Wife for a Week
Wife for a Week suffered the misfortune of being read between two books I liked much better. I picked it up in the brief span of time between reading The Thirteenth Tale for book club and the long awaited Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It didn’t come close to matching the caliber of either of those books. Judging it on its own merit, as a somewhat campy and over-the-top series romance, it wasn’t bad.
Hallie Bennett has lived life in the shadow of her four overbearing older brothers, all of whom have exciting, dangerous jobs. Meanwhile, Hallie works at an expensive shoe store in London, hoping to earn the money to finish art school. One day her fate changes when Nicholas Cooper and his mother walk through the door. Mom wants to buy shoes, but Nicholas is in need of a wife. A fake wife. He owns a computer software company and has designed a brilliant new game that he wants to sell rights to distribution in Hong Kong. But during his last visit there, the daughter of the man with whom he was negotiating made a pass at him. In order to divert her, Nicholas invented an imaginary wife. Now he’s traveling back to finalize the deal, and he needs to bring his fictional wife along with him.
Hallie resists the idea at first, but Nicholas offers her enough money to pay for school, and a glamorous wardrobe besides. She decides to throw caution to the wind and accompany Nick to Hong Kong, but she also sets some ground rules: There will be no kissing or cuddling unless they have an audience, and when the week is over they will go their separate ways with no strings and no guilt.
If you’ve read even one romance before, you can probably guess where this is headed. Nick and Hallie can’t quite keep their hands off each other, and the rules get tossed by the wayside. Meanwhile, they discover that they complement each other quite well. Hallie surprises herself with her charming “corporate wife” abilities. Nick surprises her with his supportive attitude; he has confidence in her and trusts her to make good choices (something her brothers have never been able to do). Of course, there are also obstacles to the relationship. Hallie inadvertently makes a blunder that could cost Nick his life, and soon everyone in the household is in danger. Then there is the matter of their dishonesty. Can they really carry out their ruse and complete the business deal?
For the most part, I enjoyed the book. It’s not brilliant literature, but Hunter’s writing flows smoothly, and it’s often a lot of fun. I found the love scenes to be surprisingly sexy (for some reason I had always seen Harlequin Presents as tamer) and engaging. The characters are basically likable, and Hallie especially has some depth to her. While it can be hard to relate to characters who have a drifter mentality, Hallie’s lack of direction makes some sense in light of her place in the family.
One problem, of course, is that the reader definitely has to suspend some disbelief. As common as such a scenario is in romance novels, I’d venture to say that few of us know anyone in real life who pretends to be married (though I did have a cousin who almost succeeded in faking his own graduation from college). Since the Hong Kong businessman is supposed to be pretty savvy, I wondered right off the bat why they would even try to deceive him. Obviously, if you’re going to enjoy the book you have to get over any such misgivings early on.
Similarly, I found Hallie’s mistake (where she puts Nick’s life in danger) completely hilarious. I couldn’t quite decide whether it was supposed to be tense and tragic, or wildly funny – but I got the feeling I was supposed to be worried. Instead, the whole thing had a campy, Scooby Doo vibe.
In the end, the book more or less succeeds at its aims. It’s not brilliant, but it’s a diverting night’s read. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief – and you like international settings – you could do worse.