Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-237185-0
Historical Romance, 2016
Yes, the hero of Marrying Winterborne is really called Winterborne. Rhys Winterborne, actually, and don’t ask me if his middle name is Unicorn. He’s a commoner, with all the bags of Lay’s that can fit on his broad shoulders to go along with it. Don’t worry, he’s also very loaded, so there’s no fear that the wife will have to shovel dung alongside him for a living and ruin the whole romantic fantasy. Rhys manages Winterbourne’s, one of the largest department stores in those days, along with all those factories, properties etc – let’s just say that England is his personal Monopoly board.
Incidentally, his relationship with Helen Ravenel began in Cold-Hearted Rake, although this one can stand alone. Here, the engagement seems to be off, as Rhys’s kiss apparently sent the poor dear to bed and into shock. As it turns out, Helen is just shy because she has never been around men before, having been hatched an adult woman with big breasts and perfect child-bearing hips from a clam just five days ago – okay, she’s just shy and sheltered, if you want the more boring version, and she’d really like to make the marriage work. And then these two do stuff.
Yes, really, they do stuff – that’s the best I can come up with for the rest of the synopsis. Initially, Rhys seems like a more pleasant version of a Harlequin Presents hero, jumping to all kinds of weird conclusions about Helen and women in general, but once they get the knots in the relationship ironed out, things become swimmingly awesome in and out of the bedroom. Rhys goes from a rather curt and Cro-Magnon sort to a gentleman who is all for women’s equality and what not, and I’m still not sure how we get from A to E – we seem to have skipped a few alphabets where he is concerned. Of course, you can argue that men can be simple creatures and he’s shagging the hot babe he’s always wanted, so that explains his good state of mind. I won’t disagree, but it makes a rather tepid reading experience. Helen also transforms from a timid “Oh my god, THAT IS… EEEK!” creature to this munificent, wise, and understanding lady, and I feel like we skipped a few alphabets where she is concerned too.
The story proceeds to lay out foundations for future books, and characters come in and show a sad face, necessitating our hero to throw his weight around to help them out. No, really, Rhys is like the little engine that makes everything happen here, as he is apparently able to do everything and anything. He may not be a duke, but our winterborne unicorn can move mountains and part the seas just like Moses. Meanwhile, Helen also does things to make Rhys whole, her love and affirmative action making him realize that he may be able to do everything and anything, but she’s the only sweetheart who really understands him. It’s like sex is the catalyst that makes them magically break out of their ugly cocoons to become special snowflake butterflies with superhero costumes.
We also have wounded and lost children, female doctors, mysteries of missing brats, nasty asylums for prepubescent snowflakes, an annoying kind of Welsh patriotism that comes complete with Welsh words and phrases showing up now and then… after a while, I find myself wondering what exactly am I reading here. It is as if the author had run out of story, since Helen and Rhys have the most perfect bond ever, so she starts coming up with all kinds of subplots to keep these two busy. While I’m glad that these two are such amazing people, these two don’t face any serious challenge or obstacles that test their abilities, so the end result is a tale that is all about deifying two already flawless people.
The whole thing is quite boring, as a result. Oh, this is a clean and readable story, and I can’t say that I experience any pain while reading it. I just find myself turning the pages and wondering when the fun things will actually happen. By the last page, I’m still wondering.