Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.49, ISBN 978-0-263-90926-5
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Silicon Valley billionaire Jared Stone is in a nightmarish PR maelstrom. A “manifesto” that he wrote for his friends about women is making the rounds around the Web. Given that he wrote it when he wasn’t in a good mood when it comes to women, the “manifesto” is a chauvinist’s wet dream. Basically, women are overemotional idiots who can’t be trusted to know what they want, they secretly want to be dominated by a man, et cetera. What with companies he is hoping to sign contracts with recoiling from the PR backlash, he is told that he needs to rehabilitate his image ASAP. Given that he has never, ever had a woman making it to management under his CEO-ship, the first thing he does is to make Bailey St John the figurehead woman in his board.
Bailey isn’t a fool. She knows what her boss’s game is. In fact, she was about to resign when the offer came. After slogging for years to get promoted only to see it go to a guy, she decides to make the best out of this offer. She wants her pay to be doubled and a new post created just for her – Chief Marketing Officer. Jared agrees, and then wastes no time trying to paw her. Now, you may wonder, is that man a complete idiot to do that given the PR crap he is facing? Does he want a sexual harassment lawsuit to annihilate his image? Don’t worry, Jared knows Bailey wants her bad – he can smell, see, or… something… her come-hither telepathic messages to him. Of course, Bailey wants him bad, so in the end, it works out right for Jared. He gets to boink the hot chick, rehabilitate his image, and has a happy ending without doing much groveling. In a romance novel, if you have a penis and you wag it, wonderful things happen.
The synopsis on the back cover of The Magnate’s Manifesto makes it appear to be some amusing battle of the sexes kind of story, and I was initially intrigued. Yet, despite whatever pretenses or lip service the marketing of this line makes to modern female sensibilities, at the end of the day, they are exactly what Jared lists down on his manifesto: fantasies of women who want to get married, who want to be rescued and dominated by a man, and who can’t make a decision to save their own lives. The author doesn’t even try – she wastes no time turning Bailey into a former stripper, has a sleazy villain recognize her from those days and start pestering her to put out in exchange for his money (how distasteful – at least Jared is pressing her to put out for free, how noble), and thus puts Bailey in a position of weakness needing Jared to shelter her from the evil men of this world. And Jared basically comes to the rescue as a means to redeem himself.
In short, we have a heroine here who gets promoted because she is a woman and not because she is capable for the role, who proceeds to sleep with her boss and then spends the rest of the story needing rescue. Instead of Jared proving to her that he is worthy of her love, the story is such that she suffers from self-esteem issues and shame about her past, therefore this is another story where the hero’s money, penis, and offer of marriage all serve as a means to rescue her from her mess. Bailey never proves that she is the right person for the job – she is too busy wallowing in her insecurities and needing hot sex in order to validate her self worth – and Jared doesn’t have to work hard to prove himself. All he has to do at the end of the day is to prove to Bailey that he wants her and she’s good enough for him, and that’s all folks, happy ending, the exit is over there.
The Magnate’s Manifesto is actually pretty decent, and the hero isn’t that dumb or toxic for a guy in this line. But here is a story with a plot that allows the author to do something out of the box, yet she doesn’t waste time in quickly forcing her characters to conform to the same old rescue-that-dumb-bimbo fantasy, even if it proves the hero right in the end. Still, it’s not like one could go into cardiac arrest while reading this book, so who knows, maybe if you can tamper your expectations, this one won’t be so bad after all. Just remember: a Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern book rarely can change its spots.