December 2008, Series Romance
Harl Presents # 2785, $4.75, 192 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373127855
Attention, Blake McKay, hero of Bought: One Night, One Marriage: 1955 called, and it wants you and your sexist attitudes back. Here in 2008, you don't order women around anymore. We get to choose whether we want to get married, whether we work, and where we work. Got it? Good.
Cally attends a bachelor auction for charity at her friend Mel's insistence, and against her better judgment. She never intends to bid, but Mel bids for her, and lands her a day with sexy entrepreneur Blake McKay. Like Cally, Blake was an unwilling auction volunteer. But once he was drawn in, he decided to work it, using his modeling background to pose and strut his way to more charity funds. Spotting Cally and her disproving face in the crowd, he decides that she's his target.
Cally wants nothing to do with Blake at first, even though she can't help finding him attractive. Past experience has taught her that attractive men cannot be trusted, and she has trouble believing any man would fall for her. After all, she's short and a little round, and she was raised to feel inferior to her super-model mother. Blake isn't looking for commitment right off the bat either; like Cally, he was burned by a bad relationship. However, they can't deny the attraction that flares between them. In an all-or-nothing gesture, Blake makes a bet with Cally: Each of them will take $100 and use it to raise money for charity. If Cally raises more, Blake will double the combined amount and donate it to the charity of her choice. If Blake wins, Cally has to be his sex slave (more or less) for a weekend. Cally's had very little sexual experience, and hasn't even had an orgasm during penetrative sex. So when it comes down to it, she makes only a token effort and (not surprisingly) loses the bet.
She proceeds to spend a weekend at Blake's house, having knock-your-socks-off sex. When it's over, she ducks out before they can even talk about any sort of future, then holes up for a few weeks in a vacation home so she won't have to talk to anyone. When she comes back, she realizes that she's pregnant - something she thought was difficult or impossible for her because of her severe endometriosis. Due to some snooping on the part of his assistant, Blake finds out right around the time Cally does. And that's when Mr. Crazy steps in. Blake thinks that Cally tricked him into getting her pregnant on purpose, and while he's angry at her supposed manipulation, he's also worried that she'll deny him access to his child. Determined to avoid that, he arrives at her doorstep and announces that they will marry. She will move in with him. They will eventually have more sex. He will not just be part of his child's life; they will be a family unit, whether he and Cally love each other or not.
Cally, who is also apparently suffering from the delusion that this is the 1950s, does everything that Blake tells her to do. And he tells her plenty. Not only does he want her to marry him, he also wants her to sell her business (a gourmet soup company), and stop doing anything strenuous (unless it involves sex with him). She truly appears to think she has no other choice, even though she is independently wealthy.
Up until the point where Cally gets pregnant, this book isn't bad. It's a hot read (especially for a series romance), and the love scenes are well-written (if a little purple at times). I also enjoyed the Australian setting. But as soon as Blake went into Neanderthal mode, I was done. If things had been phrased a little differently, I wouldn't have had problems with the choices Cally made. Women make choices every day, and modern feminism is all about having the freedom to do what you want to do, whether that's climbing the corporate ladder or staying home while the children are young. But Blake gives orders, not choices - and Cally doesn't have enough backbone to tell him to f___ off.
If you secretly long for the days when men were men and women got to be secretaries and stewardesses - if they were lucky - then maybe you'll relish the blast from the past that Bought: One Night, One Marriage provides. I'll stay here in the 21st Century, thanks.
-- Blythe Barnhill
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