Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Review: Temporary Wife Temptation

Sexy, romantic cover
Note: Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee was published by Harlequin Desire in 2020.  In 2022, Harlequin repackaged the story, slapped it with a cartoon cover I want to set on fire and retitled it The "I Do" Dilemma. You can still purchase the digital version, but only under the new cover and title, hence the link in this review directing to that edition. I'm posting the original cover to this review because it's a million times prettier and more fitting to what's inside the tin but I'll post the new cover below so we can all be outraged together.  Thanks for coming to my TED talk


One of my local libraries recently had a romance author program of which Lee took part.  Wanting to support the program, and the library staff who put it together, I attended and ended up purchasing one of Lee's single titles while there. I knew I had several of her Desires languishing in my TBR, and decided this first book in her Heirs of Hansol series was the place to start. 

This book features the kind of preposterous plot that I tend to gobble up in category romance - the modern day marriage of convenience.  Garrett Song is very close to being named the new CEO of his family's fashion empire, that is until his very traditional (and domineering) grandmother lowers the boom on him - she's arranged a marriage for him. To a woman he's never met. The selling point for Granny being that the family is the equivalent of "old money" in Korean society and her grandson needs a wife. Garrett has been bristling against tradition and family expectations his entire life and is not about to go quietly. He immediately tells Granny he can't marry her chosen bride because, well, he's already engaged to the love his life.  One minor problem with that - Garrett isn't engaged, let alone believes in love or wants to get married. He needs a temporary wife and fast - but where will he find a woman desperate (and crazy) enough to accept this proposal?

Turns out he doesn't have to look far. Natalie Sobol works in Hansol's HR department. She worked with Garrett briefly on an interim basis while he was stationed in New York and she's been in Los Angeles - but now Garrett is in LA and she gets an up close and personal view of how desperately good-looking he is. But she's determined to swallow her hormones as she's gunning for a promotion that would take her to the New York office. She needs the bump in salary and the New York home base to secure the adoption of her orphaned niece. The child's grandparents live in New York and Natalie thinks if she's also in New York they'll stop contesting the adoption. Besides the fact she has to be offered that promotion is that a husband would help her cause tremendously - showing the courts she could provide her niece with a loving, stable, two-parent home. 

We all know where this is going. Garrett proposes a temporary marriage to solve both of their problems. Of course it doesn't take long for the feelings to become all too real given the scorching chemistry pinging off both of them from the jump. These two are desperately attracted to each other, and as they pretend their way through a fake engagement, walk down the aisle, and create a happy home, they both fall hard and fast. Of course getting Garrett to admit his feelings, out loud, when he's emotionally adverse is ultimately what propels the reader to the Black Moment. 

Ugh, I hate it
A few things I really liked about this story was the setting (the author writes about Southern California well in a compact word count) and the portrayal of both sides of the coin of the Korean American experience.  Garrett's family is very traditional. Natalie is the product of a biracial marriage (her mother now gone, her father always aloof, her sister killed in a car accident) and knows little about Korean traditions. Garrett is a prototypical romance hero - the one who was done wrong by a former fiancรฉ and therefore doesn't believe in "love," and Natalie is the soft-hearted romance heroine who recognizes her growing feelings well before he does.  I also really enjoyed that the author included the relationships the couple was building with Garrett's family and the niece's grandparents. It really rounds out the romance and helped me buy-in that these two crazy kids would make it.

That said, the hero being closed off emotionally is what leads us to the Black Moment and Third Act Break-Up.  He's one of those guys that instead of just saying "I love you, let's stay married" buys the heroine a pair of earrings and thinks she'll infer what he means ๐Ÿ™„.  That said, it does make for a decent grovel and declaration of twu wuv at the end.  I also felt the pacing was a little off at times - like the author didn't fully stick the landing on some of the story's beats.  Desires are short (around 200 pages) and sometimes that necessitates shortcuts, like a jump in the timeline. These weren't horribly executed here, but they could have been better blended at times.

All that said, this was an enjoyable read that I started and finished before my bedtime. Desire as a line is dead (RIP) but I'll read more Lee.

Final Grade = B-


azteclady said...

The story sounds good, with the bananapants premise just plausible enough in its many compounding complications. However, no fucking way would I buy it with that cartoon cover. Holy gods, that's hideous. Like not just bad, but hideous.

Holly @smut report said...

First, I absolutely agree about the cover.

Second, I read this back when it came out (because I saw the cover and said "I MUST HAVE THIS BOOK") and thought it delightful…but the single-title book by Lee I read did NOT work for me AT ALL. (It was A Sweet Mess and should have been titled A Hot Mess.) That was a few years ago and I've avoided her single-title stuff since then, but maybe she has newer ones that are less rage-inducing.

All of which is to say: what single-title did you get, and does it look good?

Wendy said...

AL: That's it exactly. There's an underlying plausibility to the bananapants that really makes it work. And that cartoon cover just KILLS me because, hello - the original cover is AMAZING!

Holly: Ha! Well turns out I bought Booked On a Feeling - which is apparently the third book in the Sweet Mess series ๐Ÿ˜‚. When I attend author events I always make a point to purchase at least one book - something for the author taking the time, especially for library events which they often do for free or for a very small honorarium. This one features a lawyer heroine taking a sabbatical after passing out from a panic attack at work and returning home to reunite with her childhood friend, the hero. He's, of course, been carrying a torch.

willaful said...

Ugh! Not only butt-ugly but also white-washes. ๐Ÿคฌ

This one sounds fun, I'll pop it on Mt. TBR.

Wendy said...

Willaful: Yeah, it's terrible. Lee's single titles feature illustrated covers so I'm sure Harlequin was looking to capitalize on that - but ugh. We need a book without a cartoon cover to start dominating sales so publishers head down the copy cat road - although I'm beginning to think it won't happen. I suspect the cartoon covers are cheaper to produce and here we are ๐Ÿ™ƒ

eurohackie said...

Sorta off topic (only sorta - I have this entire series, in original Desire form, on my Mount TBR) but what happened to the Desire Line? I should've seen the writing on the wall these last couple of months when all the print versions were doubles but the end still came as a surprise. There doesn't appear to be a comparable new line to take its place?

Feel free to point me in the right direction if this lands on your "let me google that for you" pile, LOL.

Wendy said...

Eurohackie: I don't know how comparable it is as I haven't read any yet - but Desire got killed and in it's place sprang up Afterglow - which come out in trade paperback and retail for $12.99. On top of that, right now that line only releases 2 books / month. Oh, and they're around 250 pages.

Thanks, hate it already.

Also, this is wild speculation and I have absolutely no confirmation - but I've heard that part of the demise is because of Walmart (sales? shelving availability? the fact that cartoon covers aren't remotely sexy and Walmart are bunch of prudes?). I suspect it has more to do with the higher mark-up on trade paperback and publishers making more money off of them. Either way, it's probably a little of both.

It makes me sad. Desire was the first category romance line I ever read and an early favorite.