Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.49, ISBN 978-0-263-90887-9
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Hello, 2018. The TBR Challenge theme for this month is shorter reads, so it is time for me to pinch my nose and pull out a Modern story from my own pile of unread books. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have much choice when it comes to old category romances, because the only one that is sold in bookstores over here is that bloody Modern line. Fortunately, I’ve stockpiled on many recent books from other lines that, if I happen to be still around in 2020 onwards, they can be fodder for future TBR Challenge months. For now, it’s just me and the Modern line.
And “Modern”, heh. Dani Collins’s The Ultimate Seduction is the perfect example of why that word is the last thing that should be associated with this line. I bought it because the back cover synopsis suggests that heroine Tiffany Davis is the head of a billion-dollar company. What, a heroine that isn’t a secretary, Daddy’s puppet executive, or schoolteacher in a Modern story? How fascinating! Alas, when I begin reading, I realize that it’s just the same old outlandishly antiquated premise of marriage of convenience that just won’t quit in this line.
Tiffany is said to be a director of a company, but her father and her brother run roughshod over her authority and make important company decisions behind her back. Her mother rails that it is “unladylike” for a woman to work, and everyone in this story gawk and stare at her as if a female CEO or managing director is unheard of in 2014. Our heroine has scars on her face and has to use a concealer, because a woman with her means is unable to consider aesthetic surgery options. Or maybe such options are only available in evil whores that dare to use artificial means to enhance their appearance? At any rate, the author writes like it’s still 1964 and all the research she has done is from women’s fiction from that era.
So, our hard-nosed businesswoman is pushed into meeting Ryzard Vrbancic, the President of a newly formed democratic country called Bregnovia. Our heroine has to be told why she is meeting Ryzard in secret for business negotiations – it’s a touchy thing, as Bregnovia has yet to be recognized by the UN as its own nation, so they don’t want to ignite any diplomatic drama by working with that country – and she is like, ugh, politics. She hates politics. Yes, it’s completely plausible to be able to run a billion-dollar company while being deliberately ignorant of local and international politics! The next thing I know, these two need to get married for reasons that will never fly in the twenty-first century and it’s that same old song and dance all over again.
Oh, and Ryzard is in dire need of funds to rebuild his country, but when the story opens, I’m told that he has just bought a new catamaran for himself. Maybe it’s for when he needs to flee once he’s convicted of money laundering? At any rate, I can just hope that he bought that thing with his own money and not his taxpayers’. Our hero lost his true love, and he vows that he would always be faithful to her. Okay, his heart will be faithful to her – his penis will still be working it, and that’s completely okay, because a man has needs, you know. Therefore, Tiffany finds herself married to a man who may stick it to her all day, all night, but he has his late sweetheart’s name over everything, there are paintings of her all over the place, and there’s even a bloody statue of that woman in the courtyard of the palace. Tiffany’s entire self-esteem revolves around being pretty enough to be loved by a man, so you can guess how she reacts to this.
The author tries to make our heroine sassy and quippy, but ultimately, Tiffany is a doormat pushed around first by her male family members and then her sweetheart. She was treated like crap by her previous now-dead husband, and now she’s letting the new one do the same to her, and she gets her happy ending only because Ryzard is the designated true love and hence the happy ending will come even if I don’t really buy it.
So, to summarize, we have an annoying couple with the heroine being a doormat who just gets lucky in the end while playing the pee-pee lottery, a lot of things in the story that don’t feel like they belong to the modern day, and a happy ending that feels forced and tacked on because the author has reached her word count and it’s time to call it a day. The Ultimate Seduction is more like the ultimate awkwardness.