Saturday, March 4, 2017
Review: Falling for Her Fake Fiance
At one point I was caught up on all the Beaumont stories by Sarah M. Anderson. Oh, those were the days. With two more books in the original series, plus with three books in the spin-off Beaumont Bastards series - well it's time for me to play catch-up. I miscalculated (sorry Byron Beaumont - you'll have to wait!) and mistakenly picked up Falling for Her Fake Fiance (Book 5) instead of reading in order. That's OK though, this one stands alone fairly well and besides - fake engagement/relationship is a favorite here at the Bat Cave.
The Beaumonts are a family brewing dynasty and events in previous books have led to the company being sold. It's no longer a family business. The four brothers (featured in the previous books) have all come around on this and have started their own ventures. They've moved on. That's proving harder for Frances Beaumont. Without the brewery, without the Beaumont "name" - she's not sure who she is. I mean, if she's not the provocative wild child of the Beaumont clan, who is she? It also doesn't help matters that she's lost enough money on failed business ventures to support three dynasties. She's moved back into the family mansion, sold off most of her designer clothes, and is trying to scrape together enough money to start yet another business. The problem is her brothers are through with supporting her schemes and Frances sees the mess her life has become as the fault of Ethan Logan.
Ethan was brought in as the new CEO by the company that bought the brewery. His job isn't to dismantle and sell off - rather to reorganize and restructure. The problem is that his work force is on the verge of mutiny and for some reason he doesn't just fire the lot of them for insubordination (he at least threatens it). Anyway, Frances is determined to undermine the takeover - for reasons. Thin reasons, but they're there. Also, a little revenge wouldn't be unwarranted. She waltzes into the CEO's office like a queen and has everybody eating out of her hand. And that's when Ethan comes up with a plan. He doesn't trust Frances, but he recognizes he needs her. He proposes a marriage of convenience. Help him bring the work force around, get married, pull the plug after a year, and he'll finance her latest business venture. Naturally Frances agrees - because, you know, romance novel.
I've actually made this sound fairly unpleasant, and it's really not. It's actually quite interesting from a category trope reversal standpoint. Basically what Anderson has done is take a Harlequin Presents plot and flip it. Instead of the bitter hero ticked off about the family business getting sold and looking to exact revenge? It's the heroine. Frances is a poor little rich girl whose father doted on her when it was convenient for him - which is why she has an attachment to the company. The only time her father seemed to notice her was during her visits to the brewery on "donut Friday." Her brothers weren't around, none of his various wives were (there were four) or countless mistresses (hence the spin-off Beaumont Bastards series). Without the brewery that "made" the Beaumont name, and the string of personal failures, what does that leave Frances with? Just the reputation of being the family screw-up - the one her brothers always have to clean-up after.
Ethan has his own warped past, his father a big time corporate raider, his mother an artist who would flit in and out of her son's life when she got tired of playing wife and mother. His parents' marriage was strictly an arrangement, so it's not a big leap for him to propose the marriage of convenience to Frances. Likewise, having witnessed her father's many marriages and at least one of the affairs (she caught him macking on his secretary once), Frances is pretty jaded when it comes to matters of the heart.
Of course we all know where this ends up. Ethan is completely smitten with Frances, who puts the the Capital C in "Challenging." Frances, when she isn't trying to throw away happiness with both hands, finds a partner in Ethan. Someone who doesn't treat her like a screw-up, who takes her seriously, and thinks of her as her own person - not an extension of her brothers, or a means to an end.
This won't be the book for everybody. My years kicking around Romancelandia have taught me that many readers measure heroes and heroines with different yardsticks. If Frances were the hero she would be chalked up to another Alpha male in a long line of Romancelandia Alphas. But because she's the heroine she will likely be deemed "unlikeable" and/or "unsympathetic." Oh, I'll just say it - some readers are going to find her to be a spoiled bitch. And you know what? She kind of is. And it makes the story. Otherwise this would just be another retread of a story we've all read countless times before. It's not my favorite of the series thus far, but it's certainly memorable.
Final Grade = B