BLOG REVIEW: A Husband's Regret by Natasha Anders

28y.o. waitress struggles to make ends meet the last 2 years
to support her and her daughter. 
She's had to sacrifice her worsening health since she gave birth 18 months ago. Her resultant collapse at the restaurant, where Hero's brother was dining, was the happenstance that 33y.o Hero needed to find her.
He wastes no time in taking her back home
and in letting her know exactly what he thinks of her now.
And how he's always felt about her.
It devastates her.
But his devotion to their daughter
and their undeniable chemistry
clouds her resolution to sever their marriage. When he pushes her too far, however, she finally has enough.
And she faces him down with the harsh truth, which now makes him want to save their marriage.  While she wants a divorce.
What can he do to convince her to give him a second chance?

I'm on the fence with this Anders' book. There's a lot going on emotionally. We're smacked with Hero's atrocious verbal and emotional battering of heroine from the very start. It was hard to take because it was one after another. Getting worse and worse as he found out what heroine had done the last 2 years. And heroine was defenseless in her sick physical condition and psychological shock at Hero's abuse. I actually had to take a break at around 20% of the book because the angry angst was a little too much. I found myself talking to my digital reader, calling Hero an "ass" each time he compounded his criticisms, sneering, mockery, and open contempt of very sick heroine.  My husband was worried at my aggression towards my e-reader and was probably thankful that it wasn't aimed at him. I also began noting down all the crap Hero was piling on heroine as well as the sequence of events because it jumped around. In one way, the non-chronological plot made it a bit hard to follow the story. But, in another way, it added to the mystery, unpredictability, and emotional volatility of my reading experience. 

Hero was a contemptuous, vengeful, callous, judgmental, and deliberately hurtful blamer of heroine for the 1st 50% of the book. At 70% of the book, he downgraded to guilt-tripping and subtle manipulation of her feelings. And I was still calling him an "ass". By 90%, he'd wised up and genuinely tried his best to change for the better. I started liking him then.  One of the best things about this book was the timeline of the problem and resolution. Hero didn't change instantly and their relationship went through months of change before the ending. Even the epilogue was 2 years later, which I loved because it allowed us to get a more realistic picture of their HEA(happy ever after).  More importantly, it let us see how stable the character changes were in Hero. I had a hard time liking him and trusting his motives. He had a lot to make up for with heroine and he partially redeemed himself. 

Heroine's character growth was the catalyst for the positive turnaround of the book. Heroine began as a naive doormat who blindly loved and worshiped Hero during their 2-year marriage. She was grateful that somebody so attractive and successful like him would pick a nobody like her. She gave him her all and didn't demand anything back. She was just glad that she got to be with him. Although it bothered a bit that he didn't shared much of his past with her, it didn't matter much to her because she was reveling in the attentions he was giving her in the here and now. Although it bothered her that he had never uttered that he loved her, she excused it for the affection he showed her non-verbally. However, her unexpected pregnancy announcement changed everything in their fragile romance. She was blindsided by his response, which resulted in their separation. Being reunited with him again 2 years later was even worse than being separated. His verbal and emotional assault on her person paralyzed her for a time. She was assaulted by this man that she didn't recognize, a side of her husband she never knew. Her change wasn't instant. It was born out of mistakes and excuses she made for him. When she finally exhausted all her excuses and reached the limit of abuse she was willing to take from him, then all her inherent stubbornness to cling to what she had with him transferred over to her persistence to leave him and move on with her life. The best thing about this book was that heroine backed up with plan to move on from Hero with actions.

      ---------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details----------------

She went from wavering in her decision to stay in her 1-sided marriage of convenience or get a divorce:
     i.e., she slept with him a couple times after he bluntly told her that "the thought of    
            touching you makes my skin crawl" (p. 62) because she "didn't care (about anything) 
            anymore...(but that) "she was in Bryce's arms exactly where she belonged" (p. 72)

To stable in her intent to divorce him:
     i.e., after she & Hero sexually pleasured each other the night before, she realized that
            sex "hadn't really changed the big picture. Their marriage was over." (p. 180)

To determined to no longer be manipulated & passively endure his emotionally abuse:
     i.e., when Hero was guilt-tripping her about leaving him AGAIN, she told him: I didn't 
            exactly want to leave the last time (Hero ordered her to leave him)...I just don't think
            this situation can be redeemed. Too much has been said and done to go back.” 
            (p. 136) 

To kickass confrontational & unmoved by Hero's manipulations of her:
     i.e., when he accused her of being too good for his apology/money/love, she faced him
            down with "What apologies? What love?...So far I haven't heard a word of apology 
            from you. Not for tossing me out or for misjudging me. And you haven't once, not once, 
            since our wedding, since before our wedding for that matter, told me that you love me!
            In fact, you did that polar opposite of that; you told me that you married me out of duty, 
            that you'd never loved me, are you telling me different now?...Make up your damned 
            mind because I'm sick of your multiple personality disorder.” (p. 185)

She went through with the divorce and even dated another man while living in Hero's house at his suggestion. She did eventually move out with her daughter at a nearby townhouse, which she demanded Hero pay for if he was going to insist in having his daughter live near him. 

     ----------------------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS---------------------------------------

I was so proud of her developing a backbone as the book progressed. I was mentally high-fiving her! And it was her choices to be treated with respect and have a better life for her and her daughter that forced the changes in Hero. She had a bit of a setback towards the end though. When she should've confronted him on the damage he did to her and what he needed to do to make amends, she nixed it and instead comforted him for his broken past. I also was bothered by how easily she succumbed to sex with him & then berated herself for her stupidity for falling for it time and time again. Hero actually had to put a stop to their make-out sessions while she was begging him for more. Don't like this "magic pen"(is) trope at all.  

My problem with Hero's groveling was twofold: 1.) much of it was because of pressure from heroine and 2.) it side-stepped the whole emotional abuse element. Hero was forced to change his attitude, actions, and words by heroine, whom he later realized he wanted a second chance with. He was dragging his feet and continued to manipulate her to maintain their previous status quo from 50% to 90% of the book.  Heroine had to call him on his guilt trips, word manipulations, and woe-is-me victimizing (i.e., he's now partially deaf/can't go back to work/has phobias/not able to see his daughter for 2 years/etc. because heroine left him) to get him to stop and find a healthier way to get what he wanted. He would've continued emotionally battering her if she let him. He continually tamped down any guilt he had for hurting her and found some vengeful justification for why he she deserved it. It took some time and for heroine to do some drastic changes and fight back with the truth to finally get him to wise up and to seriously begin looking at changing himself. He was like a spoiled child who was given no more recourse to manipulate and frequently given timeouts for bad behavior.  It was only after 90% of the book did Hero start making changes willingly/for himself and not just because he was caught being bad or feared being punished (i.e., losing heroine for good, hurting their daughter). Beforehand, he strongly resisted taking personal responsibility for his mistakes in their marriage and hurting heroine. He tended to blame heroine, his past, etc. and was arrogant to boot. He unfortunately was more like his abusive father as he feared. 

     ------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details--------------

The main reason Hero held back verbalizing his love for heroine was that he didn't know what love was because he'd never been loved for himself before. He was abused as a child. His father physically, verbally, and emotionally abused him as far as he could remember. His mother enabled the abuse by doing and saying nothing. It was up to Hero to protect his younger brother from their dad's abuse. In fact, his brother knew nothing about it until the present time, when Hero finally told him. Hero considered his father a "monster" and feared becoming like him with his own family. Thus, his rejecting response to heroine's unexpected pregnancy announcement 2 years ago that caused her to leave him.  Hero also held back on showing heroine his love during their marriage because he didn't think he deserved it and he expected her to leave him someday. And that's exactly what happened. Through his own choices, he acted like a "monster" like his father and verbally and emotionally abused heroine. He never physically hurt heroine but his inflicting psychological damage on her was bad enough. He could've taken the high road and responded differently than he was shown in his childhood but he just passively allowed the rage and bitterness overtake him. He even reveled in it at times.

       ------------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-----------------------------------------------

And this was my biggest problem with the book and why Hero's grovel wasn't enough. It skimmed over Hero's emotional abuse of heroine. The focus was more on the physical abuse aspect, which never happened. Instead, the 90% of the book, where Hero verbally and emotionally acting like a monster to heroine and this big elephant in the room, was skipped in their big heart-to-heart discussion at the end! Heroine had been doing such a great job confronting Hero on his mistreatment of her. But, when it came down to Hero's apology and why/what he needed to do to redeem himself to her, the emotional abuse was padded down by both their gratefulness that he never laid a hand on her! Aaaaargh! It was going so well and I was disappointed that the emotional-abuse component was ignored in their final discussion. There were indirect references to Hero's taking steps towards it though (i.e., his seeking therapy without heroine's suggestion, confessing his secrets to his brother). But still. I would've really liked for Hero to directly and plentifully recognized and apologize for his hurtful words and emotional manipulation of heroine. I would've liked for her to shove it in his face like she did his other crap before or wear a t-shirt or custom-print a big ol' sign in the center of Hero's office that said something like, "You owe me big time." or "Change or bust."  And not just let it go unspoken and unacknowledged during his major confession just because he, at least, never physically beat her up.  Noooooo!  He was a monster and he needed to face it and make amends for it. To her benefit, though, Hero did start making progress at voluntarily becoming a better man. 

All in all, my overall rating for this book is based on my rating for Hero (a 2.5) and heroine (a 4. She was at a 5 but ended at a 4 due to aforementioned reasons.).

I moderately recommend this book.
3-star

BLOG REVIEW: Once Upon a Billionaire by Jessica Clare

Friendly 24y.o. deep-South Arkansas native heroine is excited to travel internationally for the first time ever.
The furthest distance she's gone from her small Arkansas hometown is New York city, where she now lives and works as a secretary. She agrees to assist her the 28y.o. viscount friend of her boss, 
while he's in Europe to attend his cousin's lauded royal wedding.
She just didn't expect him to be so stodgy and snobbishly insulting of her American country ways.
He likewise didn't expect someone so unpolished be his temporary assistant while he's trying his best to avoid his royal mother's criticism of his unregal lifestyle.
Neither did he expect to be so attracted to someone like heroine.
Nor enjoy her company like he does no other, sharing his archaeological projects while she knits.
An affair rages between them.
She is baffled, however, at how he can quickly shun her like one of the staff
and continue to insult her person.
While also acting sweet and thoughtful towards her.
When she realizes why he was keeping her his dirty secret,
she reaches her limit. How can he undo the damage?

I've read a few Clare books and this one did not disappoint. It has her trademark humor and hot and sweet romance between Hero and heroine. I was laughing from the first pages of the book then switched between gasping at how mean Hero was being to heroine and sighing when he'd try to make it up to her. This was a different sort of grovel book. There isn't one big, angsty betrayal & then a big grovel at the end. It's a series of Hero hurting heroine and him apologizing and trying to fix his mistakes along the way. Yet he hurt her again because he either still didn't truly get understand how he's hurting her, what she wanted, or how to fix it sufficiently. Throughout the book, we see him increasingly try to do right by her, fail, and try to amend his mistakes again. 


     -----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details---------------

How he hurt heroine:

1. criticized her hair for being messy & made her wear it in a bun
2. told her she "dressed like a vagrant" (p. 70) and had to buy her 'proper' clothes so she didn't embarrass him in public
3. didn't like her "revolting twangs" (p. 26) and often corrected her grammar
4. criticized her lack of decorum and lack of emotional restraint
5. irritated by her cheerful friendliness with the staff and strangers she met
6. showed affection with her in private but became avoidant and condescending to her in public
7. when she thought he was being nice to her, he ruined it by saying something that makes it about him (i.e., not publicly embarrassing him, making things easy for him, conforming to what he thought was proper). For example, instead of telling her he didn't want to abuse his power as her employer over her for kissing her, he apologized for kissing her because she was "a commoner" (p. 94). After making her happy by complimenting her on how beautiful she looked in her ball gown, he ruined by following it with "every fool" (p. 99) was going to the ball and that she "looked like the other ladies" (p. 100).

How he made it up to her:
  1. when he realized he wronged her...he tended to admit it, feel bad about it, & do something to fix it (i.e., thought she knitted & wore cheap clothes because she was too poor to buy appropriate clothes & took her clothes shopping (p. 67), complimented her on her looks so she didn't think he thought she looked bad (p.106))
  2. apologized even when it's hard/unfamiliar of him to do so, especially as the employer to his own employee (p. 65, 99) & explained why(awful at showing affection properly esp when in Belissime where he'd been 'brainwashed' to act like royalty (p.178))
  3. sometimes explained why he's being grumpy (i.e., not happy to be back to his childhood home where he's hounded by media & busy social schedule)
  4. restrained himself from cricitizing her incorrect English & incorrect expectations of privilege to be "nice (to her)" (p.146)
  5. chatted with her because she expected conversation, even though he'd rather eat his meal while reading (p. 65)
  6. sometimes thanked her for arranging things so he got the things he really wanted (i.e., privacy, being at archaeological site)
  7. protected her & made her feel safe  (i.e., from his older bro's lecherous plans, papparrazi man sneaking into her room)
  8. comforted her when she was scared/upset, even giving her an awkward hug without being asked because he knew she liked being hugged for comfort (p. 54) and let her cling to him when she was scared even though he hated clinging (p. 55)
  9. didn't laugh/mock her for she asking to sleep in his room because she felt insecure about her recent room invasion & shared his bed platonically with her
  10. was sometimes thoughtful (i.e., cancelled his busy day appointments to take her proper clothes shopping & even took her souvenir shopping & sightseeing because it made her happy, booked her makeover appointment for the ball)
  11. complimented her (i.e., 'you are impressive" (p. 125))
  12. asked for advice from his friends/cousin about how to woo her
  13. letting her wear the family heirloom necklace in public
  14. he later made her feel wanted for herself (i.e, he preferred her curls over makeover look (p. 128))
  15. later clarified that she had power over him in private, even though in public he was her employer (p. 129)
  16. told her sweet romantic things (p. 131, 183)
  17. later did what she requested to show proof of his love for her (i.e., kissed her slobbery dog upon request/open to kissing her chicken if she truly wanted him to (p. 177))
  18. asked her to live with home (p. 178)
  19. later offered her a high-pay job to be his assistant while living with him because she wanted financial independence from him
  20. purloined hotel shampoo & soap for her because she liked it
  21. let her bring her big slobbery dog with her to his book-filled home
  22. later viewed her as beautiful and "charming" (p. 190) even in her raggedy clothes/underwear
  23. later found her drawl "erotic” (p. 184)
  24. later told her he loved her often (p. 191)
  25. introduced her to his friends a week after she moved in with him & told her about the secret history of his tattoo because she looked hurt that he was keeping things from her
  26. later proposed in the presence of a news photographer he requested to be a witness because he was proud to publicly show off "his woman" (p. 197)
     -------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS------------------------------------------------

What struck me the most was his sincerity at either being clueless at how he's treating her & how to make it up to her. This is a grovel book. Although its mostly a scattering of grovels mixed in with his mistakes, there is a big proof of his love for her towards the end. There's a bit of angst but not too much because of the nature of the hurt and apology and Hero switching from acting like a jerk to heroine and genuinely sweet and considerate throughout the book. It's not a jekyl-and-hyde thing but more like a man who's not romantically savvy and learns to romance her from trial and error. 

Hero was portrayed as a scholarly & bookish sort, complete with thick-framed spectacles. He was also a stodgy snob. He knew it and ignorantly thought it was his right since he was royalty anyhow. It was funny how he fought with his friend's mouthy girlfriend who kept niggling him about the stick up his butt. He acted so snobby. She was also the reason heroine ended up being his temporary assistant. His being paired with down-home Arkansas hillbilly heroine was hilarious! I was cackling at how they met and at many moments where she pushed his snooty buttons with her country-girl ways. Yet their opposite pairing worked. We see both of them, especially Hero, evolve. Hero began as a superficial person who struggled with defying social expectations of his royal background. Being around heroine exposed how socially-pleasing, hypocritical, and staff-dependent he truly was. He struggled to overcome his faults to become a better person. And making heroine happy was his barometer.

I liked heroine for being down-to-earth, emotionally open, and positive. She tended to look for what's right with people and the situation. It was her purity of spirit and ability to surpass negativity that attracted Hero the most. She was so different from what his upbringing yet, unknown to him, fit right in his close group of friends and their girlfriends/wives. His royal upbringing blinded him to her appeal and he struggled with it. Yet she represented the very thing he really wanted in life: simplicity, sincerity, and freedom from social constraints. In a way, her personhood openly exposed his weaknesses, showing him how rude, disrespectful, and pretentious he really was. I liked the juxtaposition of heroine with Hero because it provoked his character growth. Especially during times when she let him have it. I loved how she confronted him with about his arrogance and hypocrisy. She may be cheerful, friendly, and sweet but she had this inner fire that blazed when it came to standing up for what's right. She didn't make things easy for him. And I liked that, even after he told her he loved her, she still didn't really trust him to not emotionally ravage her like he often did before. She treaded carefully with him. The only thing I thought was odd was how she wanted to be financially independent from him yet had no problem accepting his offer as his 2nd personal assistant for a ridiculous amount of money. The specifics of her job wasn't discussed, except that it was temporary based on her trust in him as his girlfriend. 

I recommend this book.
4-star






BLOG REVIEW: A Flood of Sweet Fire by Sandra Marton

22y.o personal secretary is used to the simple Iowa farm lifestyle she was raised in.
Therefore, the request of her infamous celebrity heiress employer and now friend of the last 4 months
to switch identities on the airplane trip to Italy was something she wasn't comfortable with 
but did anyway to help her boss-friend's love life. As thankful as she was to be saved from a near abduction at the Italian airport by the new chauffeur of her boss-friend's family, she's bewildered by 34y.o. Hero's cold dislike towards her
as well as their long drive through Italy, away from her boss-friend's family estate.
It dawns on her that he's abducting her & her resistances are futile.
Including her resistance to her attraction towards him, especially during moments when he seems protective and caring towards her.
 When she finds out what his relationship is with her boss-friend's father,
matters become clearer but also get more complicated. Now she has even more reason to keep her real identity from him. When they eventually become intimate,
she believed he reciprocated her feelings for him and was about to confess all. But his sudden disinterest in her and harsh threats the morning after
brings their new romance to a complete halt. What made him change towards her? Will his knowing about her involvement in his deceit end things for them forever?

I've read quite a few Marton books & I have to say that this book was different than her usual. First, it had a strong romantic-suspense element to it.  It was a clever idea and certainly unique for an HP(Harlequin Presents) but it wasn't suspenseful enough. Not that it was predictable because the suspense part surprised me at some points. But the writing didn't give me that fast-paced or heart-pounding feel in my reading that good romantic suspense books do for me. This was another part of what made it a different Marton book for me. The humor, lively characterization, and touching romance didn't progress well in this book. Basically, those factors were there in the first 40% of the book but didn't develop towards a slam-dunk finish. Once we found out what Hero's motive was for keeping her from her boss-friend's father, the excitement the book seemed to promised died down. Interestingly, this situation also heralded a major turn in the book's plot. It was another clever technique by Marton but it didn't capture my interest that much. 

What also made this book different than the Marton books I've enjoyed was that I didn't really care much for the characters. I liked the heroine for her simple lifestyle, caring attitude, and overall conscientiousness. What I didn't like was her passivity when she had plenty of opportunity to act on what she knew was the right thing to do. Which was basically to fess up to Hero about her involvement in the deception scheme.

     ---------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details-----------------

Heroine kept her real identity a secret  from Hero for 2 reasons:
1. she thought he was part of a kidnapping ring designed to go against her boss-friend's father and she didn't want to endanger her life and her boss-friend's life if Hero found out about their identity switch
2. even after she knew Hero was hired as her boss-friend to be her bodyguard, she was told to keep her identity from Hero by her boss-friend and her father to give her boss-friend more privacy from the paparrazzi. Her boss-friend's father feared that giving her daughter privacy for a few more days wasn't something Hero would agree to and he might pull out of his bodyguard job. 

I thought reason #2 was a weak plot device created to give heroine more time with Hero and add a twist to the book. It only made her look pathetic.

     -----------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS------------------------------------------------

Her reasons for continuing to lie to Hero were not strong enough to make me side with her deception.  Her passivity chipped away at the characteristics I liked about her. Her conscientiousness was being taken over by her dishonesty. Her caring attitude by her selfish desire to get closer to Hero, even when it meant hurting him and betraying his trust. And her simplicity by her continued pretense at being somebody else and having to cover her lies up with more lies. I didn't dislike heroine overall. I just didn't like her as much as the book progressed.

Hero was the typical cold and controlled gun-carrying alpha male of romantic suspense books. What made him more of a '80s HP hero instead of a romantic-suspense hero was how unprofessionally rough he was towards heroine from the get go.  Even if he didn't like her due to the things he heard about what the shenanigans her boss-friend had done, he treated her very poorly as the hired bodyguard. And there was no reason to since heroine hadn't done anything around him to warrant his poor treatment of her. He pretty much lugged her around in the car, to the farmhouse, etc. I still don't understand why he made her and himself strip to their underwear that first day they met. Maybe a power play to show he was the boss. And he did this a lot in the book. He demanded and asserted himself towards her. He wasn't all bad. He showed his sweet and caring side, especially after she found out that he was the hired security detail and not her kidnapper. But he'd reverted back to his rough and demanding ways. And heroine would relent, making her look like a doormat. 

I somewhat recommend this book.
2.5-star



BLOG REVIEW: Brazilian Boss, Virgin Housekeeper by Maggie Cox

24y.o. heroine spends her days since husband died 18 months ago playing her guitar by the market street corner to overcome her fear of public performance.
Usually-reserved and reclusive 37y.o. Hero notices her persistence in playing her music no matter the weather
and comes to admire her resourcefulness in making ends meet, viewing her as a homeless waif.
He somehow finds himself offering her work as his housekeeper while he's temporarily living in England to recuperate from his numerous leg operations from a devastating car accident 2 years ago in Brazil.
She accepts the job now that she decided to cut herself off from all ties to her distressing past.
Hero's curt and demanding behavior seems to come from the hidden pain she sometimes catches in his eyes.
And which he deflects when she brings it up.
Even when he starts getting attached to her.
Even when their relationship later becomes intimate.
How long will she bear being only his lover and housekeeper?
What will it take for him to trust her with his dark past?

This book was heavy with angst in the beginning. The sadness and grief of both main characters cast a shadow over the first 25% of the story. I actually had to take a couple reading breaks because I wasn't expecting such gloom in an HP (Harlequin Presents).  Once I girded myself to handle the angst and bleakness of the book, I continued on. Unfortunately, the angst was heaviest in the beginning and tapered to emotional tedium towards the end. From 75% of the book and on, my main reaction was "That's it?!". In one sense, I was a bit disappointed that all that angst I'd prepared myself to face came to not much.  But, in another sense, I was glad the emotional gloom of the book did lighten. I usually read HPs expecting an overall light read with some drama. This one may have started pretty heavy but did lighten up with an HEA(happy ever after) for Hero and heroine at the end . I just wished there was a little bit more drama left over after we're told by 50% of the book what Hero and heroine's inner struggles were. After 50%, the romance between Hero and heroine became predictable and average. 

Heroine had some major father issues, which she transferred over to the men she picked. She gravitated to much older men: her 1st husband was 37 years her senior and Hero was 13 years older. Her 1st husband and Hero were both inaccessible like her alcoholic father but in different ways. Her 1st husband was already terminally ill when she met & then married him, preventing a long-term and normal marriage. Hero was physically injured, emotionally guarded, and not looking for romance. Like her father who neglected her, her 1st husband may have given her companionship and support and encouragement to pursue her interests but he neglected her needs as a wife and woman by virtue of his worsening cancer. Hero, on the other hand, emotionally neglected heroine. He was moody and demanded the heroine be what he wanted her to be at the moment: housekeeper, friend, or potential lover.  She was left confused as to what her true relationship was with him. Even after they became lovers, she still worked as his housekeeper. It was only when he invited her to go to Brazil with him that he clarified what her role was in his life. He demanded, she gave, and he took. He wasn't totally selfish. He did meet her needs for attention, affection, feeling desired, and sexual pleasure. She just gave him a lot more than what he gave her, including her virginity. He did start reciprocating more towards the end as he became more emotionally open towards her. 

Hero seemed a really tortured and guilt-ridden man. We sense this about him from the very 1st page of the book. He'd been beating himself up daily for the past 2 years for his role in the car accident which caused his leg injury & his flourishing career as a photographer in Brazil. Moreover, the accident caused the death of his wife and unborn child.  Two years of guilt and regret, lack of sleep, physical pain, career loss, change of identity, and social isolation. Heavy stuff. And the questions of how why the continued self-recrimination and how does he get over it were dangled until his confession. But, when he finally tells all of what happened to heroine, it was pretty anti-climactic.

     ---------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details----------------

Hero was only a passenger in his wife's brand new sports car, which she'd been asking him for. His wife was the reckless driver who failed to control the car when she drove over an oil slick on the road. Hero had warned her and even pleaded with her that he do the driving. But she insisted. He also didn't know she was pregnant then. He only found out after her death. Moreover, he wasn't sure if the baby was his or the man he suspected she was having an affair with. What's even more interesting was that they had both agreed on getting a divorce, after 10 years of a dwindling marriage. He was no longer in love with his wife nor she with him. They were amicably divorcing, despite the short trial of giving their relationship another go. So, his tortured & guilt-ridden angst didn't make sense after all these facts. Hero didn't seem like the type to exaggerate or get very emotional. His daily self-recrimination just seemed over the top, given the nature of the accident and the nature of his relationship with his almost ex-wife. He not only lost interest in his work and social life but he also lost interest in dating and his sexual desire, remaining celibate since the accident. His angst didn't fit the facts. 

     ------------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-----------------------------------------------

And I think that's why Hero easily attached to heroine. Things became mundane between Hero and heroine after his big reveal. It was already a bit mundane before that but his confession took out any drama from the story. 

The way the book was written also affected its overall emotional pull. There was a formality in the wording and description that barred a strong emotional engagement. Characterization was uneven. The inner struggles revealed about the main characters seemed like we get to know them well. But I actually felt like I didn't really know either characters that well. I didn't have a good grasp of what Hero and especially heroine were like in the past. For example, I didn't know what heroine did before she married her husband. Was she a struggling musician? Did she go to college or just worked or both? She seemed really sexually naive. Did she have friends or did she just cloister herself with her neglectful alcoholic father? Did she have any boyfriends before her husband? Was she in love with her husband or did she only marry him to get away from her dad? It seemed like we only knew the main characters for who they were in the present. 

I modestly recommend this book.
3-star


BLOG REVIEW: Six Month Marriage by Penny Jordan

22y.o. heroine didn't want to go back to the English-border village she grew up in,
if not for her very sick father.
She hasn't been back there since she left 4 years ago,
after she found her new husband Hero's secret love letters
and found out from his mistress that he only married her for her father's farm.
So she doesn't understand her now 30y.o. ex-husband's bitterness and anger towards her.
Nor does she appreciate his digs about her current boyfriend in London.
Her sickly father's request that she remarry Hero greatly unnerves her.
But not as much as her consenting to Hero's plans to remarry for the 6-month period her father has left to live,
when they have to pretend to still be in love
and live together like man and wife.
There are so many pitfalls to their temporary marriage, including informing heroine's boyfriend of what's happening.
And keeping their desire for each other in check,
which inevitably soon rages into something both can't control.
A confrontation with Hero's past mistress makes heroine realize that things have not changed and she's a fool once again for hoping for more with Hero, driving her to do the unthinkable.
Is there anything he can do to stop her?
Or is he too late?

I read this Jordan book quickly. It was quite good until the ending. I hate it when things don't get wrapped up well. I especially hate it when major issues that troubled the main characters' romance for years get ignored. Jordan drew me in with the storyline of a divorced couple who didn't have a chance at their first marriage because of complications that we only know from heroine's POV (point of view). She felt deceived by Hero who she thought loved her back, based on how he wooed her since she was 16 & then determinedly married her at 18. Although he wasn't a talker, his behavior and attitude towards her showed he cared for her. Or so she thought. Their wedding seemed to change him for the worse.

     ----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details--------------

Before their wedding, Hero was more open about his interest in and caring for heroine. He touched and kissed her but struggled to restrain himself. She believed it was because he wanted to wait for their wedding day. But their wedding day came and went and she was still a virgin. He wouldn't consummate their marriage, despite her desire to. She wasn't assertive and didn't push the issue, believing he was just biding his time. Hero not only became more physically distant but more emotionally closed-off as well, spending more time outdoors to work. He left her alone at home, where his controlling aunt commandeered the kitchen and the running of the household. Heroine was willing to wait for Hero to warm up towards her. But everything came to a halt, when she found his secret stash of passionate love letters and soon followed by his ex-lover gloating to her that they've never stopped their affair and even spent intimate time together on the 1st week of Hero and heroine's marriage when Hero was supposedly away on business.

Heroine left Hero for London immediately without talking to him about all that she now knew. She hid herself there and was in deep despair, having suicidal thoughts. But having a new job helped her have some stability. She eventually moved on and even dated more done a dozen men before she settled for her boss as her boyfriend. She was still a virgin but was seriously contemplating her boyfriend's marriage talk and sleeping with him during their upcoming vacation together.She waited until the allotted time period (about 3.5 years after her wedding date) before she filed for for divorce. She opted to not file an annulment because she didn't want anyone to know that Hero didn't want her enough to not consummate their brief marriage. Their uncontested divorce was finalized only 5 months ago.

     -----------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-------------------------------------------------

Heroine reacted with a mixture of assertive and passive. I liked that she had guts enough to leave Hero after her humiliating and hurtful discoveries. But she was passive in how she did it. She snuck out to leave him and didn't confront him on his deceptions. Granted she was only 18 years old and I think knew herself enough that he could manipulate her emotions with the right words and actions. And, at that point, she couldn't trust herself. Thus, sneaking away and hiding herself in London from him and her father for a time. She didn't trust herself to annul their marriage or divorce him straightaway. Again, she didn't want to deal with Hero talking her out of either one. So she waited the statutory 3-year period until she filed for divorce. However, in the meantime, she was actively pursuing other romantic potential and dated other men. She was a walking contradiction.

Hero was difficult to get to know. I still have a lot of unanswered questions about what he did and why he did it. He was a quiet man who worked hard at his farm and helped take care of heroine's father's land as well. Heroine grew up living next to him yet she didn't seem to know him all that well. She had a crush on him since she was 14 and saw him now and then, when he'd come home from being away at school and the military. Their 2-year courtship until their marriage was quite formal and distant. They didn't spend much time together talking and really getting to know one another. Heroine's perception of their romance was  based on her feelings and her assumption that he must feel the same way. His desire to marry her when she's still quite young seemed to show his eagerness to be with her. Yet his leaving her alone sexually, physically, and emotionally during their brief marriage showed the opposite. We got to know his reasons for doing so but it still has me baffled.

     -----------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details---------

Hero was in love with heroine since she was 16 years old and was eager to make her his. But he thought her still too young and inexperienced at 18 and felt guilty for robbing her of her youth. So he was being selfish but yet considerate (?!). Thus, he didn't consummate their marriage even though he wanted to. He was biding his time until he thought she was more ready for him. But we never know what kind of readiness he was looking for because she left him. What we do know is that he sublimated all his passions and hidden longing for her through his unsent love letters to her. The letters she thought was written to his ex-lover was actually written to and for her. 

He stopped sleeping with his ex-lover when he fell in love with 16-year-old heroine. But we don't know if he was celibate during his 4-year separation with heroine because heroine cut him off when he was about to say something about his ex-lover. I don't think he slept with ex-lover again but we don't know if he slept with any other woman during their separation. We know that his not the most stalwart proponent of fidelity. Nor was heroine. They both kissed each other passionately, knowing that heroine still had a boyfriend. 

      -----------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS------------------------------------------------

He was both jealous and accepting of heroine having dated other men during their 4-year separation. It relieved him that she got some life experience and made her 2nd-chance with him now more acceptable to him. If her life experience was so important to him, why marry her so young? Why marry her and then reject her without telling her why? Why deceive her again 4 years later instead of just honestly telling her he wanted another chance with her? He was still doing his confusing push and pull with her. Openness and honesty in romance were traits he needed to acquire. I also would've liked more discussion and clarification from him about what the extent of his involvement with his ex-lover was since he married heroine. He knew that his ex had made trouble with heroine yet didn't really do anything about it that we know of. 

Overall, I believe they have a good chance at a happy future together. Their misunderstandings seemed to be resolved between them, although I was left with some aforementioned questions. Heroine was happy to finally know the truth about how he felt about her.  It took some serious circumstances though to get Hero to finally open up to her. I don't think she would've killed herself. She was hurt and angry but not to the point of hopelessness. She was more mature now and had developed some gumption and independence over the last 4 years to face even tougher circumstances. She'd likely fall down the cliff 1st by accident before she'd actually kill herself. 

I moderately recommend this book.
3.5-star