Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29848-8
Historical Romance, 2015
I have to be honest: I don’t believe – objectively – this is a good book because it has some serious pacing issues and a case of passing off issues as a character’s personality, but it is so over the top melodramatic that it enters a whole “Woo, this is like, ooh, hot crack, golly!” level of goodness. Besides, the dude can’t get it up, and it opens a whole new level of angst rarely seen in romance novels. Yes, really – he can’t get it up.
In Marriage Made in Shame, we have two people who don’t want to get married. The back cover synopsis gives it away, so I may as well say it: our heroine Adelaide Ashfield had been the victim of a brute’s amorous attention before, not that she told anyone, and therefore, she is not too pleased when her uncle, the Viscount of Penbury, insists that she has a Season in London and catch a husband. She intends to wait out the entire Season, confident that she will never find any guy who will want to marry her. Oh, she meets some guys, but that one is a rapist-in-training, this one is vain, that one is boring… so naturally, her attention is piqued by the guy everyone claims to be the biggest male slut in the known galaxy – the Earl of Wesley. It’s true, guys – girls may say that they want a nice guy, but in the end, all they really want is a bad boy to break their hearts.
Anyway, the Earl in question, Gabriel Hughes, used to be a spy whose penis was like an ATM card – all he has to do is to stick it into the right slot, press a few buttons, and secret information all comes out like cash from the ATM machine. Alas, a terrible encounter during his spying days ended in disaster and sends his penis into dormancy. His sojourns to even the most depraved brothels in town can’t offer any stimulation to make it wiggle even a little, much less stand at attention, and poor Gabriel is also busy throwing up from guilt and feeling really sorry for himself.
These two experience an attraction between them, but he can’t tell her why he can’t get her flat on her back by page 100, and she’s torn between wanting to do the sexy naked yoga with him and moaning about her issues. However, she must marry, so oh, can Gabriel bring himself to help her by marrying her, when he’s at the same time certain that he would only hurt her with his non-functioning willy? If you’re wondering whether it wouldn’t be so bad if he can’t have sex with her so soon, since she clearly needs time to get over her trauma, but come on, you know how these heroines are. Adelaide would only add “I can’t even make my husband horny!” as another list of her grievous flaws and mopes some more about what a failure she is a human being.
Anyway, the author stays true to Gabriel being a dead wood guy all the while to nearly the end, so there’s that. He gets his chubby power back in the end, of course, as we all know penetration is crucial for any happy ending. The reasoning behind Gabriel’s state is sound, but the way the author gives him his mojo back is particularly cringe-worthy. It’s not as bad as, say, the hero pulling out his willy, screaming “By the power of Grayskull!”, and getting a fifty-inch erection as a result, but it’s pretty much to the same effect. It’s the power of love! Love heals all hurt and makes your penis rock hard, baby!
Also, this story is overflowing with melodrama. These characters don’t talk, they launch into speeches at one another’s face. When they indulge in self pity, life is bleak, barren, bereft of hope – oh, oh, oh! It’s a good thing that I am a sucker for such stuff, so I can’t help but to be charmed by these ridiculous fools. This story works despite its frequent overload of chest-thumping and what not, mostly because it’s pretty obvious to me that the two characters are nuts about one another. They really do care, and this makes their more overblown theatrics tolerable where I am concerned. I started out thinking that these two characters are basically walking headcases of issues with barely any coherent personality between the two of them, but after all their interactions, wild impassioned declarations of how they’d cherish and never hurt the other person (Gabriel is especially very good at doing this) and all, I find myself rooting for them without realizing when that started to happen.
Oh, and for all his pity party about his dead willy, Gabriel doesn’t mind pleasuring Adelaide with the other digits of his, and these scenes are pretty erotic and, at the very least, a nice change from the same old Tab A, meet Slot B stuff.
If you have little patience for overwrought melodrama, tread carefully around Marriage Made in Shame. If you don’t mind such stuff, or if you love them, who knows, maybe it doesn’t hurt to check this out. It can be very sweet and tender in its own overwrought way.