As promised I bring you a brilliant romance novel review by Miss Emma! But before you continue on to her sass and snark, can I just present this AMAZING cover:
We have the obligatory heavy petting, neck kisses, and what could possibly be a mullet. But what about the strange holographic sticker of another couple hooking up! The Packers colors! What appears to be a seagull getting ready to drop a deuce on our couple…
Anyhoo, on to the review!
The heroine: Antonia Winston y Ortega, fondly known as Tonia (you’d be informal too, yes?), is a half-Spanish, blond, high-spirited virgin daughter of an old-time California ranchero. God knows you can’t have a minority heroine, even in Spanish California. Tonia’s leading characteristics seem to be a tempting figure, the tendency to prove her high spirits by throwing tantrums and an inability to form a successful escape plan.
The hero: Captain Michael Domino, a wealthy sea captain who is out for revenge, but actually spends most of the book riding desperately to rescue Tonia from somewhere or other. Believe it or not, the good captain actually has even less of a personality than his lady-love. Leading characteristics are an unexplained raging cynicism about women, a much-mentioned but never demonstrated business acumen, and a fondness for plans with a lot of steps.
The plot: Tonia is sheltered, but very spirited and headstrong. So when she’s betrothed to El Senor Dominguez, who she doesn’t really know and doesn’t love, she decides to run away. She runs, in fact, right into Captain Domino, who is out for revenge against her fiancée for a series of reasons that kind of stack up as the book goes on. So she hits on the brilliant plan of having sex with him so that she won’t be a virgin so her fiancée won’t want to marry her. But, naturally, this sex causes the two to fall madly in love.
In a trend that continues through the book, Tonia’s plan sucks. So she still has herself a fiancée, and the good captain still has himself a really complicated revenge scenario involving cattle brands to carry out. It’s all headed toward a big fiesta at Dominguez’s place where Tonia is tricked into marrying her intended. Except not actually marrying him, because, in what is actually the closest any plan in this book gets to straightforward, Michael snuck in one of his crew instead of the friar.
From here on out, Tonia discovers the following about her new “husband”: he really only married her to get revenge on her father, who stole her mother from Dominguez (which of course makes him pretty damn old for her); he has control issues; he has a “pleasure room” in the cellar complete with whips, chains and a table with built-in restraints (the presence of which is the funniest part of the book). Through a series of improbable and complicated plot twists, Tonia spends most of the rest of the book running hither and thither, usually to wherever Michael has requested she not go and getting rescued from having sex with her “husband” by Michael, who always seems to just kind of show up for no reason. She has sex a few more times with Michael too, usually outside somewhere.
Eventually Dominguez is killed – after a few more really complicated and improbable revelations – and no one is blamed because he wrote down all his heinous deeds in a diary. Apparently because he didn’t watch enough James Bond movies to know he’s actually supposed to just tell Michael where the self-destruct switch is in his pleasure room. And of course, Michael and Tonia get married and have lots more sex.
No one says this. If they did, I would call them a pussy: “Damn you, Tonia. Damn you to hell. You, with those golden curls, eyes of the sea, and that silken body. You, so capable of reaching into the very depths of passion and inciting a man to behave against his very will. Damn you!
I think he just called her a pain in the ass: “She was a thorn in his side – a beautiful, desirable thorn.”
Um, ew, good guys edition: “Your chest is so hard, so muscular,” she cooed, and nipped at the wiry hairs covering his flat belly.”
Um, ew, bad guys edition: “Then his revenge would be complete. He would possess the beautiful daughter of the only woman he had ever truly loved and desired.”
Yup, “pleasure room”: “She had never seen anything like it. There were so many strange evil-looking instruments positioned about the room.”
Someone really needed to tell author Gwen Cleary that she doesn’t have to put every plot twist she can think of in the one book. If she’d just picked one plot, the book might not have been bad. Well, for a romance novel. There is also a seriously annoying tendency for the characters to have overly expositional conversations. Which is ok, since they also have one-dimensional personalities and you’re too busy going “huh?” whenever one of them does…well, anything, to much care.
Pages in the book: 447
Page they finally do the dirty: 64
Brava, Emma! Thank you for so brilliantly recapping this craptastic romance novel — and reviewing it more concisely than I ever could. And at 64 pages, I can officially say that Capt. Domino moves faster than other romance novel hero I’ve come across. Git it, Dom!