Harlequin Mills & Boon, AUS$7.99, ISBN 978-1-743-06933-2
Contemporary Romance, 2013
Divorces are funny things in Harlequin romance novels. The wife can’t ever take the husband to the cleaners, because cosmic rules say that women who want money are unscrupulous whores who don’t deserve love. The husband can’t be an asshole that deserves to get divorced, because that defeats the whole purpose of him being a hero in the first place. Therefore, the reason for the divorce has to be some kind of misunderstanding, with the heroine jumping to all kinds of wrong conclusions. The heroine also believes that she is not good enough for the hero – usually because she thinks that her pedigree isn’t good enough and his parents look down on her – and in romance novels, the heroine coming off as ten thousand kinds of dumb in her determination to be a martyr is far more acceptable than this notion that the hero is divorce-worthy.
The hero wants her back, but he can’t flatter her with diamonds – heroines have no material desires, remember. Because Harlequin Mills & Boon like its heroes to be alpha males, the hero would force the heroine to stay with him a while longer, so that he can unzip his pants and roger her back to her senses. Since the heroine’s only acceptable desire is the hero’s true love – the course of true love is always from the tip of the pee-pee all the way to the heart – she would find him so hard to resist when he’s wagging that thing and asking her to play with it. Also, she doesn’t have much choice but to stay on with him even if she doesn’t want that thing in his pants – sick relative, job issues, no place to go (girl marries a wealthy man but comes out empty-handed after a divorce due to her inaction – genius), and best friends all urging her to go back and sit on that thing.
There, I’ve described Jennifer Hayward’s debut effort The Divorce Party, as well as practically every Harlequin Mills & Boon story that features a couple at the brink of divorce. This time around, he’s Riccardo De Campo (everyone loves an exotic billionaire, after all) and she’s Lilly Anderson. Lilly Boo-boo comes from a poor family, thinks he is cheating on her, her sister has a life-threatening condition that needs lots of money to treat, but Miss Boo-boo is walking away from the impending divorce without a cent from it because, as she puts it, she doesn’t want Riccardo to have “power” over her. Yes, that man signing over monthly support is the same as letting the man be in charge of her life. He demands that she stays with him a while longer, claiming that his father insists on this when deep inside he just wants to shag his way back into her heart.
The author tries to show me that she is aware of the more ridiculous aspects of the tried-and-true formulaic plot, but since she goes ahead and commits to the plot with absolute fidelity, such moments are akin to someone on the way to an AA meeting yelling at me from the bus, “Yes, I’m a drunk, isn’t that funny?”
At the end of the day, it’s hard to judge this book on its own merit, because all the author did was to just write out the “acceptable” story line without doing much to make the story hers.