to be one of the dumbest heroines I have ever seen. Joaquin has made no indication that he wants to break up with her, yet she is in such a mess of nerves that she seems determined to end their relationship in a self-fuliflling prophecy. She's moody and snappish, continuously rejecting him. She complains over him working instead of staying with her all day long. We're not talking about workaholic long hours here; Joaquin gets up in the morning to go to the office and she throws a tantrum. She decides to leave him and doesn't even bother talking to him first or giving him the courtesy of saying goodbye. To top it all off, Cassandra moves in with Joaquin's illegitimate half-brother. When Joaquin finds out where she has gone, he naturally jumps to the obvious conclusion, aided by her telling him that his brother gives her something Joaquin never could. Then she has the gall to be mad at him for his assumptions. Finally, Joaquin falls down the stairs and conveniently gets amnesia. He forgets about Cassandra leaving him and the doctors advise against telling him, so she moves back in with him. Then we get to have the first half of the book all over again, with Cassandra acting like an idiot and Joaquin being totally clueless. Yuck, yuck, yuck. This was simply terrible. My advice is to pass this book by.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wife for Real

Katherine agreed to a marriage of convenience to Jordan James in exchange for his help in rescuing her father from bankruptcy. Unfortunately their marriage has not turned out to be as amicable as planned and they have spent the past year seeing as little of each other as possible, only making the occasional public appearance together to avoid gossip. Now he's back and wanting to change the status quo. Katherine's brother has landed himself in major financial difficulty and Jordan offers to bail him out only if Katherine agrees to make their marriage real and have a child together.

Katherine's mother had numerous extra-marital affairs until finally leaving her family when Katherine was fifteen. Due to this, Katherine has a fear of letting herself give in to physical desire. She knows that she wants Jordan, but feels that enjoying sex with him would destroy her. This is the sole reason she has been rejecting Jordan. I would have enjoyed this book if the cause for Katherine's conflict weren't so ridiculous. She acts like a rape victim and has no real reason for it. It would even be more understandable if she had grown up in the shadow of her father or community members constantly vilifying her mother or something, but she didn't. Jordan was nice enough, but I spent all my time being annoyed with Katherine for being such an idiot that I just couldn't enjoy the read.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Latin Passion

Penny Kennedy approaches Lucas Darien to try to persuade him not to evict her father. When she arrives at his office, Lucas and his secretary assume that she is Mildred Bancroft, the new personal assistant they have been waiting for (even though Mildred should be in her 50s and Penny is only 28). Lucas reveals that he is looking for some important papers that he needs in order to evict an old man (who happens to be Penny's father); if the papers can't be found, the eviction will not be able to go ahead. Penny decides to pretend to be Mildred and take the opportunity to locate the papers in order to hide them. Instead, she ends up falling into bed (and in love) with Lucas. What will her father do when he finds out she is sleeping with the enemy? What will Lucas do when the real Mildred shows up?

The whole premise of this plot was ludicrous. Lucas is expecting a woman in her 50s to show up, but when someone in her 20s appears he assumes it's her? He then assumes that she must have lied on her resume, but he's fine with hiring her anyway?  He doesn't find it odd that she doesn't want to give him her personal details so that he can pay her? Lucas can't go ahead with the eviction without his copy of the deed to the property? Lucas knows that permission for redevelopment of the property was obtained illegally which is why he's in a rush to start, but he's supposedly an honest businessman. Penny spends all her time conflicted over lying to Lucas, but just can't bring herself to telling him the truth. Every time she wants to spill the beans, she gets too distracted by his hot body. If you don't care about sill plots and characters, you may be able to enjoy this book. Lucas is nice enough and isn't an arrogant womaniser, so typical of Harlequin Presents heroes. Nevertheless, this book is basically a trashy romance. There's no depth and you won't get any more enjoyment out of reading this than reading a magazine article.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thirty-Day Fiancé

Olivia Polnecek is a twenty-six year old college freshman who seems to like stripping naked in front of her open window to apply oil after her showers. When her apartment catches on fire one evening, she is rescued by her sexy neighbour, Nick Nolan. Nick is a member of the Bad Boys Club which we met in The You-Can't-Make-Me-Bride. He also happens to be Olivia's childhood saviour who sustained a broken nose protecting her and her barbie dolls from her bullying brother, Butch. Nick suggests Olivia move in with him until she can find a new place to stay. One day a society reporter decides to announce in a newspaper that Nick and Olivia are engaged.

The way Nick and Olivia handle the erroneous engagement announcement is simply ludicrous. For some reason, Nick decides that they must now pretend to be madly in love with each other and engaged to each other for a month before they can pretend to break up. I tried not to think too deeply about this and just accept it in the spirit of enjoying a trashy romance, but I really couldn't understand why Olivia feels pressured to act like she loves him in public. If they're going to break up in a month's time, it would actually make more sense for them to be a little cool with each other. Anyway, they obviously end up falling in love and into bed, even though Olivia was determined not to get involved with anyone for her first semester of college and Nick is a confirmed bachelor. Nick suggests they continue with their current living arrangement and fake engagement for longer than the thirty days, to which Olivia realises that she is in love with him and must therefore behave in the typical non-sensical romance heroine way by packing her bags and running away whilst Nick is at work. This sort of thing just annoys me. She doesn't try to talk to Nick. She doesn't give him any chance at all to respond to her feelings. Olivia just packs her bags with no warning and leaves a pathetic terse note on the kitchen table. This wasn't a bad book, but I don't like characters who make absolutely no effort to fight for their love. Nick's a nice enough guy but I just couldn't make myself like Olivia.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Brazilian Millionaire's Love-child

Alejandro Cabral and Isobel meet at a party one night and immediately have the hots for each other. After many protestations from Isobel that she isn't interested in casual sex and Alejandro responding that he isn't looking for or offering it, they end up having unprotected sex. While lying in post-coital bliss, Alejandro receives an urgent call from his father in Brazil begging him to return as soon as possible to handle an emergency concerning Alejandro's unofficial fiancée, Miranda. He leaves immediately, promising Isobel that he will be in touch. Naturally, Isobel isn't convinced; they've just had sex and now he's running off without even having time to have a shower. Skipping ahead three years, Alejandro has never been in touch with Isobel again and she is now a single mother. She goes to Brazil on a work assignment only to discover that Alejandro engineered the whole thing so that he could meet her again now that he has somehow found out about their daughter.

If you can't tell from my tone thus far, I didn't like this book. It turns out that Alejandro was seriously injured in a car accident two months after he left Isobel and that is his excuse for never getting in contact with her. He was worried that his injuries would put her off, so instead he marries Miranda. Talk about lame excuses. The accident occurred two months after he slept with Isobel; as far as I am concerned, if he really cared about her, he would have been in touch with her already especially considering she could have been pregnant (the possibility of which Alejandro acknowledged when he left her). He is bitter that Isobel didn't somehow get in touch with him to tell him that she was pregnant, in spite of the fact that he left her the way he did and didn't even give her his contact details. He figures she could have contacted him via his company's website. Ughh. As for Isobel, she has every reason to be bitter. She was basically left pregnant after a one-night stand with a guy who made all sorts of promises to her. Now she finds out that he pretty much got married straight after, and she realises that Alejandro and Miranda were obviously already involved when he slept with her. Yet what does she do? She is so concerned about Alejandro's manly pride that instead of calling him to account for his actions, she grabs the chance to have unprotected sex with him yet again. To be fair, this time Alejandro believes that he is sterile because the doctors told him after his accident that he may never  be able to have children. The reader of course realises that this means one of two possibilities: Isobel will get pregnant forcing a reconciliation between them, or; Isobel will get pregnant in the epilogue. The final reconciliation between Isobel and Alejandro was simply unbelievable, which pretty much sums up their whole relationship I suppose. Alejandro explains why he didn't get in touch with Isobel and she tearily tells him that she has always loved him far too much to ever turn him away even three years ago. It just didn't gel for me. They had a one-night stand. Actually not even that, and yet I am supposed to believe that they were in love? I am not even convinced about the so-called emergency that made Alejandro leave. Miranda was a drug addict and nothing her family did or said could make her see reason, so they wanted Alejandro to come talk to her. Doesn't sound like something he had to get out of bed and fly home immediately for. Definitely not something so urgent that he couldn't take the time to leave his contact details with Isobel. Ughh, I really didn't like this book at all. Alejandro and Isobel are just pathetic.

Italian Marriage: In Name Only

Antonio Cavelli's father has agreed to retire and hand over the family company to him when he produces a wife and child. Victoria Heart owns a restaurant on property that Antonio is trying to purchase. He agrees to pay for her to relocate her restaurant if she will agree to marry him, thus providing him with a ready made family.

The innumerable reasons category romance heros come up with to persuade women to marry them will never cease to amaze me. Why don't handsome millionaires ever offer me marriages of convenience? I swear I wouldn't be offended the way most heroines are. Victoria is angry at the proposal, and deeply suspicious of Antonio's motives (which he does not disclose to her) even after his assurances that he doesn't expect the marriage to be consummated. Well, no woman wants to be told with absolute assurance by a hunky man that she doesn't need to worry about him wanting to have sex with her so I guess that's fair enough.

Antonio is very bitter towards his father who was a serial adulterer. He knows his father wants him to have a son to carry on the family name and genes, so he decides to meet his requirement of producing a wife and child by presenting a wife with a son who is no blood relation to himself. He genuinely sees the marriage as a simple business deal and doesn't want to confuse things with actually getting involved with Victoria. Nevertheless he does promise her that he won't be unfaithful to her for as long as their marriage lasts, which I found very honourable. Considering the fact that he doesn't intend to have sex with her, many other heros would continue sleeping with other women and merely promise to be "discreet" about it. Not Antonio, and this alone raised him so high in my estimation that I would have forgiven him much.  There wasn't really anything to forgive though. He's generally a nice guy who is wary of commitment. He saw how much his father hurt his mother and himself and he doesn't want to do that to anyone. What a refreshing hero! He's not bitter and cynical about women and he's never cruel to Victoria. I really, really liked him.

Victoria plays the Ugly Duckling heroine, starting out plain in dumpy clothes and overlarge glasses, and miraculously transforming into a swan with the assistance of designer clothing and contact lenses. Of course Antonio suspected from the beginning that her shapeless clothes and unflattering hairstyle were hiding a hottie. What I liked about Victoria's transformation is that she does it herself and not even deliberately. She gets the opportunity to dress up for a party, so she does. That's all there is to it.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It wasn't mind-blowingly fabulous, but it was definitely a nice read.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Greek's Virgin Bride

Nikos Vassilis has clawed his way up from the gutter to become a successful (and very wealthy) businessman. Acquiring Coustakis Inudstries will be the pinnacle of his achievements, but in order to do this he must marry Yiorgos Coustakis' grand-daughter. Andrea Fraser has never met her grandfather who cast her mother aside when his son made her pregnant, until she receives a letter summoning her to his home. Andrea decides to see him in the hopes of getting enough money to pay off her family debts and to move her sick mother to a better home.

Yes, this is indeed yet another "Blackmailed Into Marriage" plot, but it's a good one. Nikos is very annoying at the beginning: arrogantly accepting marriage to a woman he has never even seen or heard of; contemplating the need to be more discreet with his mistresses once he is married so as not to shame his wife etc. He does intend to be a good husband in his own way, but he's obviously completely clueless as to what lies ahead for him.

Yiorgos is simply awful. He is a horrid man who finally gets his comeuppance; no cheesy happy ending with him suddenly realising the error of his ways. He actually hits Andrea twice in front of Nikos, who unfortunately doesn't do anything about it apart from reprimanding Andrea for provoking her grandfather. It takes Nikos a whole day to finally get mad about Andrea being struck which really didn't endear him to me. Sure it's a different culture, but for a man to allow someone to beat on his fiancée in front of him is just not on, and I think most cultures would not find this acceptable (even if they would find it all right for the husband/fiancé to be doing the hitting). Nikos assumes that Andrea has been brought up with her grandfather's wealth, and is simply wilful and spoilt. He can't comprehend how she can be so unappreciative of her good fortune and so disrespectful to Yiorgos even if he is an ass. Once he finds out the truth of her background and Yiorgos' treatment of her and her mother, everything changes, and I found myself cheering him on.

Andrea was great. She actually plans ahead. She knows that she can't trust Yiorgos, and smartly makes plans to ensure her own well-being. She's not afraid to stand up to him. It's great to have a heroine with some brains. Of course she does the usual, "I've just realised I'm in love with my husband! He must never know!" trick which I have never understood, and runs away as soon as Nikos turns his back on her. I kind of understand that it was difficult for her to talk to him since she was fully aware that he married her to get her grandfather's business, but the way she leaves him is kind of odd and forced. It's clearly done to force the resolution of the story and get everyone declaring their undying love for each other. I would have found it much more natural if Andrea had just opened up and explained everything to Nikos before running away, or at the very least explaining it in her farewell letter. It probably wouldn't have been as exciting, but it would have been a lot more natural and still give Nikos his chance to shine.

I loved this book. It doesn't quite make my Must read pile, but it is definitely worth taking a look at.

The Wealthy Greek's Contract Wife

Ilios Manos, the wealthy greek of the title, needs a wife to prevent his cousin Tino from claiming their ancestral home. English interior designer Elizabeth (Lizzie) Wareham has looked after her two younger sisters and her two nephews after the death of her parents six years ago. Ilios offers to ignore the debt Lizzie inadvertently owes him, as well as give her £100,000 if she agrees to marry him for as long as it takes for Tino to back off.

Ahh yes, another "Blackmailed Into Marriage" story. It never ceases to amaze me how many reasons wealthy men can come up with to blackmail women into marrying them, and how easily the women in question are coerced. I guess the idea is that these women have too much integrity to be seduced by the men's billions or undeniable sex appeal, and therefore need some other inducement. It's generally imperative for the reader to not look too deeply into the reason for the marriage or the blackmail employed, because they are flimsy and not really believable. The Wealthy Greek Contract's Wife is no exception. Apparently Tino wishes to challenge Ilios' right to inherit the family home due to the fact that he isn't married and has no heirs. I seriously doubt Tino has any hope at all of winning, and Ilios' lawyers agree, though they warn Ilios against a lengthy drawn out legal battle. Considering the fact that Ilios is a billionaire whilst his cousin is practically bankrupt, I think it's clear that Tino is the one who can't afford the dispute, not Ilios. Lizzie gets mixed up with Ilios when a client offers her 20% ownership of an apartment block she was hired to decorate, in lieu of payment. Unbeknownst to her, not only was this apartment block built illegally and fraudulently, but under the partnership agreement she is also liable for the debts of the whole partnership. I find it hard to believe that Lizzie's solicitor would have advised her to accept an agreement like this; who accepts 100% liability for only 20% ownership? Ilios sends a threatening legal letter to Lizzie demanding her presence in Thessalonica to deal with undisclosed legal and financial matters. Instead of calling her lawyer, or calling Ilios or his lawyer, she flies out with no idea what is going on... I wondered if she had ever heard of a telephone, but it turns out she has a mobile. Lizzie and Ilios agree to marry, yet there's no mention of a pre-nuptial agreement which I find hard to swallow considering how deliberate and calculating Ilios is. Anyway, if you can suspend your disbelief over the setup of the plot, this was a good read.

Ilios grew up without any love but with a strong sense of duty. Unlike many heroes, he is not cruel and arrogant, and he isn't a serial womaniser. In fact, he hasn't had sex in over a year. It's so refreshing to have a Greek tycoon hero who doesn't have a string of mistresses to make the heroine's life hell. The only time Ilios is cruel is right at the end when he says some nasty things in the heat of the moment to create the conflict that makes him admit his love. Cheesy yes, but acceptable under the circumstances, and he regrets it almost immediately.

Lizzie was nice, too. She is a genuinely loving person and doesn't play any weird games with Ilios. She does have a couple clichéd romance heroine responses to things namely

  1. Upon realising her love for Ilios, Lizzie "realises" that she must never let him know;
  2. Upon finding out she is pregnant, Lizzie decides she wants to go from the "Blackmailed Into Marriage" plot to the "Secret Baby" plot. She doesn't want to tell Ilios that she is pregnant, but would rather go home to her sisters and raise her baby secretly.
Nevertheless, I actually liked Lizzie. She's just nice and refreshingly honest with Ilios about her desire for him and we have none of that annoying, "I hate him but I want him" angst so often seen in other heroines.

Overall, I recommend this book. I liked the characters and it was an enjoyable way to pass the time.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Yesterday's Echoes

Rosie was raped by Ritchie when she was 16. Ritchie's cousin, 23 year old Jake Lucas, found them just after the deed was done, and assumed that Rosie had been a willing participant and exploring her own sexuality. Jake had been in love with Rosie and was already despising himself for falling in love with a teenager. Upon finding her postcoitus with his cousin, he is insanely jealous and hates himself even more for it. Rosie saw his derision and assumed it was directed at herself. Jake's condemnation combines with her guilt and shame to make her unable to ever tell anyone what really happened, and the story begins 15 years later with Rosie still suffering from the trauma of her rape; she has never been able to have a relationship with a man because she can't face the possibility that they will blame her for the rape. Jake and Rosie meet up, she finally tells him what happened and he realises how much he inadvertently hurt her and why she has always hated him.

I found Rosie's trauma quite realistic. What wasn't realistic was the almost instant sexual healing at Jake's hands. Of course this is a common theme in category romances; the sexually frigid heroine who has never been able to respond to any man magically comes alive and orgasms with the studly hero. This is naturally because she loves him. No reason is ever given for Rosie and Jakes feelings for each other and the reader just has to accept the fact that they have always been in love with each other. If you can accept these things without delving too deeply, this was a nice read.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This is the first book of the Buchannan series, and features the oldest brother, Cal. Cal needs to hire a top chef to save his ailing family business. The best one he can find just happens to be his ex-wife Penny.

Cal and Penny have been divorced for three years. After Penny had a miscarriage, Cal revealed to her that he didn't want to have children. Unable to accept this, Penny finally left him. With her biological clock ticking, and no man on the horizon, Penny decides to have IVF in order to have a child.

"Penny Jackson knew that it was probably wrong to be so excited to see her ex-husband come crawling back, but we was willing to live with the character flaw."
When I read this opening line, I thought I'd love the heroine and the book. She sounds refreshingly fun yet realistic. I was wrong. There was a lot of potential but I just couldn't believe how easily Penny falls for Cal. She keeps emphasising the fact that they have been divorced for three years, and that she is therefore completely over him. Considering he broke her heart and lied to her, I find it very hard to believe that she has absolutely no anger or bitterness towards him, even if she is still attracted to him.

Cal admits to Penny that he never really loved her, and that though he was not exactly happy about the miscarriage, he was relieved when it happened. Yes, there is a fine distinction between the two, but the bottom line is that he didn't really want the baby. His nasty grandmother reveals various secrets Cal kept from Penny which also negatively impacted their marriage. After all this, for some bizarre reason Penny thinks she can now get back together with him and things will be different this time. I have no idea what she bases this on considering Cal still hasn't told her that he loves her, and he wasn't the one who told her his secrets.

There are also a few side stories which I suppose are used to set up Cal's siblings for their own books. Again, I found the characters somewhat unbelievable. Cal's sister Dani discovers her husband cheating on her. He had an accident when they were still dating, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. She loved him so much that she still married him, and has supported him financially and emotionally for the past six years. Yet when her marriage breaks up, she claims that she no longer loved him anyway and it is mainly her pride that is hurt not her heart. All I could think was, "How convenient."

There are other examples I could give, but basically what ruined this book for me were the unrealistic characters and their relationships. I wasn't looking for a lot of angst, but I couldn't believe the lack of bitterness all around. I don't know if I'll bother reading the rest of this series.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mommy for Rent

Kelly Rosholt married when she was 19. Two years later she finds out that she is barren. Her husband divorces her and remarries shortly after. She now runs a successful business, Mommies for Rent, which hires out women to help with whatever tasks mothers do (baby sitting, housework, organising stuff etc). One day seven year old Dani tries to hire a mommy because she feels different from the other kids in town who all have mommies. Kelly meets Dani's father, former pro baseball player Scott Delgado. Kelly agrees to babysit Dani until a full-time nanny is found. Kelly and Scott's relationship moves along in a predictable manner, until Scott shares his dream of having a large family. Kelly runs away, and only returns to Scott when she finds out that he was adopted and is a strong proponent of adoption (something her former husband would not even consider).

This was a nice read but I found the resolution of Kelly and Scott's relationship somewhat disappointing. I didn't like Kelly's presumption that Scott wouldn't want her if he found out she is barren, and I didn't like the fact that she never really had to grow a spine and risk his rejection; she only returns to him after she realises that he won't mind adoption.

His Convenient Marriage

Chressie Lloyd lost everything when her father was convicted for fraud and died of a heart-attack whilst on remand. Successful thriller author Miles Hunter purchases her house and offers to allow Chressie to rent the housekeeper's flat in return for being his housekeeper cum secretary. One day out of the blue two years later, Miles asks Chressie out to dinner and proposes to her. He suggests a "business arrangement" type of marriage with the possibility of it developing into a "real" marriage in the future. At the same time, Chressie's old beau arrives back in town expecting her to fall into his arms in gratitude.

I was really shocked to see this book was published in 2004. It has the kind of bland characters I expected to see in a much older book. In a word, this was boring. Boring characters, boring plot. No reason is ever given for Miles' proposal. He asks Chressie if she is wondering about his "lack of amorous advances" but never goes on to explain it. Why couldn't he court her normally? Chressie's former boyfriend Alistair turns out to be a sleaze (which was fairly apparent from his introduction) who has been sleeping with his step-mother Linnet. It's meant to be a secret relationship, but they make out in the parking lot of a pub; I'm not sure why they thought that was discreet. Alistair's father had a stroke when he found out about his wife's liaison with his son, so now Alistair hopes to pull the wool over Daddy's eyes again by marrying Chressie whom he will approve of. Meanwhile, Miles has a limp after being injured by a land mine when he was working as a journalist years ago. Sandie, his girlfriend/almost fiancée at the time, dumped him after seeing his scars for the first time. Chressie thinks Miles is still in love with Sandie while Miles thinks Chressie is in love with Alistair. Miles makes frequent trips to London, where Chressie assumes he has innumerable lovers, on the basis that he is an attractive man and doesn't seem to want to have sex with her. She calls his London flat one day and hears a woman's voice, so she jumps to the conclusion that it must be Sandie. What really bugs me, is that it actually was Sandie. There are so many reasons why a woman could be answering the phone at Miles' apartment, and it annoys me that Chressie's jealous assumptions would be even partially correct. Miles' explanation still leaves a lot to be desired though. He claims that Sandie was having marital problems, so she stayed there to think about things while he stayed with other friends. This is the woman he loved, who walked out on him because he was injured. Even if he's moved on now and doesn't hate her, I can't picture them being that good friends that she would have the effrontery to ask to stay at his apartment.

Anyway, feel comfortable to give this book wide berth. You won't be missing out on anything and your brain may even thank you for not feeding it more trash.

A Heartless Marriage

Leigh Wilson left her husband Raoul de Chevnair five years ago after walking into her bedroom and finding a naked woman on the bed and Raoul coming out of the bathroom similarly unclothed. Now he's back and has coerced her into agreeing to spend the next three months with him before granting her a divorce.

It's immediately obvious to the reader that Raoul was innocent; Leigh did not find him in bed, but coming out of the bathroom after a shower. The naked woman happened to be Miranda, a guest staying with them with her husband. That's right, with the full knowledge that both couples were in the house, Miranda decided to seduce her host. She is either incredibly stupid, or secretly wanted to be caught, but this is never addressed. The question I asked, which Leigh never did, was if Raoul really was cheating on her, why would he be dumb enough to do it in his own home where he'd obviously be caught? Anyway, Leigh never gave him the opportunity to explain, and just screamed and ranted at him before setting fire to all her clothes and running off.

Raoul's excuse for the past five years is that among the things Leigh had yelled at him, was the accusation that he was stifling her and making her feel trapped. He decided magnanimously to let her go and spread her wings, knowing that her love for him would act as a chastity belt (please note I'm being sarcastic here). Too bad he never told her what really happened with Miranda or how he actually felt about her. It wasn't possible to give her freedom without breaking her heart? It wasn't possible to love her without stifling her? It wasn't possible to force her to listen to him tell her he was never unfaithful?

As for Leigh, she's pretty determined to believe the worst about Raoul because he's attractive and she's plain. Her father was attractive and repeatedly cheated on her mother until finally leaving them a few weeks after her birth. I understand this was unpleasant, but considering she never knew her father I can't see how this excuses her skewed view of Raoul. She jumps to the assumption that he has been cheating on her all along with multiple partners and that the many times she has seen him turn down women (in fact he always turns down women who try to make moves on him) is just a front to fool her. She doesn't even remember saying that she felt stifled and needed freedom. So all this stuff just came bursting out of her from nowhere? It just doesn't gel.

Finally, after hearing strangers at a party discussing Raoul's lack of interest in women, Leigh decided to give him a hearing. He explains what happened with Miranda and she believes him. Unfortunately the next day she sees him kissing Miranda. Ugh. Where do I start? The fact that Leigh wouldn't listen to Raoul until she heard strangers gossiping about him is simply ludicrous. It really doesn't say much about her, and doesn't give me any confidence in their relationship working out later. Raoul tells Leigh that he hadn't seen Miranda since that fateful night. She showed up that morning to apologise and offer to explain the truth to Leigh, and Raoul was kissing her in thanks. Huh? Why isn't he angry with Miranda? Even if he and Leigh are back together, even if he decided to allow Miranda through the front door and listen to what she has to say after what she did, I can't believe that he'd feel friendly enough to kiss her after her apology. Forgiving her and being friends with her again are totally different things.

I found this book very mediocre. It got great reviews at Amazon, I guess primarily because Raoul was faithful to Leigh all along (and during their five year separation), which is very rare among category romance heros. I complain every time we have heros who aren't faithful, and though I appreciate Raoul's fidelity, it doesn't save the book. His decision to leave Leigh alone for five years for her own good seems pretty high-handed and dumb to me. Let's not even get into how stupid Leigh is. I finished off agreeing with all the other women in the book who felt that Leigh didn't deserve Raoul, but I didn't like Raoul enough to care whether or not he got a happily ever after.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The You-Can't-Make-Me Bride

Jenna Anderson has sacrificed her personal life for her career and is now the assistant commonwealth attorney. After breaking her ankle in a basketball match, she is treated at the hospital by the hot Dr. Stanley Michaels who just happens to be the bully who tormented her in school. Actually, they were friends until he had a growth spurt and decided teasing the girls was more fun than playing with them.

This is the final book in the How to Catch a Princess series. It's not bad, but neither this or the previous one, The Troublemaker Bride, lived up to the standard set in the first novel, The Five-Minute Bride.

Stan has always gone for casual relationships with bimbos. The death of a close friend made him re-evalutate his life, and he has returned to his hometown looking for more to life than he's had. Jenna has been too focused on her career to have much time for men, and tells herself that if she gets one it will be someone she can control, which of course Stan isn't. The truth is, she has always been fairly self-conscious and insecure about her body which is only compounded when she attends a function with Stan only to hear that no one expects the relationship to last since she is so different from his usual "fluffy women". Nevertheless they persevere with their relationship and all looks good until Stan's birthday. Jenna organises a surprise party for him at his apartment. Just before he arrives, a sexy blonde emerges from his bedroom wearing nothing but a silky robe, having obviously just woken up. Turns out she is one of Stan's exes who has breezed into town to look him up uninvited. Jenna believes Stan when he tells her this, but it unfortunately brings up all of her old insecurities.

I found the explanations for the blonde a bit lacking. If Stan didn't invite her, how did she know where he lives and more importantly, how did she get into the apartment? I doubt she snuck in unnoticed with the rest of the guests and went to his bedroom, undressed and went to bed. I guess details like this don't bother some readers, but I find they really disrupt the story flow. This isn't a bad novel, but like it's predecessor it's really nothing special.

The Troublemaker Bride

After years of being in a relationship with her never there musician boyfriend/fiancé, Maddie Palmer finds herself single and pregnant. Stuck in a traffic jam while in labour, Maddie leaves her car to try and find some other way to the hospital. She spots a truck with a motorbike in the back, and her water breaks while she is asking the driver to take her to the hospital. The truck/motorbike owner happens to be studly single dad, Joshua Blackwell, who coincidentally owns a horse stud farm. Anyway, he gets her to hospital on time and is with her through the birth of her son David.

This is the second novel of the How to Catch a Princess series and is quite different from the previous one, The Five-Minute Bride. Joshua is a calm, stoic farmer, and his and Maddie's relationship progresses sweetly along with no major dramas until the fateful day when he comments to her how great it is that she doesn't want to get married. Huh? Where did that come from? I guess he assumes it since she was content to be in a long-term relationship with her previous guy without getting married and doesn't seem too bitter about being a single mother. Nevertheless, it's bizarre and totally out of the blue for Joshua to say something like that, and it gives the impression that it was solely done to provide conflict to the story line. Joshua hasn't been in a relationship since his wife, Gail, died 12 years ago; he's been concentrating on being a good single dad. There's never any indication that he never wants to marry again now that he's involved with Maddie. Maddie of course freaks out at Joshua saying he doesn't want to marry, because she doesn't want to settle for any thing less again. Naturally all is sorted out eventually and they get married to live happily ever after. This was a nice book (even with the stiff formulaic "conflict") but nothing special.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Five Minute Bride

Emily St. Clair has live her life doing what others have expected of her. When she finds out just prior to her wedding that her fiancé has another girlfriend/mistress, she leaves him at the altar and drives away. She ends up in Ruxton, North Carolina: a small town where nobody knows her. For the first time, Emily finds herself free from expectations and takes this opportunity to find herself. She also finds Beau Ramsey, the studly bachelor sheriff of said town.

This is the first book of the How to Catch a Princess series and is just plain fun. Both Emily and Beau are wary of trusting Emily's feelings as she was just about to marry someone else. Is this just a rebound thing? Will she eventually want to move back to the excitement of the big(ger) city? (She's from Roanoke which is not exactly big city.) Beau has three elder sisters who are constantly trying to "improve" him. I guess all this loving interference has put him off long-term relationships with women. So far he has preferred casual sex and currently has "an arrangement" with local business woman Donna who has been around the block a few times. He's stunned when Emily makes it clear that she doesn't feel the need to change him or his home.

There were a couple of things I did find somewhat odd. Emily shows up in town in her wedding dress after having just run out on her own wedding. When Beau's sister sees it her, she immediately recognises the dress as a Dior. Okay, I guess these small town ladies could be more sophisticated than I'd expect and happen to really know their fashion. No way would I recognise a Dior wedding dress just by sight (yes, I'd probably realise it was a high quality designer/couture dress, but I wouldn't know which designer). Anyway, these fashion conscious women are then not sophisticated enough to understand that Emily doesn't want to wear the dress again at her next wedding; they're totally shocked by it. Now I get that it's beautiful and extremely expensive, but really, what woman would want to get married in the same dress she wore to her previous failed wedding where she was jilted? Granted, Emily wasn't actually the one left standing at the altar, but still... And then there's the whole Donna thing. Beau doesn't have "relations" with Donna after meeting Emily, but not for lack of trying. Donna wants him, he doesn't want her though, which he finds frustrating because he wants to want her. It's not an unusual scenario, but I didn't like it. While Beau is making moves on Joanna, he also wants to (want to) sleep with Donna. As for Donna, she is fairly aggressive about wanting Beau and tells Joanna that she wants to keep their "arrangement".

Putting aside my small complaints, this book was just a joyful romp. The dialogue is fun and I found myself smiling through most of it. For example, when Emily was getting married to Mr. Sleaze, when the time came for her to say, "I do," she instead says, "I don't believe I will. Thank you very much." Loved it. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series if this is any indication of what they'll be like.

A Wedding to Remember

Joanna married Rory Grayson against her mother's wishes when she was 19. After supporting him financially for seven years, Rory is accused of impregnating one of his employees. Joanna leaves him and returns home to her mother. Three years on, Joanna has been dating her boss, Brad, who has proposed to her. She decides to see Rory one last time before making up her mind. Passion flairs between Rory and Joanna once again and she agrees to spending a dirty weekend in his apartment with him (while deciding mentally that she can't marry Brad after all).

I really wasn't sure how I felt about this book. It started off great, but became far too realistic for me towards the end. It is finally revealed that Rory was innocent of infidelity all along, but Joanna's willingness to believe the other woman's claim was due to existing problems in their relationship. These problems are never addressed. Rory and Joanna end up reconciling with her family and getting married, but is this really their happily ever after? Rory never tells Joanna that he loves her; I guess his actions are supposed to be enough, but it's really below the par for a romance novel hero. I never really got the sense that Rory and Joanna have sorted out the past and really committed themselves to the future. It just felt like they have a big fancy wedding and that's pretty much it.

Rory admits to Joanna that he's had women since their divorce. I know it's unrealistic to think that he wouldn't but I just don't like seeing this in romance novels. In a way it wasn't too bad here since Joanna herself has been sleeping with Brad (I hate it when the heroine is celibate because she's been pining away for the hero for years, but he happily plays the field with all and sundry). What I didn't like was that Joanna knew about his other women because he gives her a bathrobe to use which he keeps in his apartment for his women. That's just tacky. Not only that, but Rory created Joanna's dream home to live in, and that's where he's had these other women. It just doesn't gel that he'd have sex with other women in her dream home before he's even brought her there.

Joanna assumes that Rory's employee Monique is his lover. This is based on the fact that she shows up unexpectedly during their dirty weekend, she's familiar with Rory's bedroom and sleeping habits, she automatically acts as hostess in Rory's home, offering drinks to people etc, and finally when Joanna shows up unexpectedly one morning, Monique is there in her pajamas. All these things are explained of course, but the explanations don't really make sense to me. Turns out Monique is happily married and lives next door to Rory. Her husband made a painting that Rory bought and hung in his bedroom (which apparently explains to Joanna why Monique is familiar with the bedroom, but doesn't explain things to me at all). The morning she was there in her pajamas, her husband was also there, because they were having breakfast with Rory. Do people really normally have breakfast with their neighbours in their pajamas? Not in my world. Even if you were to go to your neighbour's place for breakfast, I would expect you to get dressed first. Oh, and showing up during the dirty weekend - apparently she arrived with champagne to congratulate Rory and Joanna on their reconciliation. What kind of "friend" would show up at a time like that? Most people would realise that the couple in question would want privacy. Anyway, the whole Monique thing was just weird to me. Obviously she was put there to give Joanna someone to be insanely jealous about thus angering Rory for not trusting him. I agree that Joanna is a little unreasonable, but I've got to say Monique's behaviour was hardly normal.

Brad turns out to be rather self-serving and unlovable. He wants a wife who will be able to help his career. He isn't in love with Joanna, and she isn't in love with him, so the reader doesn't mind when they break up. The author obviously wanted him to get a happily ever after anyway, and he ends up marrying Joanna's friend Poppy. Poppy is such a close friend of Joanna's that when Joanna decides to leave home and needs somewhere to stay, Poppy happily takes her in on the spot. Even so, when Joanna leaves her she doesn't even keep in touch beyond sending a letter to invite her to her wedding. So good friends don't deserve phone calls? Well, since Poppy is happy to marry Brad, knowing that he's been in a long term sexual relationship with Joanna, maybe she doesn't feel that close to Joanna either. At any rate, it seems pretty poor form to marry off Poppy to a guy who doesn't love her. Rory concludes that by the time they have their second child, Brad will probably come to appreciate all that Poppy will have done for him. Huh? Not much of a happily ever after.

Overall I guess the ending of this book made me feel quite ambivalent. I didn't hate it, but I definitely didn't like it either.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To the Ends of the Earth

A rewrite of The Danvers Touch

Cat Cochran is a photographer struggling to make ends meet. She is hired to photograph Travis Danvers and his ship the Wind Warrior.

This was an amazing book. I absolutely loved it. There's lots of angst but Cat is a strong heroine and Travis finishes the story beautifully.

Cat was born into a rich family and married an even richer man, Billy Nelson, when she was 19, just after her father died. Billy turns out to be truly awful, to the point that Cat eventually ends ups diving naked off his ship and swimming into the ocean for over two miles in the middle of the night to escape being raped by him and his friends. She decides that rich men aren't capable of loving anything but themselves.

Travis is rich. He married Tina when he was 20. She deliberately got pregnant to catch him, then had an abortion two weeks after their wedding and told him she had a miscarriage. Travis decided that he would never trust a woman with less money than himself. Since then he has only had "relationships" with women that he can buy.

So we have this conundrum. Cat hates rich men, and Travis is rich. Travis only wants women he can buy, and Cat won't be bought. Their passion finally overcomes both their reserves, and they enter into an uneasy relationship. Cat works herself to the bone trying to earn enough money to support her family. Now this was the part I found somewhat questionable. Since her father died, her family hasn't had any money and she has been supporting them. Her mother is completely clueless as to finances, and still lives like she is rich. She is actually engaged to a marry a rich man in a couple months, and has just spent a small fortune on her trousseau (funded by Cat). Furthermore, Cat's twin siblings are in medical school and she needs to pay their fees too. On one hand, I understand Cat needing to support her family and not wanting to burden her mother, but it gets somewhat ridiculous towards the end. Why did she let her mother have the money for frivolous things like her trousseau when she is so desperate for money that she can't even afford to go to hospital when her doctor tells her to? As for Travis, I don't think his background story is severe enough to excuse his absolute distrust and hatred of women and the brutally cruel way he ends up treating Cat when he thinks she has lied to him. Still, for all these faults, this was a brilliant story with no cheese at all. Yes, Cat and Travis end up together but not without a lot of pain first. Their happily ever after is well earned and I shed a lot of tears along the way.

Nowhere to Hide

Suzanne Swenson discovers her fiancé having sex in her bed with her flatmate one day. Heartbroken, she flies off to Denver for a business meeting. As the flight is overbooked, she ends up being upgraded to first class and ends up in the seat of Alyssa Humphrey who hasn't shown up. The plane crashes killing nearly everyone on board, but Suzanne survives with severe facial injuries and total amnesia. She wakes to be told that she is Alyssa Humphrey, currently engaged to US senator Matthew Bradford.

Yes, this is yet another ammesia story, but the difference here is that the reader knows from the beginning that Suzanne is not Alyssa. I hate it when it's obvious the character is someone else but the reader is forced to pretend they are too stupid to realise (like in The Other Laura). The reader knows that Matthew Bradford is up to no good, and the engagement with Alyssa Humphrey is a political decision, not a love-match, but Suzanne doesn't know any of this. Jasmine Cresswell takes the reader through various twists as we learn with Suzanne what is really going on and who each of the players in the story are. I really enjoyed this book, and am keen to find more by the same author. Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate more of her books, as this one was published in 1992.