Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.30, ISBN 978-0-263-87850-9
Contemporary Romance, 2010
A Mistake, a Prince and a Pregnancy is a pretty typical example of a book in the Modern line which is “good” only because it doesn’t have all the elements of inscrutable stupidity that typically plague a Modern book. In the case of this book, the hero ranks far lower on the Smelly Asshole Meter than your typical Savros Konijiwakakis the Greek Neanderthal Billionaire and the heroine’s spine isn’t completely made of weeks-old gruel.
It still has an idiot plot, though. Alison Whitman, a 28-year old virgin, has never experienced lust or anything remotely resembling it ever since author Maisey Yates unpacked Alison from the Pregnant Barbie box three days ago. While romance heroines are known to aspire to emulate the Virgin Mother as much as possible, Alison takes this complex to new heights by getting herself artificially inseminated. Her friend, who works at the IVF clinic, revealed to her shortly before this story opens that the IVF clinic had turkey-bastered her with the wrong sperm.
Never mind. Alison may be a lawyer but it never occurs to her to sue that IVF clinic for lots and lots of money. She’s too busy seeking out the father of her baby to get him to get a medical check-up. Alison carries the cystic fibrosis gene, you see, and she had made sure that the sperm sample she picked came from a man who did not carry that gene. Now, she wants to make sure that this man who inadvertently aided her to become closer to the Virgin Mother will give her a healthy baby. Since she has no intention of aborting her baby, I don’t know why she can’t wait for the newborn screening, but as I’ve said, it isn’t a Modern romance without an idiot plot.
The father is Prince Maximo Rossi, the Prince of some place called Turan. Despite his preconception of all career women as heartless scheming whores who use babies as props to climb the career ladder (don’t ask – clearly we are not “Modern” enough to appreciate the nuances of this plot), he realizes that he can’t have a baby born out of wedlock. His wife died two years ago without leaving behind an heir, and therefore, now he must marry Alison. Alison gives some lip service to wanting to be an independent modern woman, but she’s not fooling anyone. Which woman can resist being a Virgin Mother who also gets to star in a Princess Diana-style fantasy, only without the ugly husband and his horse-faced mistress to ruin the mood?
On the bright side, after Maximo has gotten the obligatory misogynist-pig act out of the way, he settles down to become an unexpectedly agreeable fellow, actually. Okay, he’s still a pushy guy who pretty much shoves Alison into marriage and more, but at least his Madonna/Whore complex does not come with the intelligence of a gnat and petty cruelty. It’s not much, I know, but when it comes to books like these, I’d take what I can get.
It is quite hilarious, though, how Ms Yates has Maximo professing his love for his late wife, while at the same time she demonstrates to the reader how lacking the poor dead wife is compared to Alison. After all, Alison positively glows with life while her fecund womb is bearing the fruit of Maximo’s seed, whereas the late Selena is depicted as always sickly and – this is clearly the vilest of the vile a woman can do – she deprived her husband of sex during her very ill final days of her life. What a bitch!
Alison does have some degree of backbone, which is good, and she has a relatively good sense of self-awareness when it comes her idiotic situation with Maximo. But at the same time, she is terrible at dealing with pressure. She crumples after her first confrontation with the paparazzi and she is cowed by people who show the slightest hint of authority. And yet Alison is supposed to be a passionate crusader of justice, taking down pedophiles and other perverts everywhere! Maybe she waves placards at these perverts while cowering from behind a table. It is probably a good thing that the epilogue shows that she has found her true calling in life – playing at being a part-time activist when she’s already attained the true calling of a Modern Romance Heroine: making a happy home with a husband and a baby.
A Mistake, a Prince and a Pregnancy has too many problems to be considered even halfway decent. The heroine is nowhere as capable as she claims to be; she is also saddled with contrived reasons to allow her to become unrealistically chaste and self-depreciating. The plot is rubbish – the whole mistaken sperm sample thing is quickly forgotten once the hero and the heroine meet up. But let’s look at the sunny side of things: if you are stuck at the airport and you really need something to read, this is easily one of the least toxic titles from the Modern releases of this month.