Anna and Saxon have just had a whole lot of really hot hot sex in his office -- but, no, we didn't get to watch. Sorry. Instead, the story starts the next day with Saxon telling Anna that she can be his secretary or his mistress but not both. Anna -- mysteriously -- seems to understand this. I have to say, I'm pretty sure in real life there be some more `splaining to do.
It turns out, Saxon means the kind of financial arrangement whereby he will pay all of Anna's bills, set her up in a glam apartment, and have lots of sex with her, but not move in or marry her. (His tax accountant must have had conniptions about this -- think of all the tax breaks this guy was throwing away!) "Mistress" -- it's such an anachronism these days. Would a modern woman even know what a single guy meant by that? Well, Anna must really have been on Saxon's wavelength because she just nods, thinks about it, and says, "Mistress, please," because as much as she loves her job, she loves Saxon more.
Two years later . . . Yup, that's right -- two whole years of Linda Howard's patented hot hot sex go by and we see NONE of it -- Anna's ready to pack up and leave. Because again, she's so completely dialed in on Saxon's mindset that she knows as soon as she tells him she's preggers, he's going to kick her out.
Ah, but she's wrong about him. Even though he's repeatedly told her that he would never marry her -- and if she tried to trap him with pregnancy, he was outta there -- he does not react the way she expects. As we quickly deduce, Saxon doesn't have commitment issues as much as "fear of abandonment" issues.
In no time -- because this is a novella (or short story) after all -- Saxon has moved in, proposed marriage, and allowed Anna to unravel his tortured backstory so that he can be a happy husband and father. And it's delightfully angsty reading about Saxon's panic that Anna might leave him or, worse yet, throw away their baby. But Anna's got her head screwed on about as straight as a woman who understood what would be involved in being a mistress can, and so she accommodates Saxon's issues and provides a nice counterbalance to his eccentricities.
It's even quite sweet in places. Here's my favorite bit: Saxon seems confused by Anna's assertion that they will need to turn a room into the nursery. "Why?" he asks. "Because otherwise there will be baby paraphernalia all over the apartment," she explains. "Where did you think the baby was going to sleep?" He thinks about this, and then says, "Well, since it's the size of a skinned rabbit, I figured it could sleep with us. I'd offer to let it sleep on my chest, but I understand they aren't housebroken..."
There are two other stories in the book, A Mother's Touch. I did read them.
cue the crickets
If I tell you that this struck me as Susan Mallery-lite, would that be enough explanation? But perhaps I'm being unfair to Ms. Wilkins, because as loony as the characters and plot were, it seems they weren't entirely of her choosing. It turns out to have been a family saga carved up and written by six different authors, with Gina Wilkins having the last leg. Daddy Dearest Walter Parks is in jail for killing his arch rival. His precious daughter, Jessica, seems to be the only one of Walter's brood who cares that Mom has been locked up in a Swiss asylum for 20+ years. So, even though Jessica has some real concerns that she's going crazy herself, she plots for THREE YEARS to buy a ticket to fly to Geneva and see for herself.
Eh, I should have thrown this book across the room at that point, but I didn't. I think in some way I just wanted to see how loony it would turn out to be. The answer was VERY loony. So loony that it was almost fun. Not good. But fun.
Love Romance Passion and the answer to one of the questions turns out to be Bride to Be by Jane Ashford. (You'll just have to wait until May to find out, Jeopardy-style, what the question was!) I've owned this book for a while, but not read it in years. So I thought I would see what it was like.
Basic Regency-era set up: Sensible girl with eccentric (but well-born) parents meets strange man under strange circumstances. They meet again in London, where she learns he's a lord. They finally start to like each other a bit when bullets start flying. Someone's trying to kill him, her, both of them, or it's all a case of mistaken identity. Candace Camp has used similar plots more recently.
Bride to Be isn't a great book. I'm not sure I would even recommend that anyone hunt it down used. But it was better than a lot of Regency-era romances I've read, and not at all a waste of my time. If you stumble across a copy, there's no need to kick it aside.
Finally, I finished Jo Beverley's The Secret Duke last night. Slow start, good finish, has a nice rhythm and you can dance to it. (Oh, god -- I'm showing my age, aren't I? No one the least bit younger than I has a clue about American Bandstand, hunh? *sigh*) My only two problems with it were that I haven't read any other Malloren books and it rather suffered by comparison to that other "duke of consequence meets woman of spirit" book, Slightly Dangerous. I suspect I'll have to reread it when I have read the rest of the Malloren stories, in their proper order.
So there you have it. I may have been away, but I was reading.