Books to the Sky

Recap: The Tycoon’s Trophy Wife by Miranda Lee

Posted on: September 17, 2008

This past weekend, I took a bunch of category romances out from the library. I intend to make recaps of same a regular feature on this blog. If you have suggestions for additions to the feature, leave them in the comments. But first, let’s take a moment to break it down.

Definition: Category romances are those 200-page romance novels published by Harlequin and the like, the sorts of books with steamy covers and short shelf lives. Harlequin publishes a bunch of these every month. I don’t mean to denigrate the whole genre—some of my favorite romance authors got their starts writing these—but these are the kinds of books you make fun of your aunt for reading or are ashamed to read on the subway.

I haven’t read many categories, aside from reissues by authors I already liked (Janet Evanovich, Jennifer Crusie, Suzanne Brockmann, Nora Roberts). I would guess these are kind of the cream of the crop; the authors went on to bigger and better things, and I know that, at least in Evanovich’s case, some revisions were made before the books were published again.

So this should be fun. Let’s dive right in to The Tycoon’s Trophy Wife, which I picked because it has a title that’s pretty typical of the genre.

Line, Publication Date: Harlequin Presents, 2005
Cover Steaminess: With 10 being shirtless Fabio and 1 being a plain pink cover, this one’s a 4. Cover features a photo of a bland-looking couple, the man in a tux, the woman in a red cocktail dress. He’s carrying her up some marble stairs and kissing her ear.
Series/Back of Book Description: Wives Wanted! “Reece knew that Alanna would make the perfect trophy wife! Stunning and sophisticated, she wanted nothing more than a marriage of convenience. And that was fine by Reece! But suddenly, their comfortable life together was turned upside down when Reece discovered that his wife had a dark past. But, he realized, he wasn’t prepared to lose Alanna—even if the only thing they shared was passion…”
Flowery Language Quotient: Low. Disappointingly so. Some bad metaphors for girl and boy parts would have made this novel a lot more entertaining.

This is not a good bad book. It’s a bad bad book. It’s like someone wrote all the soap opera cliches she could think of—abusive first husband! secret babies! car accidents! parties! convenient amnesia! sex as a miracle cure!—onto little pieces of paper, put them into a can, and shook it up, then pulled out the ones necessary to put a novel together. Fun, right?

The Prologue opens: “Sydney. September. Spring.” Alanna walks into a cemetery to talk to someone named Darko who, as becomes clear quickly, was apparently her abusive dead husband. Alanna informs Darko (I mean, really, not even trying for subtlety, are we?) that she’s now married to a man named Reece whom she’s not in love with, but he’s rich and sexy and they make love nightly and are trying for a baby. It sounds like Darko was scary and controlling the same way Jeremy Sisto’s character was in Waitress. (Does this mean that I can imagine Reece looks like Nathan Fillion? Because that makes me happy.) So… this is Alanna’s dark secret? I kind of hope she killed him. (If only.)

We open the novel proper at a wedding, but not Alanna and Reece’s wedding; it’s a wedding for people named Holly and Richard, and Reece is apparently playing the part of the best man. There’s some completely pointless exposition about the players there. The other groomsman here is Mike. Mike and Reece have a whole conversation while the bridesmaids parade in—rude much?—but Reece is soon distracted by a “chief bridesmaid” who makes “every male hormone” move into overdrive. The good news for Reece is that this is his wife of 9 months.

Alanna’s wearing a red dress (perhaps that from the cover?) that is more modest than the things Reece usually dresses her in, the effect of which makes her sexier allegedly, so all eyes are on her and Reece gets jealous. There’s a long description of Alanna that follows, the purpose of which is to illustrate that she is the most beautiful woman that ever lived ever. It’s also revealed that Reece was once engaged to a woman named Kristine, who he apparently is over now, and she’s less hot than Alanna anyway, because Alanna is the hottest woman who ever hotted, or whatever.

We also learn that Reece and Alanna met through a dating service called Wives Wanted, which sounds like the Millionaire Matchmaker: rich men wanting wives get paired with pretty girls. Reece and Alanna agreed early on that love would never be part of the equation; Reece thinks he’s too old to fall in love (he’s 36, so whatever) and Alanna loved her first husband and doesn’t think she’ll ever love again. It takes Alanna 7 pages to make it down the aisle, and Reece spends a lot of that time working out how to get her out of her dress. It’s revealed that they’ve been trying for a baby for 3 months but no luck so far. Reece also spends some time obsessing about how he triumphed over Kristine (but she’s “out of his head and his heart”).

At Richard and Holly’s reception, Alanna dances with Mike. Reece gets jealous some more, but Alanna doesn’t believe it. They test Reece by getting closer, and Reece gets all scary nostril flarey, so Mike explains that all men get jealous when their hot wives are groped by other men. Mike admits that Kristine left Reece for an older, wealthier man, implying Reece might have some insecurities, but Reece walks up before Mike can elaborate more (what more is there to elaborate?) so Alanna asks Reece if he’s jealous. He says he’s possessive. Alanna informs him she does not like jealousy. Oh, dear. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, these people have Issues.

So they get all lusty and start brainstorming places they can go to make out. Alanna thinks, “Alanna had vowed to keep a tight rein on her highly sexed nature. No good ever came from a man thinking his wife was a whore.” Oy. She doesn’t want to submit to him because she doesn’t want him to think less of her, and thinks that if she gives in to all of his sexual whims, she’ll be his “married mistress.” What? Grah, they’re married. Why can’t they just have sex when they want to? Reece makes this same argument, but Alanna’s not buying what he’s selling.

See, okay, here comes one of my Romance Novel Pet Peeves. Alanna thinks Reece wants a pretty little Stepford Wife who is only ever sweet and nice and only does missionary on the marriage bed. Reece, being male, wants to do it pretty much all the time in any place and, in fact, would totally embrace her wild side but, being a good guy, he backs off when he wants her bad but she says no. I mean, really, of all the contrived romance plots, this is right up there with the things that annoy me the most. Oh, darn, your husband wants to have sex a lot and so do you! What a huge problem you have!

*sigh* So there’s awkward silence during the car ride home. Reece thinks Alanna only puts out at all because she wants a baby, but he’s falling for her in the, “I care for her a whole lot but I don’t love her” way that romance heroes are wont to fall in love. They get back to the house and… oh, for the love of… Romance Novel Pet Peeve #2: aggressive romancing. They get out of the car, he pushes her against the hood, pushes her dress up, and rips her underwear off, and it reads like a rape scene except that she’s totally into it. He stops suddenly and is all, “See?” Then they go upstairs and totally do it. At least there were no punishing kisses.

There’s some tedium the next day where Alanna’s all self-conscious and assumes that, because she’s never been aggressive in bed before, Reece will assume she’s cheating, but, of course, he loves that she’s suddenly aggressive in bed so WHATEVER. Sheesh, find a real conflict.

Oh, good, they do. After they have hot sex in the kitchen and it’s starting to look like Alanna’s getting over herself, she gets a call from her mum, who tells her that she’s getting married. So, Reece decides to take Alanna shopping, but on their way out of the driveway, the car gets broadsided by a truck. Reece is fine, but Alanna is unconscious and is whisked off to the hospital. When she comes to, she tells the doctor that her husband tried to kill her and her unborn baby.

Reece freaks and demands the doctor do a pregnancy test, because she’s not pregnant. (Why didn’t the doctor do a pregnancy test? She’s in a hospital, she was in a car accident, they probably did x-rays, right? I had to take a pregnancy test when I was in the ER to get my foot x-rayed last year, and the x-ray tech still asked me if I was pregnant four times. Also, this doctor has a, “By golly, you’re right!” reaction whenever Reece points something out—like the fact that she doesn’t recognize Reece when he’s finally allowed to see her—so the only conclusion I can draw is that this doctor is the worst doc in Australia.)

Anyway, Alanna has some kid of amnesia wherein she doesn’t remember the last five years and thinks she’s still married to Darko. Reece tells the doctor that all he knows about Darko is that he died in a car accident. (Meaning Alanna didn’t kill him. Lame.)

Reece manages to persuade the doctor to let him sit with Alanna, then Reece figures he’s smarter than the doctors and decides to tell Alanna that she has amnesia and Darko is dead. Good thinking, as the knowledge that Darko is dead brings her some comfort, but bad thinking, because she still thinks she’s pregnant with Darko’s baby and she doesn’t recognize Reece at all, even after he tells her they’re married. She reacts especially negatively when Reece posits that she must have miscarried after the first accident.

Our sojourn into Soap Opera Land continues when Alanna wakes up again sometime later and sees Reece asleep in a chair. She debates with herself about how she would have behaved under certain circumstances—I do this sometimes, but the Internal Monologue of Rhetorical Questions goes on for several pages, and it just strikes me as odd—and kind of concludes that either Reece is a good guy or she married him to make a baby. Also, she thinks about the standard battered wife tropes. If you’ve seen an episode of SVU, that’s about the sum of it. Hmm, come to think of it, the presence of Chris Meloni would make this book substantially better. Maybe Stabler and Benson can come to the hospital and look at her sympathetically. Benson will do that understanding tilted head thing and Stabler will get so mad thinking about the dissolution of his marriage that he’ll have to leave the room so he can throw around some furniture.

This novel is awful. I have to make my own fun.

Alanna wakes up Reece and asks why they got married. She’s all, “We totally didn’t get married for love, did we? Because that’s just crazy!” Reece—who, of course, is totally in love with her and suddenly realizes as much—doesn’t know how to answer that. He tells her it’s a “marriage of convenience,” and she seems satisfied with the answer. Then she asks after her mother and kind of freaks when she learns they’re close. (See, because abusive husbands make their wives cut off contact with everyone. This book is like Spousal Abuse 101.) Reece begins to panic because he thinks maybe Darko completely destroyed Alanna’s ability to love, which is only a problem now that he realizes he’s in love with her. He freaks and leaves the room.

Some time later, Reece drives Alanna home and repeats again some more what we already know; he called Alanna’s mother who revealed all! Darko was an abusive husband! *gasp* I am so shocked by this, you guys!

Then absolutely nothing happens for a couple of chapters.

Alanna keeps asking Reece about her new self, and she doesn’t recognize this well-adjusted person at all. The first night she’s back from the hospital, she has a nightmare. Reece runs in to comfort her (he’s staying in a different bedroom to make her more comfortable) and then they have sex, because even though Alanna doesn’t think she likes sex, her body remembers liking sex with Reece. Reece comes away from the encounter smugly convinced that he just got her pregnant.

Alanna wakes up the next morning and remembers everything! It’s the miraculous healing powers of sex! Alanna decides to go tell Reece in person, which can only lead to a comical misunderstanding. Indeed, when she gets to his office building, she sees him in the coffee shop with his ex, Kristine. She’s so mad that she realizes suddenly that she’s in love with her husband and is immediately disgusted by this. (Seriously, the book reads like a bad farce. I can’t tell sometimes if the characters are being stupid or sarcastic. Like, Reece gets in touch with the matchmaker who set him up with Alanna, and he inadvertently admits he loves her, and the matchmaker is all, “No, you’re totally right, the last thing Alanna wants to be is loved.”)

Alanna goes up to his office to wait for him, and he totally lies about who he had coffee with, then takes her to lunch. She acts upbeat and bubbly, he realizes she’s acting weird, and we have Romance Novel Pet Peeve #3: The Big Misunderstanding that would have been easily avoided if these people just talked to each other. Reece is totally pissed at Kristine for showing up in the office and he’s so over it and told her never to come see him again, so Alanna has no reason to be jealous, but she still stews, and then Reece gets called away to do a tycoon thing and buy up some real estate in a far away exotic locale.

After stewing and then calling one of Reece’s friends, Alanna is more convinced than ever that Reece is having an affair with Kristine, so she flies to where he’s staying and barges into his hotel room. He’s kind of offended that she thinks he’s cheating, as he should be. I mean, really, you can’t enter into a loveless trophy wife scenario and expect trust and fidelity. This is not a typical arrangement, though, as we know. This is True Love.

So, Alanna confronts Reece. The whole misunderstanding is resolved in half a page. They declare their love for each other. I call shenanigans.

Epilogue: Alanna takes a pregnancy test and it’s positive. Wow, I never would have guessed.

And that’s the end! I hope The Italian Boss’s Mistress of Revenge is better. (Oh, yeah. You read that right.)

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6 Responses to "Recap: The Tycoon’s Trophy Wife by Miranda Lee"

My favorite part: “because Alanna is the hottest woman who ever hotted, or whatever.”

Oh man, I have high hopes for the Italian Boss’s Mistress of Revenge. Could a book with that title NOT be awesomely bad??

I bet female romance characters go through a LOT of underwear. I bet they have a mail-order service or something.

Hee. There’s a whole bit in this book where Alanna still has amnesia and wants to change into sensible, comfortable cotton underwear, but instead finds her drawers are well-stocked with demi bras and thongs. All the easier to tear off, I guess. (This book subscribes to the “The more skin you show, the sexier you are” school of thought, clearly, so there’s no way Alanna can own undies that actually cover her butt, since she is so hott.)

[…] I’ve read plenty of novels with punishing kisses and heroines getting flung against walls or the hoods of cars, and I just sit there puzzled, because I don’t find rape sexy at all. Did women in the 70s […]

Yes, hon. Bad writing aside, people have always found rough sex kind of sexy. Not all people, but enough. Its actually a different thing then rape. I think we all know that No sometimes means yes. Humans are tricky that way.

This isn’t a recap. Its a review. As most of us haven’t read the book, and don’t intend to, its pretty useless to review it. Better try your hand at something that doesn’t involve humor. Peace.

I’m sorry, but you are really not making your point. WHY would someone be subtle when talking to their dead husband? You make no sense. Someone needs to do a recap of this recap.
Alana has some kind of amnesia where she forgets a certain amount of time? Thats a rather usual type. And why do you keep saying “apparently” all the time? Reed is apparently the best man. Alana apparently looks sexy in the dress. Do you have any reason to doubt those things?
Exposition about characters at the start of a book is NOT pointless. Its just introducing the characters.
All people have issues.
I really don’t get your point about the “married mistress” being weird. From what I know of the fifties, if a woman was too experimental sexually it probably would make any man, including her husband respect her less. this is even largely true of men and women living today. If someone is kinky, people tend to think less of them. Even if they are married to them. I have no doubts at all that lots of men, and some women probably keep their weirder sexual natures to themselves.
Seriously if this book is all that bad, then you shouldn’t have to be trying this hard to make fun of it. It actually just sounds like you are trying to make yourself feel better about -I don’t know- being a bad writer, or being a strawman feminist. can’t really say which one.

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Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
--Arnold Lobel

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
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