Mistress, Mother... Wife?
by Maggie Cox, contemporary (2011)
Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.30, ISBN 978-0-263-88627-6


The hero in Maggie Cox's Mistress, Mother... Wife? is an anomaly in this line of books: he's a billionaire who is reasonable and sensible. Unfortunately, it seems that Dante Romano's intelligence breaches the quota laid down by the law or something, since he has hogged all the brainpower in the story, leaving the heroine Anna Bailey to exhibit the intelligence of a medicated gnat.

Five years ago, Dante was a ruthless Italian billionaire who didn't care whom he trampled in his quest to hoard the pennies and exorcise the demons in his past. His mother's funeral changed all that, however, causing him to reel from the loss and realize that he was not proud of the man he had become. A quick flirtation with the attractive staff at the hotel bar, Anna, led to a mind-blowing one night stand that had him deciding that, yes, he would become a nicer person from that day, someone that his late mother would be proud of.

So, we cut to the present day, when Dante, upon learning that the hotel, Mirabelle, is in financial trouble, takes the necessary steps to acquire the hotel. He's doing this not only because it is located in a prime area, but also because the Mirabelle will always hold a special place in his heart, because of, you know, the amazing soul-changing shag he had with Anna. I have no idea why he couldn't contact her during the last five years if she affected him that much, but I guess we won't have a story if he did. As he arrives at the Mirabelle to negotiate the takeover, he discovers that Anna, our transplanted American heroine (because, really, it would be so gauche to have an Italian heroine), is now the assistant manager of the hotel. Even better, she is raising their kid, a daughter named Tia.

Dante is understandably furious that Anna decides to martyr herself and play the single mother without informing him of their daughter. And then, he decides that they should get married, because he wants his daughter to grow up in a loving family. This is one story where the hero comes closest to wooing the heroine with nice stuff, fancy that, so unfortunately, it falls onto Anna to carry out the thankless task of setting up artificial conflicts to keep the story going.

And oh, boy, Anna really comes off as a selfish and self-absorbed dingbat in the process. Her arguments against marrying Dante revolve around her, instead of Tia, as if her daughter is only a pet or something. Worse, she is very emotional and irrational, coming to wild conclusions about Dante - I can only wonder how she manages to function as an assistant manager, since the hotel staff prop her up more than she does anything actually useful in the capacity of her job. In addition, Anna gets jealous over everything even as she insists that she doesn't care. She is such a tedious and boring heroine whose constant whining grates on my nerves. How bad is Anna here? She comes off as an even bigger baby than Tia.

Mistress, Mother... Wife? could have been good, but this is one of those rare instances in the Modern line where the heroine manages to become even more irritating and obstinate than the hero. Apart from that novelty factor, there is very little to recommend this book to anyone as far as I'm concerned.

Rating: 54


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