There are two novellas in this anthology, both based around the premise of “arranged” marriages. The first, Unwanted Wedding by Penny Jordan, offers a girl the chance to save her family’s heritage by – you guessed it – arranging a marriage with a financially secure businessman she’s known since her childhood.
The second, The Borghese Bride by Sandra Marton, tells the story of a one-night stand that results in a child, and the consequences that erupt five years later when the couple is reunited by family plotting and financial considerations into making – yep, right again – a marriage of convenience.
The idea of an arranged marriage certainly offers the right setting for romance. Especially when a history exists between the couples, as it does in both these stories. Sadly, though, neither worked for me. If these had been historical novels, they would have been great. But it’s the twenty-first century. Both heroines lack backbone, guts, and are completely without any kind of decisiveness. Rosy, from the first novel, treads a dangerous line between immature woman and annoying twit. And Arianna, from the second tale, seems completely unable to face up to her situation and confess both her love and the truth about her child to her “husband”. Unlikely, to say the least, since she’s been running her own business for quite some time, and should have the courage to handle it.
Both couples suffer the pains of unrequited lust, the guys are confused, angry, hot under the – um – collar, and a bit dense at times, since they’re not about to admit their love either. But it’s the lack of spine on the part of the heroines that is so jarring. Too much time is spent agonizing over feelings. One blunt and honest confession could have gone a long way towards sharpening these stories. But of course it would probably also have cut them down to a third their length. Sometimes the urge to yell at characters in a novel is a good thing – it means the reader is involved in the story enough to want to sort things out. Unfortunately, this book just made me want to sigh. Let’s arrange a marriage between two characters who can really duke it out on an even footing. Leave the sudsy angst for daytime television, and stick with more realistic portrayals of today’s woman.