I've been seriously hankering for a Harlequin reading binge, and now that I'm free from the oppressive yoke of review books I can indulge my every whim.
A Year And A Day by Inglath Cooper is an emotional Harlequin SuperRomance about a woman desperate to escape an abusive marriage. Audrey Colby's husband is a Grade A asshole - not only does he beat the crap out of her, he's also cheating on her. To make matters worse, some of their high society friends know exactly what Audrey is enduring and have done nothing to intervene. After years of planning, and scrapping together money, she finally has a plan. She's going to leave the country with her young son, Sammy, and start a new life. Then Nicholas Wakefield shows up and almost ruins everything.
Nicholas is a former prosecutor turned corporate lawyer. He works for the firm that represents Audrey's asshole husband. When he first meets Audrey it's like a ton of bricks falling on him. He's drawn to this woman, but something doesn't quite add up. She's hiding something, and with his superhero complex he's determined to help her whether she wants it or not.
This story isn't much of a romance, but it's still a very good emotional read. Audrey's abusive marriage rings true (depressingly so), and I was immediately swept up in her plans to escape. Audrey has bigger problems than falling in love, and given what she's dealing with, there isn't a lot of time for romance. Also, Nicholas' feelings for her feel very "love at first sight" with some "rescue fantasies" tossed into the mix. That said, it works because Cooper draws her characters as individuals so well. I also loved, loved, loved the way she handled the ending. I would have been extremely cheesed off if Audrey had left her husband and jumped right into another marriage (blessedly she doesn't). It's a hopeful ending. Audrey and Nicholas both have baggage, and it's not until they sort that out on their own that they decide - what the heck? Let's try this. So no wedding, no heroine squirting out babies. YeeHaw! The only quibble - the asshole husband isn't castrated in the end. There's a bit of justice (again, depressingly real-to-life) but readers looking for his guts to be ripped out will be disappointed. Final Grade = B
Sigh, I have no idea why I had this Silhouette Romance in my TBR since it features a plot device that rarely works for me (heroine wants to run the family business, but Daddy hires hero instead). I probably got suckered in by the single dad story line. One Man And A Baby by Susan Meier is part of a series, and tells the story of reformed bad boy, Rick Capriotti. An on-again-off-again relationship with a senator's daughter results in her getting pregnant and abandoning the baby on his doorstep. What is it with romance heroes and their inability to figure out condoms? Anyway, he needs to keep the baby a secret until after the local election, as his father is running for sheriff and sonny boy knocking up a senator's daughter would be some huge scandal (this whole thing didn't really work for me, although Meier pulls out all the stops trying to sell it). He's also afraid when the senator finds out he has a grandchild that he'll fight for custody. So Rick decides to get a respectable job overseeing a horse ranch. Minor problem though. The rancher's daughter, Ashley Meljac, is hell-bent on running the show herself and Rick ends up getting stuck showing her the ropes.
The problem with this book is that the characters make bad first impressions. Rick and Ashley have a history. He was the town bad boy, she was the uptight trust fund baby who refused to help him cheat in his high school English class. I know, what an unreasonable bitch! They squabble. They bicker. My eyes bleed. Then there's a miraculous turn around, they both start behaving a bit more like adults, but the romance sort of "happens" without much explanation. Also I'll never understand romance heroes and heroines hell-bent on returning to their small hometowns when everyone in that town is a petty gossip who makes their lives miserable. It's readable, but it wasn't enough to get me curious about the other books in "The Cupid Campaign" series so Final Grade = C.