by Anne McAllister, contemporary (2008)
Harlequin Mills & Boon, £2.99, ISBN 978-0-263-86478-6
I'm sure we all know by now that titles of category romances from Harlequin are determined by a secret but bizarre method known only to their editors, one that I hear involves a combination of a word roulette wheel, plenty of alcohol, and a list of adult movie titles. I'm sure you won't be surprised, therefore, to learn that Antonides' Forbidden Wife bears little relevance to the story between the covers. The wife isn't "forbidden" to the hero, although she is quite a forbidding creature here. Also, the heroine is part-Japanese and part-Chinese. You wouldn't know that from the cover though - perhaps that clinch reflects the moment when the hero inevitably has an affair with his secretary a few years down the road.
Ten years ago, Alice "Ally" Maruyama and Petros "PJ" Antonides were friends. Back in Hawaii, he was the beach bum and she was the counter girl at the local diner where he hanged out. When she was issued some kind of "marry or no money" ultimatum, Ally and PJ got married, had one night of lovely honeymoon bliss, and sort of drifted apart afterward. Since then he has become the rich boss of his family's shipping company while she, having the taste of success, realizes like every other romance heroine does that all she really wants in life is love, daddy, a husband, and a bunch of kids. Hence her going back to her father and going as far as to marry the man he favors to win his approval.
PJ is minding his own business one day when Ally shows up with divorce papers. She wants to marry the doctor Jon - everyone but her can tell right away that she's marrying him because she craves her father's approval - but PJ is like, "No way, we're still married and we'll always be married because if we don't, there is no story and Ms McAllister is going to be in deep trouble with her editor."
The story is silly. If PJ turns on the charm and woos the wife, if Ally grows a brain, this story won't be as long as it is. So we have PJ forcing the wife to go on dates with him while Ally protests non-stop as if she's being dragged into a blind dentist's office. It doesn't help that Ally is all over the place. First, she will tell me repeatedly that she was very rude towards PJ the last time they met five years ago and she is therefore confident that PJ is just trying to humiliate her in this case, but at the same time she will also whine that she doesn't understand why PJ won't be happy to see her and sign those papers. Which is which? If she is really determined to divorce PJ, there is nothing that a good divorce lawyer can't fix, I'm sure. Instead, she is all talk and complain but that is all she does here. She's so irritating. PJ is no prize either, as this man must be not right in the head if he believes that the woman he has to work so hard to get is one that he can spend the rest of his life with. He'd no doubt be screwing the secretary one year down the road because Ally, frankly, is insane.
Ms McAllister also writes as if she can't remember what she wrote in the previous page. Details are constantly being repeated until I wonder whether there is some kind of test waiting for me at the end of the book. Ally is also constantly repeating the same tedious song and dance. TJ is always saying the same things in response to Ally's repetitious whining. Therefore, this story doesn't just have characters behaving foolishly, these characters are behaving foolishly repetitively.
Frankly, I feel only great relief when I reach the last page of this book. It's a pity - the characters could have been different from the usual Harlequin Modern clichés but the author forces them to do the same song and dance in a pointless and most insipid story.
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