Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.99, ISBN 978-0-263-24861-6
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Rocco Mondelli, Italian international playboy and all around cliché, is tight with his three friends, all of whom come in different races or nationalities to suit every reader’s fetish for “exotic” heroes – quite like a new One Direction lineup guest starring on Pitbull’s sequel single to International Love. Of course, Rocco may be an Italian, but he is neither short nor hairy, and he is certainly not a Mommy’s boy like every other Italian man allegedly is in real life. In this story, he is outraged when his late father left him only 50% of the shares in the family fashion empire, with the other 50% in possession of his late father’s friend and business partner. The man, unfortunately, hates Rocco’s guts and deems him unworthy to be the boss of everyone unless Rocco settles down with a good woman and gives up his whorish ways. It is nice to see that even men aren’t spared of the “you are worthless, no matter how successful you are in everything else, unless you get married and spawn a few offspring” tribunal in romance novels.
Rocco discovers that his late father bought reclusive model Olivia Fitzgerald an apartment a while back. Naturally, he knows that Olivia is his father’s mistress, which means she is fair game for any fun time that involves her throwing her legs up in the air. Olivia is actually a poor little dear whose beauty turned her into a victim, and oh, she is clearly too sweet for that cutthroat whorish industry! She lays low now in luxury thanks to Rocco’s father. Of course, being so ready to throw her legs up in the air for Rocco, on the same day that they first meet (with her predictably not realizing who Rocco is), isn’t going to do much to revise his opinion of her. Rocco doesn’t want a mistress, though. He wants a fake fiancée to throw his late father’s business partner off his back – although he expects the sexy part to come along with this arrangement – and guess whom he intends to blackmail into playing that role.
Yes, he’s practically blackmailing her into having sex with him, but come on guys, he’s rich, he’s hot, he’s Italian, so this is clearly the best predicament any woman can hope to befall her. In the meantime, Rocco broods and sneers and constantly rehashes how he’d just die if he lets himself fall in love with anyone, when he’s not barking orders around like the world is his dog pound, while Olivia gets all moody and panicky at convenient moments, so that Rocco can bark at her to get her act together and she’s like, oh, she understands him, and he’s so sweet underneath his constant prodding and lashing out at her every time his mood takes him. To be fair, Rocco has enough self-awareness to know that he’s done Olivia wrong when the time comes, but the fact that he can so easily do those things makes me doubt his long term potential.
The Italian’s Deal for I Do isn’t just the most awkward and poorly thought out title for any romance story ever, it is also awkward in how the story actually lurches clumsily to the finish line. The story is cliché overload – nothing new or extraordinary here, just the same old stuff being rehashed in the same old way – and the author adds to the tedium by going into long exposition on various secondary characters’ background that ultimately adds little to the story. The hero repeats his man-child drama so often, it’s as if he thinks that his sad little story is the most interesting thing ever and I can’t get enough of it. The sad thing about this story is not that it rehashes same old tired story lines all over again, it’s that these same old tired story lines have been done so much better many times before.