Berkley Sensation, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-425-23683-3
Historical Romance, 2010
If you have been following my reviews, you probably know that I have very low tolerance for martyrs. Martyrs are fine, provided that they die for causes like saving the world from an incoming asteroid or sacrificing their own happiness for orphans in a third world country. Unfortunately both for me and Ms Collins, this book has two dingbats trying very hard to be sexually explicit characters from a Mary Balogh novel, and I paid $15.00 for this book.
Rose Marlowe is a prostitute. Once a month, she spends a week moonlighting as a lady of the night, servicing seven johns in a biblical manner for the money… to pay for her useless brother’s gambling debts, heavy expenses, and tuition fees as that idiot drops out of school to carouse around town. It’s not that she can control him, of course, since Rose is determined that Brother Dearest will never know how their family has fallen into the pits. So off she goes, worrying and whining and moaning that OMG SHE IS A WHORE and dropping salty tears everywhere even as she is determined to keep indulging her brother. Not only that, she’s discerned that being a mistress is a nasty thing to do because those men are married, but she’s fine with servicing those men for one night because… hmm, you’ve better ask the author about that one since she’s the one who wrote the story and inflicted Rose on unsuspecting genteel readers like me. It doesn’t matter, actually, because Rose is committed to the “I’m a whore and therefore I don’t deserve love” charter of idiocy so I guess we can all safely assume that the reason she does the things she does is because she’s one colossal idiot.
As you can predict, this month she meets a wonderful john and they fall in love. This john is James Archer, a successful and rich guy who happens to lack a title. His father arranged his marriage to a cartoon vile bitch who refuses to bed him even as she runs around town with her own lovers. For three years, James remains celibate, tolerating his wife’s venomous insults and his own blue testicles because (a) until he finally breaks down and visits the brothel where Rose is working, his personal moral code doesn’t let him cheat on the adulterous vile cartoon bitch wife and (b) he has to get the wife to agree to help his sister debut in London and get a good life. He’s doing it for the kids, in other words, just like Rose. Both have been martyrs for years so they are professionals that could teach at the Mary Balogh University for Determined Self-Mutilating People with No Brains. It’s pathetic that he is letting the bitch wife run the show when he’s living in a time when the law recognizes that he has all the power in the marriage, but hey, remember folks, they’re doing it all for the kids.
So, James and Rose are in love. You are probably thinking, “Okay. So he sets her up as his mistress, and they live happily ever after, husband and wife in all but name.” But if that were the case, this book would only be 80 pages long. Naturally, Rose would have to act like an idiot, squealing that she’s only a whore and she will die if she falls… wait, she’s in love so naturally she runs away again and again. James is a more sympathetic character compared to Rose because he does want to fight for Rose’s affections and he also finds the courage to stand up for himself in the end. Rose is just awful – she keeps running away and insisting that she is a worthless whore all the way to the final pages of this book, at the same time doing things like refusing the much-needed payment from James just so that she can make some kind of insane stand about… I don’t know, true love or something. I can imagine that James will probably stand by his wife down the road once word gets out that Rose sacrifices her respectability for an idiot brother, but Rose will probably run home and slash her own wrists just because the man across the street looks at her funny and she’d not want to impose on her true love like that.
Seven Nights to Forever is a well-written book with plenty of erotic tension and lush love scenes, but this is also a book that is stillborn from the very moment the author decides, for some reason, that the characters need to be martyrs in a plot that would have been solved so easily and neatly if the characters truly behaved like people of their time and enter a comfortable “arrangement”. James spends a long time looking for his missing testicles while Rose just runs wild, like a spectacular multi-colored embodiment of idiocy, doing everything she can to sabotage both their happiness in her pathetic desire to dig herself a hole so deep that she will never be able to climb out. As a result, this story overstays its welcome by insisting on lingering around past page 100, like an uninvited guest with body odor who just won’t leave.