Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.99, ISBN 978-0-263-91595-2
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Sometimes I wonder how authors in this line pick their plots. In Jennifer Hayward’s case, she often has to work around the plot to repair her characters, to make them seem less like subhuman beings with subpar intelligence, but then again, why have a plot that makes these characters seem so stupid in the first place? My theory is that the editors of this line lock the author up in a dark room with no windows, the only sound being the theme song of The Teletubbies streamed constantly until the author breaks down.
Oh yes, Carrying the King’s Pride. I’m sure you can tell what this story is about, and no, it has nothing to do with actual lions. Sofía Ramirez is a hot boutique lady and socialite in New York, who is in an affair with Prince Nikandros Constanihippopoopoopoulous of the kingdom of Akathinia. When the story opens, she realizes that she can’t say no to him every time he wags that thing at her, and surely, she will be dumped soon like all the other women in Nik’s past. Therefore, she has to break it off with him first! But first, she has to have one last night of hot sex with him.
Which brings me to this: this one is marketed as a book in the “Sexy” imprint in some parts of the world, rather than Presents or Modern, because the heroine happily goes down on the hero right there within the first 30 pages of the book. Hold the cheers and the pom-poms, though, the story then turns super stupid when she decides that she needs this night of sex to be “just us tonight” – which means, no condom. I guess to her, “just us” means him spraying his precious man goo all over her? Unfortunately, all of the places he could have hosed her, she wants him to be “just him” down there. Hence, baby. I tell you, some women really need to have an IUD permanently wired into their womb because stupid people really shouldn’t be allowed to procreate.
After being “just him” with Sofía, Nik learns that his brother, the heir to the throne, is dead and enemies of the island kingdom are most likely responsible. His father is dying, so Nik has to marry some nasty lady out of political pragmatism. When Sofía reads of the engagement, she’s like OH HOW DARE HE FORGETS ME SO EASILY UGH UGH UGH, despite the fact that she broke it off with him, not the other way around. No matter, she will be a single mommy, because Nik has left her the most perfect kid ever to grow in her womb, and single motherhood is the most romantic vocation any woman can aspire to. Nik, however, has people spying on her 24/7 – so romantic! – so he learns that “just us” has resulted in “just irresponsible”. Now, he will drag Sofía back to Ahahahahakikitoo or whatever that place is called, so that she can be his queen and act all prim and proper like a “proper” royalty lady would. I guess he doesn’t want her to go down on him anymore?
Oh, and because Nik remembers clearly that Sofía asked her to ditch the condom that night, he now suspects her of deliberately getting pregnant to entrap him into marriage. I’d think someone who wants to do that would ask him to ditch the condom from day one itself, but hey, the things stupid heroes in this line can come up with during their mental gymnastics have ceased to surprise me long ago. Nik’s a dire cliché – he’s been hurt before so he now thinks that all women are up to no good when it comes to him and his pee-pee, blah blah blah.
The author tries to repair her indescribably stupid story by having Sofía grow a spine later in the story and tell off what needs to be told to everyone around her, especially the whiny man-child Nik. But while I appreciate this, Sofía’s transformation from doormat sex doll to this doesn’t ring real or credible, it is as if a UFO has showed up when no one was looking to replace the old version with this new and improved one. And really, all these moments are just the author valiantly trying to salvage her story and make her characters seem more human than cartoon. If I somehow get hit in the head so hard that I forget the first half of this book, this later, smarter part of the story works – I’d have even believed that I am reading parts of a much better book.
Alas, no amnesia, so no cigar. The second half of the book is solid, hence the generous rating from me. But I won’t blame anyone who cringes hard and finally drops the book after trying to wade through the first few chapters. God, those chapters are so dumb, I really hope the author had a gun pointed to her head when she had to come up with all that nonsense. Any other possibility is too terrifying to contemplate.