by Kathryn Ross, contemporary (2009)
Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.19, ISBN 978-0-263-87207-1
Kept By Her Greek Boss is a misleading title for this dated and ridiculous story of ruthless sexual harassment, because "kept by" implies that the heroine gets paid for services rendered. In this story, however, heroine Katie Connor plays the underappreciated martyr all the way to the last three pages. She's not paid and she's certainly not even treated halfway decently by the hero Alexi Demetri. If she is supposed to be a mistress, she is the worst mistress I've ever come across.
Don't ask me why Katie Connor had an affair with her boss Alexi. All I know is that she finds his looks, angry caresses, and demanding insistence that they have sex when he needs some too irresistible. You'd think a smart woman will try extra hard to prevent a pregnancy when she's sleeping with the boss in an affair that they both agree is temporary, but no, Katie has a pregnancy scare instead and resigns... only to end up working in another company owned by Alexi.
And yes, she's pregnant after all, whoo-pee-doo. Meanwhile, Alexi is like, "Me want sex! Me want pump you long, long time!" as he pretty much does everything but ravish her in front of everyone in a meeting in his urgent alpha Italian need to shag her out of his system. Katie cannot bear the thought of aborting the baby, but at the same time she'd rather be a single mother than to subject her brat to a family without a loving daddy. Isn't she selfless? Alexi, of course, insists that while they don't love each other, he wants her to marry him because he wants his kid to have a loving home, even if it's a pretend one. So these two argue, bicker, and do a lot of stupid things until Katie finally succumbs to her stupidity and Alexi finally realizes, in the last three pages, that he loves her after all.
Sigh. And they're breeding! Don't we have doctors to spay these stupid people?
This story... I don't know, it's just that while I understand that some readers will love this fantasy, I find myself distracted by how unlikely this story can take place in a contemporary work environment. Alexi crosses the line so often here that, should this be real life, half his fortune would probably be gone to paying off his lawyers and what not in an endless procession of sexual harassment lawsuits. This makes Katie look even more foolish, because she keeps saying that she doesn't like the position Alexi puts her in but at the same time it never occurs to her to call a lawyer to put a stop to Alexi's antics. Of course, since this is a romance novel, we all know Katie's secretly gagging to be treated like a sexy sack of turnips, snort.
There are concessions to urban norms here, like vague references to Katie actually working or the fact that Katie actually knows the word "abortion", but I don't know why Ms Ross even bothers. Katie may work now and then, but she's valued more in this story for her body - which Alexi can't get enough of - and her reproductive abilities. Katie also says that it is hard to be single mother, but since she's so willing to become one if it makes her a martyr, that makes her more foolish than modern.
The only reason why I don't completely fail this book is, in that scene where Katie realizes that she is pregnant, I am struck by how real Ms Ross managed to capture the emotions Katie is feeling at that time. Katie's confusion, worries about her situation, and her need to talk, scream, and cry to someone over the fact that her life has been changed irrevocably - that scene is like a sole unexpected unguarded moment when Ms Ross has me believing for a moment that she is a much better writer than this material would suggest. And then, the characters start behaving like silly fools and I wonder whether I have imagined that moment.
And given how ridiculous the two characters behave in this story, the only person I end up feeling sorry for - not counting myself, of course - is the baby. Boy, that brat is going to have a hard time growing up in a household where Daddy is an asshole and Mommy is Daddy's submissive rag doll. This is the rare moment when the Beatles were right when they said that money can't buy you love.
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