Sunday, December 5, 2010

Front Page Engagement (book) by Laura Wright

I'm trying out more category romance - this one's a Silhouette Desire, in the Park Avenue Scandals series. I hadn't realized that this meant there was an overarching storyline that wasn't going to be resolved until the last book in the series - which this one isn't - so I was a little peeved that there were mystery elements that were never resolved. However, I still liked the book.

Synopsis:

Carrie Gray is house-sitting for the resident of Park Avenue apartment 12B and is really annoyed with her neighbor in apartment 12C - all his bimbo girlfriends keep getting lost of the way to his apartment and end up knocking on her door late at night and in the wee hours of the morning. The only time she's ever spoken to Trent Tanford, the guy in 12C, was when she confronted him about all those annoyances. Which is why it's completely odd when, the second time he meets her, he proposes to her.

Millionaire Trent Tanford is good at his job and can have any woman he wants, but even his life isn't problem-free. When he gets called in by the police for questioning about one of the women he once dated, who everyone thinks committed suicide but may actually have been murdered, his father decides it's the last straw. If Trent wants to take over the family empire, he's going to have to get married first, and not to one of those empty-headed bimbos he usually dates. No, Trent will have to marry someone with brains and class.

The only person Trent knows who fits that description is Carrie. Although he handles his proposal badly (is there really a good way to handle proposing to someone you've only met once before?), Carrie eventually gives in and agree to marry him - mainly because it'll only be for a year, and because the financial support Trent agrees to give her will help Carrie properly care for her mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Carrie wants their relationship to remain marriage in name only, but Trent's incredibly sweet behavior with her and her mother eventually breaks down her defenses. However, even though the two of them get along well both in and out of bed, they don't really know each other and don't entirely trust each other yet. This leads to a misunderstanding where Carrie assumes that Trent has been cheating on her, after he swore that, as long as their marriage lasted, he would only ever be with her. The misunderstanding almost ends their marriage. However, the two of them finally sit down and talk, everything is cleared up, and they decide to make their marriage a real marriage, and not just a year-long agreement.

Commentary:

See, this is the kind of thing I was looking for when I picked up the stack of Harlequin Presents. I think I just got the category wrong: apparently, I should have been reading Silhouette Desire. Or maybe not. It could just be that I like this particular author more than I did Helen Bianchin. I've got a few more Silhouette Desire books on my TBR mountain (including the next book in the Park Avenue Scandals series), so I guess I'll get to test that.

I love rich, career-driven heroes who thaw after being introduced to their heroines, I love "marriage of convenience" stories, and I love heroes who are devoted to their heroines but don't make a big fuss about it (no "pat me on the head because I just did something good for you"). So, this story was a really nice diversion for me and a big relief after the unpleasantness that was The Italian's Ruthless Marriage Command (I read Front Page Engagement quite a while ago, right after finishing The Italian's Ruthless Marriage Command).

Once again, though, there were some serious aspects to the story that the back of the book didn't even mention. It's like the backs of these category romances want to make them all seem like light fluffy fare, regardless of whether or not the authors decided to include something a bit heavier in the story. In the case of this book, the heavier stuff is Carrie's mother having Alzheimer's and Carrie's father's abandonment of her and her mother when she was a child. Unlike in The Italian's Ruthless Marriage Command, though, where the heavier stuff seemed to weigh down the whole book, that's not the case with this one. And, I know, comparing this book to Bianchin's may seem like comparing apples to oranges to those who regularly read category romance, but I don't have that amount of experience and couldn't help but compare the two, having read this one right after Bianchin's.

Anyway, in this book, Carrie's mother having Alzheimer's is, yes, a bad and upsetting thing for Carrie, but it's not something she dwells upon every second. Instead, it becomes a good reason for her to agree to marriage with Trent, and his treatment of her mother (being nice to her, reading to her, visiting her of his own accord during his lunch breaks, arranging to have meals delivered to her and her caretaker, etc.) plays a big part in Carrie's eventual decision that Trent's not that bad a guy after all. Carrie's father's abandonment of her and her mother predictably becomes a bump in Trent and Carrie's relationship - after all, Carrie must be pushing Trent away in order to avoid being abandoned by him the same way her father abandoned her. That didn't gel with me quite the same way as the stuff with Carrie's mother. The Alzheimer's stuff was handled very nicely, while the stuff with Carrie's father hardly seemed to be an issue until it was convenient for Wright to make it an issue. Certainly, Carrie hardly ever seemed to think about it, except for that time when Carrie's mother got all worked up over it.

Actually, in addition to Carrie's mother having Alzheimer's, I figured that the big issue would be Carrie worrying that she wasn't physically the sort of person who could hold Trent's attention for long. She wasn't anything like the women he usually dated and slept with, and there was a point early on in the book where she compared herself to her beautiful, elegant friends. For those who hate the "I'm not pretty, how could you possibly love me" storylines, it's probably a relief that that didn't become an issue in this book, but I would have found it easier to swallow than the sudden "I have abandonment issues" conflict.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I also sort of had problems with the mystery that came up in this book, the whole issue with Trent and the woman who may or may not have been murdered, not being resolved. I knew that this book was part of a series, but I had assumed that that just meant that the books would focus on a set of characters all living in this apartment building. Instead, it means that and there's an overarching mystery that doesn't get resolved until later. Which means, if I want to find out who killed that woman, I'd have to find the last book in the series. Luckily, I don't care enough about who killed that woman and is sending threatening notes to want to put in that kind of effort.

Although there were a few things I didn't like about this book, for the most part I enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to trying the other book in this series that I've got, and I'm looking forward to trying other Silhouette Desire books. I'll have to see if I can find more stuff by Laura Wright, too.

Sorry there's not a whole lot of variety below. I cheated on this read-alikes list - almost all of them are books in the Park Avenue Scandals series. If you'd like to read all the books in this series in order, read them in the order I've listed them - Front Page Engagement is the second in the series.


Read-alikes:
  • Orchid (book) by Jayne Castle - This is one of my favorites with a "marriage of convenience" storyline. Like Trent, the main male character in this one needs to marry someone if he expects to take over the family business. This book is set on another planet, a world very similar to contemporary America, only the technology and culture is a bit different. For instance, it's very hard to get a divorce, so matching-making is a thriving and important business. This isn't the first book in the series, but that shouldn't make too much of a difference. If you do want to start with the first book, though, read Amaryllis.
  • High-Society Secret Pregnancy (book) by Maureen Child - The first book in the Park Avenue Scandals series, and at least one of the characters from Front Page Engagement makes an appearance. The heroine in this one is a socialite who ends up pregnant after a one-night stand with the millionaire hero. The hero doesn't believe the baby is his, but he agrees to marry the heroine anyway. I'm not sure this one would sit well with me, considering how much I disliked the same kind of elements in Eileen Wilks' The Wrong Wife, but it could still be worth a try.
  • Prince of Midtown (book) by Jennifer Lewis - Yet another book in the Park Avenue Scandals series. This one, I own, although I haven't read it yet. The billionaire in this particular book decides to seduce his assistant to keep her from leaving when she suddenly gives notice. For reasons I'm not clear on (maybe because she's his assistant? although that seems kind of silly since he feels it's ok to seduce her...), he can't marry her, so he's dismayed when he begins to fall in love with her. I think this one comes right after Front Page Engagement.
  • Marriage, Manhattan Style (book) by Barbara Dunlop - Yet another book in the Park Avenue Scandals series. This one doesn't seem to have been as loved by readers as others in the series. Rather than having the usual "billionaire seduces a relatively ordinary woman" storyline, the billionaire in this one is already married. While the couple seems like they should have it all, their marriage is going through a rocky period, because the husband is keeping secrets. From the description I read, it sounds like this might be the kind of book that expects a baby to fix things. Yuck. Still, I have learned that the descriptions for category romances seem to rarely tell the whole story, so I'm going to assume that's the case here until I learn otherwise.
  • Pregnant on the Upper East Side? (book) by Emilie Rose - Yet another book in the Park Avenue Scandals series. This one stars a party planner and the millionaire who's pursuing her - it sounds like he's interested, and she's convinced he'll get tired of her eventually if she gives in. This also seems to be one with an accidental pregnancy thrown into the mix.
  • The Billionaire in Penthouse B (book) by Anna DePalo - This is another book in the Park Avenue Scandals series, so expect more rich hero fun and another piece of the mystery puzzle. The sister of the woman who may or may not have been murdered becomes a live-in maid for the billionaire in Penthouse B, because he may have information about her sister's death and she wants to be able to do some snooping. This isn't one I own, but I think it's the last book in the series.

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