Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.30, ISBN 978-0-263-88708-2
Contemporary Romance, 2011
Maisey Yates’s The Argentine’s Price is an example of the work of an author who is fully aware that her plot has more cracks than a mirror after an elephant had walked over it, but she tries valiantly to make things palatable within the constraints imposed on her by the Modern line.
Incidentally, you may be wondering why I am reading this when I’ve made it clear in the past that I’d rather have all my teeth pulled out with a pair of rusty pliers than to sit through another tedious asshole hero whose race or nationality defines his entire personality – you know, the Greek, the Sheikh, the Argentine, whatever. But I am reading the Australian version of this book, and in Australia, this one is placed under the Harlequin Mills & Boon Sexy line. All I can say is that the Australians sure have a warped idea of “sexy”.
Like every other Modern book, this one has another heroine who is forced to spread wide to the hero, just to make her asshole father happy. Vanessa Pickett knows that her father is an asshole, but because he is the only family she has, she will play the strawberry jam to Lazaro Marino’s Argentine loaf to save the family business. Vanessa has been taking over the reins of the family business, but she’s that type of wounded dove that refuses to downsize or relocate to a third world country that offers cheaper operation costs, so the company is sinking fast. Then Lazaro steps in and is set to oust Vanessa from the throne, and Vanessa is predictably desperate to ensure that her father will not hate her any more for letting him down again.
Lazaro needs a wife of good pedigree to give him entrance to society, however, so if Vanessa wants to make sure that the company isn’t parceled off to the highest bidders, she will have to martyr herself on his altar of vengeful retribution. What follows is the same old crock: a marriage of convenience, weird sexual arrangements, blah blah blah.
Lazaro and Vanessa go way back, but he was the poor kid, yadda yadda yadda beaten by men hired by her father so he now hates her forever blah blah blah she thinks he abandoned her wah wah wah he is now a super billionaire in just a few years (I wonder whether drugs, weapons, and slaves were involved in his past businesses) ugh ugh ugh never shall they actually talk until late in the story and even then boo hoo hoo it’s angst and whining and angry sex till death do they part. It’s the same old song and dance, only this time the Sheikh and the Greek have been replaced by the Argentine because the Italian missed his flight. Or something. The heroine remains the same: barely sexual, severely lacking in intelligence, and desperately in need of a male authority figure to guide her in every thing she does.
Maisey Yates is aware that she is writing a played out and very formulaic story. She tries to salvage things by letting me know that she is very aware of her characters’ faults. For example, Vanessa fully acknowledges that she is terrible when it comes to running a company, and she knows that it is probably a futile effort to please her father, but she charges ahead on her path anyway because she just has to do this. There are also a number of scenes that seem suspiciously like a gentle parody of a typical story of this nature, usually in reference to the hero’s oh-so-clichéd behavior and personality.
But whether this is a parody or a story by a self-aware author, The Argentine’s Price has a fatal flaw: so much of it is drama of the painful variety that there is hardly any tender moment. Therefore, when the last page arrives and the declaration of love arises, I only need to go back a few pages to see the hero behaving once again like a brain-damaged git. The trouble with this story is that Lazaro spends pretty much the entire book arrogantly assuming that he can make decisions in Vanessa’s life without consulting her. His decisions invariably hurts her because he’s just stupid, and really, stupid people should leave hard stuff like thinking to the professionals. Of course, Lazaro is too arrogant to admit that his crap smells like everyone else’s, so it’s all “Wah, wah, wah, tears and sad faces!” drama from start to finish. I don’t know how these two manage to delude themselves into thinking that they are in love by the last page, but then again, they are not going to qualify as intelligent people anytime soon.
And to think the Australians consider such stories “sexy”. I may have to reconsider my infatuation with Hugh Jackman now.