Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nine-to-Five Bride (book) by Jennie Adams

I bought this during a book shopping spree a while ago. The bookstore I went to is tiny, a little hard to find because it's located inside another store. Looking through its selection of books feels a bit like looking through someone's attic. The best-represented genres are thrillers, romance (historical, category, and contemporary), and mysteries - I saw a handful of paranormal and futuristic romances, but most of those looked so bad I couldn't justify spending money on them. Still, with nearly every book 75% off its original price, I ended up buying lots of stuff I might not otherwise have. Like this book.

I don't often buy category romances because 1) I'm too cheap to buy something that short unless it's deeply discounted, and 2) they often look cheesy. This particular shopping trip was intended to supply me with lots of romance novels I'd never read before, because I'm too embarrassed to request them via ILL, and this particular one looked like it might be fun and only cost me $1.30.

While it was the light read I expected it to be, it's not a keeper. Ah well, I can resell it and buy something else.

Synopsis:

When his secretary (male secretary, which removes the possibility that the reader might get distracted by a potential complication between the hero and heroine that doesn't actually exist) falls ill, Rick Morgan, the handsome owner of Morgan Construction, borrows a secretary from someone else in his company. That secretary happens to be Marissa Warren.

Marissa is turning 30 soon, and she can't seem to stop thinking about things like babies and being old. Since a previous relationship with a handsome corporate highflier ended with her getting dumped after the guy used her as a stepping stone to better things, Marissa is determined to only date reliable, ordinary guys whose jobs put food on the table and pay the bills but aren't their lives. She joined www.blinddatebrides.com, with the username Kangagirl (yes, the book takes place in Australia), intending to stick to her personal dating requirements. She even has two friends on the dating site, Grace (aka Englishcrumpet) and Dani (aka Sanfrandani), to cheer her on and give her support.

Unfortunately, Marissa doesn't do a very good job sticking to her requirements. Working for Rick is time-consuming, but she wants so badly to do a good job that she finds herself rescheduling and canceling dates with nice, ordinary guys. It probably doesn't help, either, that she can't stop thinking about Rick. As the successful head of his company, smoothly dealing with any problems that come his way, he seems to be just the kind of guy she wants to avoid - sure, he's hot, but he's also Mr. Corporate.

Marissa finds herself intrigued, however, when she learns more about Rick and his family. Rick's dad is emotionally stunted, something which has caused the rest of Rick's family grief. Rick is terrified of becoming just like him - even though he shows no signs of being like his father and regularly spends time with his sisters and their children. The main reason he thinks he has the potential to turn into his father is that he dumped a women he'd been in a relationship with a while ago because she'd started to indicate that she wanted more commitment. Marissa is further intrigued when Rick drives her to her parents' house after her mother falls ill - unlike the corporate guy she'd dated before, Rick seems to care about her, even when the going gets tough.

There is some horror when Rick finds out that Marissa is a member of a dating site ("I may be emotionally stunted, so I can't possibly marry someone like Marissa, but I can't let her marry some other guy either!!"), but, in the end, Rick and Marissa get over their issues, finally admit they love each other, and get engaged.

Commentary:

I might have liked this book more if it hadn't been for the author's constant use of denial to, I guess, create romantic tension. "He was not the most handsome man she'd ever met in her life, and she was not attracted to him in the slightest." "He did not want her hands on him." I made those up (except the second one - you can find that one on the bottom of page 42), but that's basically how it went. It felt like the denials were popping up every other page, and the reasons the two of them kept focusing on for why they couldn't be together just weren't very good.

First, there's Rick's fear of becoming like his father. Just the fact that he worries about it indicates that he won't - I doubt it even occurs to his father that there is anything wrong with the way he treats his family members. In addition, Rick makes time to be with his family - he is currently not like his father, and there are no indications that he is becoming like him. As far as I can tell, the only evidence he has that he has any potential of becoming like his father is that he dumped some girl because, at the time, he feared commitment. I'm sorry, but people change, and he's had time to grow up. His excuse was paper thin.

Second, there's Marissa's desire never to date a career-minded corporate guy again. While I can understand her desire to avoid being used and tossed aside, she is so terribly bad at not going for Rick, "the corporate type," that it smacked of self-sabotage. Actually, it seemed to me that Marissa was guilty of some of the things she kept telling herself she didn't want in a guy - things like canceling things in her personal life so that she could put in extra time at work (even though she says she's not ambitious, that comes perilously close to living her job) and working until she nearly dropped (literally - low blood sugar!). She admired Rick's work ethic and his ability to handle the stresses of his job well. Marissa is Ms. Corporate, who just happens to be a secretary, and who happens to find the characteristics of successful corporate men sexy. I can't believe she never fell asleep during any of her dates with "ordinary" men.

So, their main reasons for not being together included Rick's fear that he couldn't commit to someone and be emotionally available, and Marissa's fear that she'd be used and abandoned by yet another corporate guy. Both of these excuses don't stand up very well. The main reason they couldn't be together that kept popping up in my head but that was never mentioned by either Rick or Marissa was that he is the boss and she is his secretary. I cannot believe this never came up. Marissa may only be Rick's temporary secretary, but she's still his secretary. Even if she weren't his secretary, she still works for him indirectly, because Rick's the Big Boss of the company that employs her. How did the two of them never see this as a problem? Do things work differently in Australia?

If I had to give this book a grade, I'd probably give it a C, maybe a C-. I didn't hate it, but there wasn't anything that really grabbed me. None of the minor characters stood out, the occasional humorous moments were only ok, and the reasons Rick and Marissa couldn't be together just felt stupid to me. One thing I can say for this book - I wanted a light, pleasant read, and I got one. Rick's problems with his father and Marissa's mother's sudden illness were the darkest this book got.

I haven't read any of the books in this read-alikes list, so take it all with a grain of salt.  Coming up with category romance read-alike suggestions is not an easy thing for me.

Read-alikes:
  • Dream Date with the Millionaire (book) by Melissa McClone - Nine-to-Five Bride is part of the Blind-Date Brides trilogy, and this is another book in the trilogy.  This one stars Marissa's American friend, Dani. Amazingly, blinddatebrides.com sets Dani up with a handsome millionaire. Because she was really a spy for the website's competition, her profile wasn't very attractive, so she never expected to be set up with the head of the blinddatebrides.com's company.
  • Blind-Date Baby (book) by Fiona Harper - Another book in the Blind-Date Brides trilogy, this one starring Grace, Marissa's English friend.  Apparently, Grace is in her forties and was signed up for the dating website by her daughter, who feels Grace sacrificed too much by bringing her up alone.  Beyond this, I'm not sure what the book's about.  From what I've read, Grace finds the perfect guy, who's also in his forties, but it sounds like maybe Grace ends up unexpectedly pregnant...? It seems a bit odd to me, because you'd think that by that time she'd know about birth control, but maybe there's a good explanation, or maybe the book doesn't really have an unexpected pregnancy in it.
  • The Australian Tycoon's Proposal (book) by Margaret Way - I'm guessing that this one, like Nine-to-Five Bride, has an Australian setting.  Also, it sounds like this heroine, too, is wary of men like the hero she ends up falling in love with.

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