A Gentleman's Bargain
When I picked up Gentleman’s Bargain I had just finished reading a contemporary, a paranormal, and a mainstream fiction novel. All I wished for was a simple old-fashioned historical romance. Well, after struggling with this 300+ page story for over three weeks I’ve learned to be very careful with my wishes. This was an “old-fashioned historical,” all right, but not in a good way. Sometimes you truly do get what you ask for….
Garrett Monroe enjoys his life very much. And why shouldn’t he? He’s a handsome, wealthy, and extremely powerful banker and, most importantly, women adore him. He leaves them so satisfied they don’t seem to mind that he forgets their names as soon as they’re out the door. When it comes to women he’s a man with “the appetite of a starving coyote and the hide of a grizzly bear.” Unfortunately, his “Grams” who raised him and is the only woman he’s ever truly loved, wants him to put an end to his rakish ways. She wants him to marry before she dies, and health-wise things aren’t looking good for her. Garrett has no use for a real fiancée and decides to deceive his dear old Grams instead. He cooks up a scheme to hire an innocent, well-spoken girl who is desperate for money to pretend to be his true love. And where will he find the mythical creature willing to participate in this plan, you may wonder? Well, it’s simple. The perfect candidate happens to walk through the door just as this grand plan begins taking form in his head.
Claire Aldrich is a young lady down on her luck. Both of her parents are dead and she’s spent the last few years as a companion to an elderly lady who has recently passed away. She’s used the last of her funds traveling to San Francisco in search of her wayward brother, the only family she has left in the world. Desperate for work, she walks into a hotel planning to find a position as a maid. Instead she meets Garrett, who is immediately taken with her innocent beauty and presents his unique job opportunity. Claire balks at the idea of deceiving an old woman, but reluctantly agrees when Garrett convinces her that he can help locate her brother.
What are the odds of this façade turning into true, everlasting love? The first two hundred and twenty pages basically consist of Garrett’s lecherous attempts to seduce away Claire’s virginity while he bosses her around and refuses to admit that he’s falling for her “tangy wit.” She dodges him as best she can, but doesn’t stand a chance against his domineering presence and skillful tongue. Before you know it she is truly, madly, deeply in love with her bossy savior. Why? I haven’t a clue. There is very little positive character development so it’s difficult to figure out. Garrett may be lovely to look at, but he’s also arrogant, selfish, and humorless. He chastises her with bewitching banter like this when she shows a little spunk: “I’m the man who put a roof over your head and an engagement ring on your finger. You will be whatever I want you to be, Claire, whenever I want you to be it.” Someone catch me whilst I swoon. Once this plot line is stretched out to a torturous length, the author then switches gears and allows a slightly more interesting suspense angle to take over the story.
A Lecher’s… uh, I mean Gentleman’s Bargain has all of the ingredients necessary to exhaust the patience of a long-time romance reader. There’s the dried-up old story line, the overbearing, uncharming older hero, and the feisty innocent young heroine who suffers from occasional bouts of TSTL-itis. But the major problem is the lack of wit, charm, emotion, and character development necessary to overcome all of the overused plot devices, cardboard people and the “My heart and private parts are aflutter it must be true love” -style romance. The result is a boring story with descriptive but uninvolving love scenes. Do yourself a favor and pick up something better than this painfully dull book. I wish I had. Maybe next time I’ll wish for my three weeks back.