Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TBR Challenge 2011: Make-Believe Marriage

The Book: Wife For A Week by Kelly Hunter

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harlequin Presents, 2007, Out of Print, Available as eBook!

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  Many moons ago, in the comments for some post here at the Bat Cave (and no, I can't remember which one!), someone recommended Kelly Hunter to me.  I want to say it might have been a fellow Harlequin author?  Anywho, I'm a category romance ho, but HP is a line I have trouble navigating on my own (I like Alpha heroes, I do not like jerkwad Neanderthals), so I'm always open to recommendations for some good ones.

Review:  Nicholas Cooper needs a wife.  He's getting ready to close a business deal with an influential Hong Kong businessman, but the last time he was in town?  The man's very sheltered 18-year-old daughter threw herself at him.  Nicholas needs this deal to go off without a hitch, and in a moment of panic tells Daddy and Daughter he's married.  Now he's expected back in Hong Kong, and this time he's to bring along the wife.

Enter Hallie Bennett.  Nicholas meets her at a shoe store where she's serving time, saving money to go back to school.  Before you can say "meet cute," she's agreeing to help Nicholas out of his jam in exchange for an infusion into her Back To School Fund. 

First things first, readers need to get past the set-up to be able to buy-in to this story.  Nicholas and Hallie are strangers, and he's "known" (more like bantered) with her for all for a couple of pages before he pops the question the business proposition.  I was able to roll with it, mostly because I like the ol' pretend wife/husband/engagement trope and also because the dialogue in this story is positively delightful!  It's funny, it's charming, frankly it was the right book to find me at the right time (just as I'm coming off a dreadful reading slump).

The sizzle is appropriately sexy, and like all scenarios of this ilk, readers know that the "just business" arrangement between our couple is doomed to failure.  Also, while the story opens in London, the bulk of this tale takes place in Hong Kong, and the author writes the setting with plenty of flavor and color.  I also really appreciated that the author didn't go down the well-worn (and annoying) path with the teenage daughter.  She's not a shrew or spoiled, petulant princess - she's just a sheltered young woman looking for a way out.

What didn't work so well for me were a couple of elements that I felt were tacked on.  Namely, Hallie's...uh...sexual experience (or lack thereof).  Frankly, the disclosure of how many lovers she's had (or hasn't had) felt unnecessary and out-of-place.  Like the author had to fill some Old Skool Category Romance Quota.  There's also a suspense subplot that comes into play during the latter half of the book that just felt....silly.  My eyes started rolling...excessively.  This is a shame, since I really did find this story quite delightful in the early chapters.  Hallie and Nicholas have plenty of sizzle, coupled with a hinted at secondary romance featuring the 18-year-old sheltered daughter, it should have been more than enough to keep a 180 page Presents title chugging along to the finish line.

But you know what?  Those issues aside, I really did enjoy this book.  I've been in a slump, and Hunter's knack with dialogue really had me devouring this story in record time.  It was charming, funny, and I was amused for a goodly portion of it.  It's not love at first sight, but I'm very happy I have a couple more of her books in my TBR.

Final Grade = C+


Hannah said...

Thanks for the review! I have Untameable Rogue by Kelly Hunter in my TBR pile. It's part of a continuity about the Bennett brothers, so it's a spinoff of Wife for a Week.
I also chose a Presents title for my TBR challenge--just need to finish the review and post over my lunch hour today!
Generally speaking the HP Extra titles have more modern heroines and less alphaholeish heroes. The one that I read for the challenge (Walk on the Wild Side by Natalie Anderson) read more like a Harlequin Romance title (albeit much steamier) to me.

avoriana said...

I didn't think you read any Presents! I'm glad that you do. Now I can say, "SuperWendy reads them!"

Wendy said...

Hannah & Avoriana: I am woefully under-read in the HP line, but I'm trying to do better. I tend to pick up category romance (by new-to-me authors) solely based on back cover blurbs, and for a long time the HP cover copy just read SO over-the-top to me. So I'm really reliant on reviews and recommendations. Lucky for me there are lots of bloggers who love HPs, and review quite a few of them. Makes things easier for newbies to the line like me :)