There was a time when I read lots of category romances… almost all of which were written by the fabulous Sarah Mayberry, none of which were Harlequin Presents. But I like Caitlin Crews/Megan Crane’s work and I thought it would be fun to check out what she does with the rules of Presents. They are, according to Harlequin:
Harlequin Presents Key Elements
- A hero who will command and seduce. There’s nothing in the world his powerful authority and money can’t buy…except the love of a woman strong enough to tame him!
- A Harlequin Presents heroine isn’t afraid to stand up to the hero in her own way, whether she’s at home in his opulent world or not. She can be shy and innocent, feisty and daring or anywhere in between.
- These stories are pure romantic fantasy with glitzy, glamorous, international settings to upstage even the swankiest of red-carpet premieres!
- High sensuality and sky-rocketing sexual tension to quicken your pulse
- Captivating internal emotional conflicts that will sustain the story over the course of 50,000 words.
- Tone should be contemporary but with a strong intensity, delivering an instant hit of powerful emotion
- Give classic themes a fresh 21st century twist – tease, surprise and delight.
In Willed to Wed Him, our hero is Ranieri Furlan, CEO. He’s fabulously wealthy, gorgeous, arrogant, and supremely self-controlled. As Crews writes, Ranieri looked as if he was the man all James Bonds had tried, and failed, to emulate. He is, of course, Italian, has an impeccable wardrobe and the sexual skills and virility of, well, I don’t know who because this is a Presents so it’s definitely outside the scope of my humdrum experience.
Ranieri, under the terms of Bennett Schuyler, the recently deceased owner of The Schuyler Corporation which Ranieri runs, must marry Annika Schuyler, Bennett’s daughter, in order to keep his job. The two must be engaged within 24 hours of the reading of the will–this is when the book begins–, be living together within one week, and wed within the month. The marriage must last at least one year.
If they follow the will’s directions, Annika will be able to keep Schuyler House, the museum that Annika’s grandparents had built during New York’s Gilded Age. (Think a lesser Frick.) Annika runs Schuyler House and can’t imagine her life without it.
Annika and Ranieri, after Ranieri has booted all the lawyers out of the lawyers’ swanky Manhattan conference room, agree to obey the letter of the law of the will. They have know each other for years, since Annika was a teenager and Ranieri had finished business school at Harvard. They don’t get along–Annika is careless dresser who cares little for what others think and it’s clear that Ranieri thinks she’s an embarrassment to her family’s prestigious name. But, in following her father’s will, their interests align.
There’s a problem, however. Ranieri is sure that New York will never believe a man like him would marry a mess like Annika. So, because it’s a Presents, he announces that they’ll tell the world they were both carried away by passion. After leaving the law office and stopping off to pick up a Furlan family heirloom–a ring with a one of a kind, sixteen carat Asscher-cut diamond–-the two are engaged. For the first couple of weeks, there’s actually no passion, just parties and corporate events, dress fittings, and Ranieri ultimatums.
Then, after Annika uses behaving like an idiot in public to try get Ranieri to break the engagement–at this point she has fulfilled enough of the terms of her father’s will to be able to hold on to the Museum–Ranieri is left with no choice but to kiss her passionately. (It’s a Presents.) Annika–a (color me shocked I tell you!) virgin–is remade by this kiss and Ranieri is undone. The two keep kissing right up until their wedding day after which they go on a honeymoon that puts every honeymoon ever to shame. It’s in Italy, all they do is make love, eat incredible food someone else cooked, admire the countryside, make more love, and talk.
But into this bliss a conflict must fall and does so when Ranieri’s absolutely dreadful parents arrive. Their rotten behavior reminds Ranieri that Furlans always destroy those they love so of course he MUST SEND ANNIKA AWAY lest he break her heart.
You know how this turns out.
What makes a story like this great is how well this predictable tale is told. And, let me assure you, Caitlin Crews tells this story wonderfully. Ranieri and Annika are vivid characters, each with their own wounds, needs, thoughts, and fears. I was expecting to roll my eyes through their love story. I did not. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and watching them fall in love. Yes, Ranieri’s an idiot but Crews makes his bad behavior understandable. Prior to Bennett’s death, Annika and Ranieri didn’t know each other–they saw only the externality of the other. As they fall in love, they do so because in seeing the truth in the other, they also become accepting of themselves. This is a feel good story with genuine psychological depth.
Willed to Wed Him didn’t really sell me on Presents. But it reinforced my love for Crews’ work. In some ways, her fabulous dystopian Viking Edge series (written as Megan Crane) couldn’t be more different than this novel. But whether she’s writing about absurdly wealthy men in Armani suits who love billionaire heiresses or sex-loving Viking raiders who take their women captive, she tells stories about interesting, believable people in a smart, sexy, unusual way. I enjoyed Willed to Wed Him, limos and all.
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