Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-511-X
Contemporary Romance, 2007
British author Nell Dixon’s Marrying Max may have won the Romance Prize Award of the Romantic Novelists’ Association this year but I am hard-pressed to figure out what those judges see in this book. Is it because of the charm of encountering an unabashedly old-school plot of fake engagements with a playboy hero in a sea of contemporary romances featuring indead secret agents? I don’t know, but that’s probably why you don’t see me giving out awards to anybody.
This is, as I’ve mentioned, a fake engagement story. Rich playboy hero Max Richardson wants only the best for his niece Emily. Poor Emily’s parents are currently having problems and Max’s sister, Julia, wants some time alone with the husband so that she can patch up their marriage woes. Max offers to give Emily a place to stay in the meantime. Julia is not convinced that this is a good idea since Max’s place is a bachelor pad. What better way to convince Julia that he’s the right person to take Emily in than to get a pretend fiancée to convince his sister that he’s now Mr Responsible? What will Emily think when a year down the road Max shows up with a different girlfriend? How it will look on his Mr Responsibility image if it is revealed that he hires a fiancée to pull a fast one over everybody? Oh, Max, really, not everything is about him.
Theodora Sinclair, our heroine, is naturally Miss I-Want-Commitment although as these heroines tend to be when the author confuses “I want commitment” with “I need to be committed”, Thea comes with an arsenal of ditsy stuff that is meant to amuse. She lives in this big place Stony Gables that comes complete with spooky Gothic atmosphere and gargoyles, ooh. She is stuck with her behind waving at Max’s face when she tries to climb in through the window after locking herself out of the house (you’re supposed to giggle at this point, people) and the window pane falls down on her. The brat next door of course says the cutest things. It rains, forcing Max to strip out of his wet clothes in front of Thea. Is this where I fan myself and giggle, Ms Dixon? Max realizes that Thea has a seven-foot tall teddy bear in the hall.
Naturally, Thea needs money, lots of money, to repair Stony Gables because the place means so much to her that she will never ever sell it. Therefore, she needs Max to rent the place so that he can bring Emily with him to live in that place. Her ambitions in life seem to be (a) have children and (b) repair the house. Item (c), taking care of daddy, is not listed because she already did that and daddy had died before this story takes place. Of illness, not because of her taking care of him, in case you’re wondering. Of course Max grows to love Thea because she is not like those women he always dated in the past. Of course Max is not like Thea’s ex. Of course Thea bonds with Emily and… and…
Marrying Max is very, very predictable right down to the atomic particles of the characters that this book could easily be the textbook used by aspiring authors to study the Fake Engagement Plot formula. From the ridiculous reason for the fake engagement to take place to the heroine’s wish to keep their bargain even if it breaks her heart because she loves him, this story is one that I have read many times before. The only thing that is different is the big house.