The Bargain
by Francis Ray, historical (2000, 1995 reissue)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6616-3

The Bargain is Francis Ray's first (only?) historical, and since the author is a well-known contemporary author, I'm curious to see how her historical would be like. Well, I can now report that it's just like every other marriage-of-convenience historical out there in the market. Worse, I happened to read this in between the Olympics male swim and gymnastic tournaments - with such predictable plot, characters, and dialogues, it's a tough choice between Aleksei Nemov's flirty grin and tight butt and The Bargain. Oh, decisions, decisions!

Alexandria Carstairs is like some sort of Western tomboy heroine transplanted to England. She rides astride, shoots, wear breeches, etc etc - in short, she is the usual Raised In Economics, Innocent In Flirtation, Thinks Herself Unpretty, Refuses To Marry sort of heroine. The Eeek! Can she get any more contrived?! sort. She even has a pet wolf. Don't ask.

Imagine then her predictable explosion when Daddy announces the marriage contract he has signed with hero's daddy. Alex, it's time to marry Thorne the Devil's Angel (er, devil's angel... isn't the devil an angel in the first place?). Gee, Thorne is a rake, the predictable womanizer who just refuses to marry, et cetera. But he will lose money if he doesn't marry, so he decides to pucker up. He's a hero, so he can safely says that he is in it solely for the money and not because the poor hungry staff is depending on him, by the way.

Since both refuses to marry (but oh, Alex can't forget that kiss, and that hungry virile body, and that jutting er-never-mind bulgie thing pressing against her as he clasps her to his embrace!), they strike a bargain (guess what sort - clue: no boinking, annulment, divorce, et cetera) to cohabitate for the time period (but oh, Thorne can't forget the luscious lips and that innocent air and that flaming passion waiting to burst out of her, er, whatever!), they have the usual bickerings and near-coital embraces, the villain steps in to cause trouble....

Wow! Does Aleksei have a cute butt or what? And is that American Lenny fellow swimming today? Drooly oh drooly. Thorne who?

Rating: 50

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