Amnesia already setting in.

Title: In Love with John Doe
In Love with John DoeAuthor: Cindy Kirk

Mills & Boon Cherish
Timestamp: Nov 12

Things I might actually remember about this one:

Frankly, not a lot. I found it all sort of low-key; cosy, but forgettable. Possibly this might be because I’m still coming down off the giddy high of that last thing I read.

Also it’s one of those romances where the heroine is sensible because she has a child to raise on her own, which I’m sure is realistic, but isn’t particularly thrilling to read about.

There was a snowstorm in the beginning, which I usually go for, but no one got dramatically snowed in or anything, so meh.

The hero had amnesia, but even that is treated so sensibly that I couldn’t get enthused. I like my improbable soap opera elements to be semi-hysterical and improbable and dramatic, damn it.

Because the heroine is the social worker that the hospital assigns to him, the beginning is vaguely medical, but that amounts to nothing more than “they keep running into friends of hers who are nurses or doctors.”

I bought this for the cover, which is pink and gorgeous, and then I ended up in a frothing rage for a moment when I hit the line that made it painfully clear that the cover photo had nothing to do with the story. Look at that photo. Now read this: 

Her dark hair hung loose to her shoulders in a sleek bob, and her amber-colored eyes were focused on the chart in her hand.

Now look at the cover again. Is that not irritating?

Anyway. When my husband saw the title he remarked that it put him in mind of unclaimed corpses. To be honest that would have been a more interesting read.

Active Ingredients:

Amnesia
Snowstorm
Heroine’s Adorable Child
Planning Someone Else’s Wedding
Vaguely Medical

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The Brat and the Billionaire

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Title: Enemies at the Altar

Author: Melanie Milburne

Harlequin Presents
Timestamp: Sep12

Reasons I might actually remember this one:
First and most importantly: I loved it. Loved loved loved it.

It was an ultimate guilty pleasure-read for me: the heroine is wrongly accused of gold-digging and sluttishness by the hero; she is secretly more innocent than she appears; she has a TWIN SISTER, which reminds me, I need to track down the other book (I’m assuming there’s another book, since it has “The Outrageous Sisters” in a little Box of Series-ness on the back); there’s one of those pitiable dogs which are a metaphor for the heroine–in this case, a homeless dog that bites because it’s been mistreated; there’s simmering and, okay, actually-boiling-over class tension; and the hero is made to feel satisfactorily guilt-stricken at several points.

The hero and heroine are forced into a mandatory marriage by his father’s will. As far as I’m concerned, more wills should be written with bizarre clauses like that. Anyway, all this is complicated by their mutual seething hatred of each other, dating from the time when she was seventeen and threw herself at him, and then when they were caught together (her semi-nude and, well, seventeen) she lied her head off and blamed him. And THAT was further complicated by her having lied in order to save her mother’s job as the hero’s father’s housekeeper (and mistress). So there are bucketloads of class tension and resentment and it’s just delicious, it really is.

The heroine has allowed herself to be wrongfully presented in the tabloid press as a bit of a slut, and she also had a lavender marriage which everyone assumes was actually a marriage-of-extreme-gold-digging, so everything the hero thinks he knows about her is much, much worse than reality. So he mistreats her and says horrible things to her, and she mostly just pretends not to care and lies her ass off back at him, because she’d rather have him hate her than pity her. Naturally she also tames a stray dog who turns into a very heavy-handed but adorable metaphor for this behaviour: it bites and snarls but really it only needs to be loved.

It’s all completely ridiculous, and interestingly aware of it’s own ridiculousness (several times the heroine points out that billionaires only fall in love with girls like her in fairy tales, not in real life), and I loved it to bits.

Active Ingredients:
Mandatory Marriage
Manipulative Will
Hero Rescues Heroine’s Family Member/Pet (a stray dog, in this case)
Hero Insults Heroine by Refusing to Believe she is a [near-] Virgin
Hounded/Lauded by the Press
Justice at Last
Kindly Servants
Dog as Metaphor
Desperately Poor Heroine
Youthful Passion for Hero (Secretly Requited)
Heroine Accused of a Crime (well, accused of marrying for money and being an easy lay, in this case)
Neglectful Family/Stepfamily
Twin Sister
Seething Class Tension

Pretend Arabs

duty and the beast

Why are there so many the-sheik-and-the-something romance novels? Is it a fetish? Is it because of The Sheik?

Title: Duty and the Beast. Honestly, wouldn’t you buy it for the title alone?

Author: Trish Morey

Harlequin Presents

Timestamp: Sep12. I am never going to get caught up here.

Things I might actually remember about this one: It’s one of the sheik-y ones, with an innocent Princess heroine of an imaginary kingdom. I love the imaginary kingdom thing. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but somehow the made-up country aspect appeals.
It caused me a few anxious moments, though, as the sheik-y ones always do. The thing is, I can’t quite put real Middle East culture entirely out of my mind, so when the heroine was expressing her unhappiness with the we-must-marry-to-save-our-kingdoms situation by pretending to think the hero was gay, I kept cringing and expecting the situation to get really, really ugly. Which of course it didn’t–it couldn’t; he’s the hero so he has to have a certain amount of self-control. But I cannot see that particular brand of bratty-bitchiness leading anywhere good if you tried it on a real live sheik.

Active Ingredients:
A Very Jasmine Princess
Mandatory Marriage
British-educated Sheikh
Imaginary Country/Kingdom
Hero Rescues Heroine’s Family Member/Pet
Heroine watches Hero Bathe/Swim/Generally Being Naked
Hero Insults Heroine by Refusing to Believe she is a Virgin

The Virgin-Obsessed Billionaire’s Innocent Not-Quite-Virgin

tainted beauty

Title: A Tainted Beauty
Author: Sharon Kendrick

Harlequin Presents
Timestamp: Sep12

This time around, Things I Might Actually Remember About This One isn’t going to cut it, so I’m dividing that into two sections:

Things I Loved About This Novel: The heroine in this was superb. I liked her from the first instant, partly because she bakes and wears retro fashions, but also because she’s one of those “alone in the world” heroines I get such a kick from. Evil selfish stepmother: check. Somewhat menial job, which she nevertheless enjoys: check. Devotion to family/pet: check (a younger brother, in this case).

But the BEST thing about this heroine was that she was sweet, innocent, old-fashioned, innocent, and yet NOT A VIRGIN. My God, it’s as though there are categories of women other than “virgin” and “whore next door.” So stunning. And this heroine had a relationship–complete with engagement, sex, and being left at the alter–WITHOUT losing her slightly old-fashioned scrupulousness about men. FANTASTIC. Well done, author.

Things I Hated About This Novel: The Hero.

In a sense, though, I have to say “well done author” with regards to this too, because she clearly set out to show him mistreating the heroine horribly because of his own Incredible Freaking Damage, and boy, did she succeed. I HATED this hero. Flat-out hated him. The way he behaved towards the heroine once he found out she wasn’t a virgin was cruel and, well, insane.

In the book this is slightly-explained-away by having the heroine APOLOGIZE for not having told him she wasn’t a virgin, but there’s absolutely no “So, are you a virgin?” conversation anywhere along the way, so why the hell should she have? He could have taken enough interest to ask her about her past relationships. Instead he acts as if her refusal to leap into bed with him is, in itself, dishonest. Because she’s not a virgin.

So in the BOOK there are categories other than Virgin and Whore Next Door, but in the hero’s head there aren’t.

If I had to pick out one single most hateful thing about him, it’s that for nine-tenths of the book you think his incredible jackassery about women, and his particular hatred for his own mother, is justified by his mother’s having brought home lots of men when he was a child. She sounded like a sort of Christian Grey’s Mom, only without the actual crack. But then you find out all she did was date a handful of men after being abandoned by her husband, because she thought she should find a stepfather for her child, and in that moment my opinion of the hero flipped from “damaged, but with reason I guess” to “incredibly freaking self-centred and INSANE.”

I may be giving the impression I didn’t like this book–but I did. It was infuriating, but utterly enjoyable.

Conversation I would have liked to have seen: “Of course I forgive you, darling. I love you. And yes, I want to stay married to you and Live Happily Ever After. But for that to happen, you need absolutely truckloads of therapy. So find someone qualified–a credentialed therapist, a wise and experienced priest, whatever–and go see them twice a week for like FOREVER, because otherwise I expect this epiphany you’ve had about how emotionally abusive you are will fade away and leave us right where we were just now when I left you because you assumed I was a money-grubbing slut. Got it?”

Poor Girls and Princesses

Title: Unlocking Her Innocence
Author: Lynne Graham

Harlequin Presents
Timestamp: Nov12unlocking her innocence
Things I might actually remember about this one: Actually, I might keep this one, at least for a while. Aside from the sex scenes (which I guess were forbidden back in the day, and are apparently mandatory now), this one felt very much like the ones I remember my grandmother reading: it had a virginal heroine, wrongfully accused and condemned; a rich, aloof hero, who she’d had a crush on since she was too young for him  look at; and absolutely Cinderella-level pathos and aloneness. Delicious.Why are downtrodden heroines, mistreated and misunderstood by everyone, so much fun to read about?

Active Ingredients:
Desperately Poor Heroine
Youthful Passion for Hero (Secretly Requited)
Heroine Accused of a Crime
Neglectful Family/Stepfamily
Christmas
Dog as Metaphor
Kindly Servants
Hero Rescues Heroine’s Family Member/Pet (adopts dog, in this case)
Hounded/Lauded by the Press
Justice at Last

LRH_TheGirlNobodyWanted

Title: The Girl Nobody Wanted
Author: Lynn Raye Harris

Harlequin Presents
Timestamp: Nov12

Things I might actually remember about this one: In spite of the title, this had less of a “friendless and alone in the world” vibe than the last one. What this heroine mainly needed was a good shake, since her problems amount to being jilted by a man she didn’t love anyway, and attracting tabloid attention for being jilted and rich. On the other hand, her rigid, self-controlled, secretly insecure personality was quite appealing.
Warning: Pregnancy. I don’t mean the book causes pregnancy; I mean it turns into a story of accidental pregnancy. So if that isn’t your cup of tea, skip it.
 
Active Ingredients: 
Imaginary Country/Kingdom
Jilted Heroine
Accidental Pregnancy
Stranded in the Wilderness
Rich People’s Problems
Hounded/Lauded by the Press