Mills & Boon Best Seller Romance, AUD2.50, ISBN 0-263-74670-4
Contemporary Romance, 1984 (Reissue)
This month, the TBR Review Challenge theme is “Seasons”. With my country going into semi-lockdown since yesterday – which explains why I didn’t review anything then – my first thought was seasons of the coronavirus and I should probably see whether I had any contagion-themed stories in my pile of unread books. I’m not just in the mood for something that hits a little too close to home, though, so Helen Bianchin’s The Willing Heart it is. What? The cover has an autumn-y feel, so that counts, right?
This one was actually first published back in 1975. It was a different time back then, a type when typewriters and phones that are actually bolted to the wall are everywhere, but I have to admit: despite reminding me of this so many times as I turn the pages, I really cannot stand the heroine Marisa Maxton. She is utterly useless, incompetent, passive, and whiny, but yet she also has a perverse stubborn streak that makes her resistant to learning from other people.
Marisa has a teenage brother who keeps getting into trouble and he also cannot hold a job for long. Despite apparently having a job as a typist (of course), our heroine seems to spend more time at their cottage baking and making pies, so it’s probably no wonder that they always have no money. One day, her brother is out late, so Marisa for some reason feels this urgent need to drive out in the night to look for him. This is despite her not knowing exactly where he is, mind you.
I should point out that, up to this moment, our heroine has been a walking train wreck. Nothing ever goes right for her. For example, take her to a pub and she will trigger a bar fight – men can’t help but to turn into creatures bent on rape the moment they set eyes on her, it seems – and of course she will need rescuing. Seriously, let her stay long enough in one place, and she’d likely attract Godzilla to come flatten the entire city.
Perhaps it is fortunate, therefore, that her car of course breaks down before she drives too far out and ends up being raped by a pack of horny grizzly bears or something. Of course she pouts and goes all how-dare-he-help-her she-is-not-stupid-ooh when our hero Cesare Gianelli shows up to help her fix the car. He is so rude, to think she is incapable! Women are not inferior to men! Really though, what the author is doing with Marisa here is convincing the world that women really should be chained in the kitchen, and while they’re at it, put a sack over their heads so that they don’t inflame the lusts of susceptible males with their harlot beauty. Letting women do things on their own leads to very, very bad things!
Anyway, eventually Cesare asks her to marry him, so that she can stop trying to do things on her own, and she will also finally has the money to further enable her brother to go wild and probably start a drug habit. He has his own reasons to marry her, of course, and you probably will have guessed it correctly if you have read enough stories with a similar theme. Hilariously, once she’s wedded, the woman who is all “Tony! Tony! Tony!” 24/7 all but forgets that her brother exists as she’s now all “Cesare! Cesare! Cesare!”
Of course, a beautiful ho seems to be out to get her hands on Cesare’s gonads. Of course, Marisa reacts by basically whining, wringing her hands, jumping to all kinds of conclusions, and wailing that she is not worthy of him – doing everything except to communicate. Of course she’s still “Don’t boss me! I’m smart too! Ooh, you’re such an ass to help me once again when I clearly demonstrate how I can’t even breathe without assistance!” 24/7 in the process.
The Willing Heart is highly concentrated toxic romance heroine traits all in one slim volume. The heroine has every imaginable personality trait to turn her into an utterly unlikable twat, what with no shortage of stupidity, stubbornness, passivity, incompetence, and more to be found anywhere. On the bright side, the hero is shockingly nice for a male character in a romance novel of that era. One may argue that he is also cruel to enable the heroine to go on being such a menace to herself and to the people around her, but look at it this way: he’s super rich and hot. He’d waste little time finding a much better girlfriend once our heroine insists on fixing a broken toaster by herself and gets electrocuted to death as a result.