Harlequin Mills & Boon, £2.99, ISBN 978-0-263-86418-2
Contemporary Romance, 2008
Oh, don’t worry. Secret Baby, Convenient Wife does not refer to the same person so you don’t need to fear that the cops are going to break down your door and arrest you for having this book. Come to think of it, the title is misleading because the baby in question isn’t really a secret. A more accurate title will be, if I ape the system used to determine the titles of these books, Your Typical European Millionaire Asshole, Pregnant (Obviously Former) Virgin.
Depending on how you like your Harlequin Presents (if you’re American) or Modern Romance (if you’re British) though, this one is going to be most amusing or terrible. If you like your stories to feature straight-up European billionaire assholes wiping the soles of their expensive shoes on the backs of dim-witted virginal farm girls from Iowa, this is most likely going to be a disappointing story. If you like a story that is a sly and often satirical take on the above, this one will hit the right spots.
Gianfranco Bruni, our quintessential Mediterranean moneyed asshole, married his wife, our America nurse Dervla, because… I don’t know why, honestly. All I know about Dervla’s appeal is that she is a twenty-six year old virgin who nonetheless puts out to Gianfranco pretty fast indeed. Fortunately, Dervla soon comes to her senses when she realizes that her husband is not going to even try to respect her. When he stupidly allows himself to be seen in the company of an ex-girlfriend without sparing any thought for his wife’s humiliation, Dervla walks out. Not that she intends to divorce him, of course, because she loves him. Don’t ask me why. I really don’t know.
If there is one flaw in this story, it’s that I really don’t know why these two will fall in love. They just do, and their love is presented as a matter of fact here. The story instead focuses on how they get back together, thanks to Gianfranco’s creepily and unnaturally precocious thirteen-year old son running away to find Dervla after hearing that Dervla has walked out on his father.
Still, the story has plenty of most amusing moments as the author is clearly aware of the absurdity of her story at times. A secondary character at one point asks the heroine why Dervla has to marry that man. It’s okay to just have sex with that man, after all! At various moments, even Gianfranco wonders what Dervla is doing with him since he is, after all, a selfish asshole. Ms Lawrence keeps to the script faithfully, so of course there is a happy ending, but there are plenty of knowing nudge-wink moments that she shares with the reader here about how silly these characters are being. Dervla is inexplicably in love with Gianfranco, but she at the same time isn’t willing to just lie down and let him walk all over her, which makes Giancarlo’s nonsense tolerable.
As a playful satirical take on the Harlequin Presents formula, Secret Baby, Convenient Wife is a most amusing read indeed. But as a romance, it is somewhat lacking though since I am never given a clear idea as to why these two characters are in love in the first place. But no matter, I’ve had fun so this one is definitely okay.