Harlequin Presents, $4.75, ISBN 978-0-373-12771-9
Contemporary Romance, 2008
I thought I was immune to the awe-inspiring tackiness of Harlequin Presents titles by now but when I first came across Ruthlessly Bedded by the Italian Billionaire, that title made me pause and blink in a “Wait, did I read that correctly?” manner. I can only imagine how much alcohol one has to consume in order to come up with this title.
This one may claim to have a ruthless Italian penis of doom, but it is set in Australia, the land of blushing sheilas. The story opens with Jenny Kent slowly regaining her consciousness in a hospital. She was involved in a car accident, you see. The thing is, there seems to be a case of mistaken identity as the folks in the hospital address her as Bella Rossini. Bella is her friend, or was, in this case, since poor Bella never survived the accident. Because Jenny is worried that she would be at the mercy of Social Services – yes, Social Services – should these people know of who she is, she decides to become Isabella Rossini and let Jenny Kent “die”.
Bella was an orphan and her late father was estranged from the rest of the Rossini clan in Italy. The plan could have worked, but if it does, there won’t be any story here. Dante Rossini – playboy, cold, emotionless, the usual – is on a mission to bring the daughter of an estranged Rossini son to his grandfather for the family reunion. At last, the clan patriarch has located this daughter! This man must have been a former Harlequin Presents hero himself because he wants Dante to pretty much drag Bella back to Rome whether she likes it or not. In this case, it isn’t long before Jenny finds the ruthless Italian sausage breathing down her neck.
Jenny is shocked. She signs “Bella” on the paintings that she does for a living, so how does Dante know that she is Isabella instead of Bella? No, really, that is what she thinks. It’s all there on page 30, which should tell you that Jenny isn’t going to lay claim to the adjective “smart” any time in this century. When faced with the possibility that she may be unmasked, even if it’s clear that Dante does not recognize her as a fake, she throws a hysterical fit.
Fortunately for her, Dante decides that, impostor or not, Bella here is going to help him placate the family patriarch. The old man could croak soon, but as long as he lives, Jenny will assume the role of Bella to keep the man happy, especially as the news of Bella’s death could hasten the old coot to his grave. What happens next is Dante helpfully guiding Jenny through the deception, making sure that the stupid chit doesn’t give the game away. He does a good job in that, I must say, which makes this book a far more enjoyable read than it would otherwise be.
Believe it or not, Dante is a pretty nice fellow here. He displays some alpha male traits, but he’s far from stupid. I also like how he actually communicates well with Jenny. I show, a Harlequin Presents hero that actually listens to the heroine, how shocking. Perhaps the title of this story is trying to overcompensate for the lack of rampant stubborn male behavior typically present in stories of this imprint. Jenny could have been a rampaging stupid heroine, but as I’ve said, Dante is the perfect daddy/lover figure that keeps Jenny from running wild in this story.
Ruthlessly Bedded by the Italian Billionaire is a predictable story in the sense that there are many things about this story that will be familiar if you have read a few stories of this kind. Still, it’s also a pretty enjoyable read all the same.