Refined Ink, $2.99
Contemporary Romance, 2011
Reading Working Arrangements, I am reminded once again of why it is not wise to mix work with romance. Things inevitably become messy.
In this one, Laura Martin works for Luke Manning, who is the best friend of her late fiancé Josh. When the story opens, Laura tells Luke that she’s engaged to be married, and Luke reacts by asking some inappropriate questions and throwing a childish tantrum. Of course, Luke is hot for Laura, while Laura for some reason tiptoes around Luke’s feelings while planning to go ahead with her plans to marry Eric. If I were her, I’d tell him to take his inappropriate questions and intrusive behavior and shove them up his rear end, but I guess that’s why I don’t star in Harlequin Presents-style of romances. Conveniently enough, the fiancé is a villain, so Luke gets to win the woman after all. All his smirking and sulking and emo whinging finally pays off, hurrah.
Now, as I am writing this review, there is a storm brewing about the possibility of this author either copying or plagiarizing (depending on which Internet lawyer you ask) Susan Napier’s In Bed with the Boss. I confess that I picked this book up out of curiosity, and mostly because the author is offering it free for people to compare her book to Susan Napier’s. Since I haven’t read that book by Susan Napier, I can only judge this book on its own. Therefore, sorry, folks: this review is going to be quite tame compared to those on the product page.
So, this book. The nicest thing I can say about it is that it is dull. It’s not painfully dull, it’s just dull in a way that reminds of the numbness I would feel after being at the receiving end of a dose of anesthesia. There are too many internal rambling. If this is a movie, then I will have scores of scenes of Laura suddenly trailing off into silence in the middle of a conversation, staring blankly ahead and probably swaying slightly, lost as she is in thoughts that are sparked by random verbal displays of asshole attitude by Luke.
But the bigger problem is the failure of the author to make the Harlequin Presents premise believable. Harlequin Presents books have that shiny logo on their covers to warn readers that the stories within cannot be held up to present day conventions, instead they take place in a beautiful Mad Men-type of fantasy world where sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior are just signs that the man really, really, really loves you. Laura in this story spends so much time worrying about how Luke will feel about this or that, she is a bundle of nerves, like a whipped puppy trying very hard to please an unreasonable master. But why is she being like this? I don’t know. I don’t get any believable motivations for her behavior in this story. She’s just another Harlequin Presents doormat, in other words. It’s the same with Luke – he’s just an asshole without a cause, like every other Harlequin Presents billionaire.
Now, I’m not going to accuse Ms Wolf of copying anything, since I am in no position to make an educated judgment on the situation, but I do wish she’d done a little bit more to make the story less clunky and more believable. Just because the tropes of Harlequin Presents work for many romance readers, that doesn’t mean that these tropes along can propel a story to the finish line. A good Harlequin Presents works due to the emotional wallop and catharsis it evokes in the reader. I can’t find that emotional wallop in Working Arrangements, I’m afraid.