Sunday, December 31, 2017

#DeckTheHarlequin: The Queen's New Year Secret

I read category romance for a variety of reasons, but when it comes to Harlequin Presents, there's really only one reason.  I'm in it for the fairy tale.  Presents work best for me when they're a blatant, hit you upside the head with a sledgehammer, fairy tale.  And really, nobody writes an unapologetic fairy tale quite like Maisey Yates.  She's a master of it.

The Queen's New Year Secret is the second book in a duology featuring princely brothers for a made-up Mediterranean-sounding country.  I read the first book, A Christmas Vow of Seduction, last year during the holidays and it was....OK.  It had moments, but I never warmed to the hero and frankly, Yates has written better.  But she did a good job of setting up this book, which features King Kairos kidnapping his Queen, Tabitha, in the hopes of convincing her to not divorce him.

Five years ago Kairos was set to marry another woman.  Until said woman slept with his brother.  Which would be bad enough, but to make it truly a bridge too far the whole sordid affair was caught on camera and sold to the tabloids.  The wedding is literally weeks away and Kairos is bound by his misguided sense of duty.  So what does he do?  He convinces his PA, a poor white trash girl from Iowa who clawed her way through with single-minded determination and education, to marry him.  He lays it out as your classic marriage of convenience, Tabitha accepts, and they get down to the business of making an heir and a spare.  Except, you guessed it, barren desert.  No babies.  And the strain is taking a toll.

Tabitha agreed to the marriage for "reasons."  Kairos' proposal certainly wasn't one full of passion and devotion, so it's not like she was harboring illusions.  But five years of...nothing?  There's literally nothing there.  Kairos looks at her like he looks at a potted plant or a piece of furniture.  She's coming to the realization that while the idea of "passion" scares her (for "reasons") - she also can't stay in this loveless marriage slowly withering away.  So she confronts him with divorce papers on New Year's Eve and whoa boy - passion shows up.  Along with anger.  Before you can say hatefu-- "angry sex" that's what ends up happening on Kairos' office desk.  And wouldn't you know it?  Tabitha finally ends up pregnant.

BECAUSE OF COURSE SHE DOES!

But she's not about to call off the divorce.  Her marriage is a dumpster fire, and she knows it.  Unfortunately Kairos didn't get the memo.  He whisks his wife out of the doctor's office, takes her to his private, secluded island (because, of course) and tells her that they will remain there for two weeks.  He's hoping to convince her to stay.

What follows are a lot of angry, hurt words, a lot of communication that should have happened five years ago, and a hero who holds on to his secrets for entirely too long.  Tabitha bares her soul pretty early on and Kairos makes overtures, but it's always one step forward, two steps back with this guy.  The minute Tabitha gets close to exposing his vulnerabilities, he completely shuts down.  It's so intense with this guy it doesn't just take one secondary character to smack him upside the head....it takes TWO!

For her part, I thought Tabitha had interesting baggage (albeit slightly unrealistic given today's tabloid "news" culture - her secrets should have been unearthed EONS ago!) and she's the brand of HP heroine who gives as good as she gets.  The hero says some awful things to her in anger and she says awful things right back.  This isn't some mouse who slinks off to a corner when the hero is mean to her.  She's at the stage where she's well and truly done.  She doesn't know how she's going to leave, what she's going to do, where she's going to go - but she's leaving thankyouverymuch.

This is a talky book and the characters are both feisty in their anger - so it all does get rather exhausting after a while.  But it's a solid read in a soap opera sort of way, a slightly different feel from what I usually expect from a Yates HP (which would be, say it with me, the fairy tale).  Still, I don't regret that this was my last read of 2017.

Final Grade = B-

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