|Not the method I would recommend for making a cup of tea...|
This month's category is Category books, meaning books published by Harlequin Enterprises or one of its subsidiaries in a "line" such as Harlequin Blaze, Silhouette Desire, Harlequin Presents, etc. I grabbed a Leanne Banks (the cover helpfully says she's a USA Today Bestselling Author) Silhouette Desire entitled CEO's Expectant Secretary.
Titular CEO Brock Maddox is sleeping with his personal assistant, Elle. (If he had a secretary, we never meet her or him.) Brock learns she's been stealing corporate secrets. He confronts her. We learn that she had to do this for her grandfather, whose company is Maddox Communications' biggest competitor, lest he not pay for Elle's mother's experimental cancer treatment. Brock doesn't know that (because his private investigator didn't bother with the "why" just the "who") when he confronts Elle. She admits everything, then throws up offstage, which leads Brock to realize she's pregnant. He proposes, but not in a nice way. He leaves, confronts Elle's grandfather, who has a heart attack. Elle rushes to the hospital, sees Brock and her grandfather, and promptly faints.
We're up to page 24.
Now, here's where the TBR Challenge is a good thing, because otherwise I'd have thrown the book against the wall at this point. I'm sure a more realistic book can be written with these elements: office affair, unplanned pregnancy, corporate rivalry, coercion and concomitant corporate espionage, and forced marriage . . . but it would take more more than 18 pages. There's showing, there's telling, and then there's a rushed narrative of blatantly unrealistic stuff.
But once we get the grandfather stabilized, the protagonists married, and the baby has survived a rather gratuitous fall on the stairs (still in the first four chapters, mind you), this book settles down to answer a rather intriguing question: how do you take two people forced to marry for the sake of a baby and forge a lasting bond between them?
Now, that's a book I want to read. I could have done without all the palaver, and I still think that Glenda Sanders wrote a much better book in the same vein (Daddy Darling, which I wrote about over at Monkey Bear Reviews), but fundamentally, I prefer romances about two people working out the wrinkles in their relationship.
Unfortunately, not enough happens in the remainder of this book. In fact, the real obstacle to Brock & Elle's happiness is the fact that she was sleeping with him when she stole corporate secrets. Sure, we can (if we close one eye) see why she stole secrets and we can (if we close the other eye) see why she slept with him. But to do both? That was plain stupid, and from Brock's point of view, that was a double low blow. But at the end of the book, all trust issues have evaporated, and not for a particularly convincing reason.
Which brings me to how to make a cup of tea. I've had to learn the proper British way to make a cup of tea, and the critical step is to pour really boiling water onto tea leaves in a pre-warmed teapot. Well, there's no doubt that CEO's Expectant Secretary is boiling away in that first chapter. By the end, though, it's about as appealing as a tepid cup of tea.
I reckon that somewhere in the middle it was perfect: flavorful and just the right temperature.