by Portia Da Costa, contemporary (2011)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-269-1
Portia Da Costa's Far From Perfect reads a bit like an old-school romance, with an Italian hero with a scowl as aristocratic as the bridge of his nose, fake engagements, and a whole "lifestyles of the rich and famous in the 1980s" vibe.
Anna Felgate has been in love with Niccolo Lisitano, the son of her father's best friend, ever since forever. Yes, it's that story. In the prologue, she sneaks into his bedroom, hoping that she will finally get to lose her virginity to him. He doesn't put up much of a fight, until he realizes too late that she
is was a virgin. Like pretty much other heroes of this sort, he acts like deflowering a virgin is a mortal sin and the magic pretty much evaporates subsequently. How sad. If Anna wasn't a virgin, he'd probably go back for seconds and thirds. A man's Madonna/Whore complex can be so bothersome when a girl just wants to have fun, I tell you.
We cut to four years down the road. This time around, Nick seeks out Anna for a favor. His father is recovering from a major surgery, and Nick feels that the old man will recover faster if Nick finally gets married to Anna, which has always been something the old man has wanted. Anna's father also believes that these two should get married too. It looks like those two are meant to be, but Nick would prefer a fake engagement. Can Anna change Nick's mind?
The thing is, Far From Perfect isn't particularly steamy, and what is left isn't very interesting. Nick and Anna aren't as silly as a typical couple from a Harlequin Presents book, but they are stuck in a plot that sees them talking and going round and round over some issues that seem trivial to me. Nick doesn't want to have sex with Anna because he feels guilty about taking her virginity, to an extent that it seems like he has some complex about virgins. I don't understand him, but then again, I'm not a shrink and he does come off like he needs a few sessions with one. It's not that he is needlessly abusive or cruel like billionaire Italian heroes tend to be in stories of this kind - he has his good points, like the fact that he loves his father - it's just that his complex, issue, or whatever it is seems exaggerated to an unrealistic degree for the sake of conflict.
Anna is a pretty likable heroine for one stuck in a fake engagement plot with a guy she has adored forever, but I don't understand what she sees in him beyond the fact that he looks good wearing a banana hammock. That guy is just too neurotic and weird for my liking, going on and on as he does about his issues.
Ultimately, Far From Perfect has an internal conflict to keep the story going, and this internal conflict doesn't feel real and therefore it isn't compelling enough to hold the story together as far as I am concerned. This one would have worked much better as a shorter story, I feel. As it is, the title of this one is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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