Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.49, ISBN 978-0-263-90052-1
Contemporary Romance, 2013
Never Underestimate a Caffarelli gives this impression that it is written by someone with only a passing familiarity with occupational and physical therapy. Well, normally, that’s fine as I am not expecting a textbook here, but things can get a bit meta when the hero Raoul Caffarelli accuses the physical therapist heroin Lily Archer of being a fraud, and I can only look at her methodology – as described by the author – and go, “Hmm, I can see where the hero is coming from.”
Not that Raoul is a learned man. He’s a moron, but then again, he’s in good company. Everyone’s a moron here, and the moron factor reaches a degree high enough that the whole thing becomes hilarious to read.
You may have come across Lily in many other contemporary romances before. She has scars on her body, and she was molested and humiliated by her brother’s friend after drinking too much, so the experience drives her to avoid all physical contact with men ever since. She also wears dowdy clothes and looks as plain as possible, because she knows that no man will ever love her due to those scars. That’s basically her defining personality in this story – she’s a hot babe, but those scars and her melted goo of a psyche all make her constantly bleat that she knows she will never ever be loved so it is so horrible as she loves Raoul, et cetera.
Naturally, she is told by her boss to go service Raoul – well, that’s not a dirty sentence, but she sleeps with him anyway, so yes, maybe it can be a dirty sentence after all. Lily is like, oh no, not a man, please not a man, but alas, her mother needs money ASAP so she can’t say no. How sad.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that Lily famously treated a sheikh’s daughter, Raoul is convinced anyway that Lily is a fraud. Why? He just knows. Maybe his testicles are psychic; maybe they heat up when he’s in the presence of a whore or something. When Lily shows up dressed in the London equivalent of a burqa, Raoul is certain that she’s just hiding her beauty just to tempt him into lowering his defenses around her. He knows, he knows! She wants his money, his body, his rear end, his pinkie toe, and the lint in his navel, so he will be on red alert around her! Oh, and he wants to get well and overcome that wheelchair woe he is currently stuck in, but he will get to walk again BY HIMSELF. He doesn’t need help from any woman! I wish I’m kidding especially about that part where he refuses all therapy because he will somehow will himself to walk again, but alas, this is what is written here.
He tells her that she is free to go away, since the contract states that she, or rather, her employer will still get to retain a large sum of money if she bails on him. Isn’t that what she wanted – no contact with a man? Instead of bailing like he requested, Lily decides that she’d stay instead. Why? Because she doesn’t want the reputation of the company she works for to suffer! Don’t you like this delightful darling, who finds any excuses to keep the story going? Of course, her decision only makes him more suspicious. He knows it – she wants his penis and his fame and his money! Sneaky tart!
Both characters have serious problems when it comes thinking rationally. I also wince when Lily starts insisting that Raoul take glucosamine and other supplements even if he’s already eating a healthy, balanced diet, but that’s probably just me – I come from the school of thought that supplements should only be necessary when someone has problems meeting their nutritional requirements in spite of already eating well. Otherwise, they are just a waste of money. I’d have preferred to see Lily examine Raoul’s meal plans first before acting like an earnest Amway salesperson. Then again, that’s probably just me. I may be too close to the subject, hence Lily comes off a bit like the fraud Raoul blindly accuses her to be.
Ah, but his housekeeper knows! Lily is not like those immoral “mistresses” of her “master” – she is the pure soul that will cleanse the hero’s asshole tendencies away with the magical personality-switching dews of her love flower! But will Raoul kindly give her the shag she needs, so that she can give him the personality wipe that he deserves?
The whole story is ridiculous. Raoul is an irrational dingbat, while Lily is just an excuse for the author to tout the virtues of not making make-up, flaunting one’s sexy body, dating, and drinking. If you want the love of the man-slut who spends a long time telling you how much of a whore he thinks of you as, it’s time to go get sexually traumatized, wrap yourself up like a mummified hot dog, and act tearful because you just know that, no matter how many times you let him shag you, he will never love you so it’s time for the tears to keep falling and the whining bleats to keep going. Not that Lily is a victim, mind you – girlfriend here is horny and wants it as bad as he does; she just acts like annoying turd once she’s had her fun.
Never Underestimate a Caffarelli may boast some annoying characters, but the story is actually readable. Raoul is a moron, but his behavior isn’t that hateful like some of his ilk, which helps a lot in making this story readable, and when she’s not trying so hard to get people to butter her up with compliments, Lily can exhibit some unexpected sass and sense of humor. There are times when I get a glimpse of how pleasant Raoul and Lily could be as a couple, if the author has given them a different story that does not have to conform to the Modern formula so much. And, as I’ve mentioned, when the characters act up, their dumb antics and illogical leaps to all kinds of weird conclusions can be so over the top that they, especially Raoul, are just hilarious.
Therefore, this one is a crap romance story, but it is also an entertaining one. It can be a breezy quick, fun read, provided you adjust your expectations accordingly.