Valentino's Love-Child
by Lucy Monroe, contemporary (2009)
Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.19, ISBN 978-0-263-87209-5


Valentino's Love-Child is rather misleading as a title because the pregnancy only comes into play later in the story, but hey, what else is new, really, when it comes to titles of books in this series. This one is easily the most readable of the bunch of Modern books that I have read this month, and the hero Valentino Grafisi is actually the least emotional abusive of his ilk as well. This story reminds me a lot of some soap opera featuring racist depictions of sexually charged and very wealthy Italians as well as American heroines who fall for them, so treat this book accordingly depending on your preferences.

Faith Williams is an American currently working on her art as well as teaching art at the local school. A widow, she hopes to escape the unhappiness of her past in this wonderful new country, and for almost a year now, she has been sleeping with Tino, our Sicilian version of Pepe Le Pew. Only, unlike Pepe, he isn't looking for love, because he's too cool for that, oh no. Even if he needs a mother for his son (he's a widower), as he tells Faith he'd be marrying a submissive local woman, not some American innocent sex pot. Ah, but we all know, don't we? These Italians, Greeks, Venezuelans, whatever - they are all helpless before the power of the American hoo-hah.

Faith has fallen in love with Tino despite knowing that he's not interested in such puny emotion. The first half or so of this story deals with Faith trying to keep the status quo in their relationship even as she realizes that she has fallen for the charms of a lovable man who won't even acknowledge her existence outside the bedroom, not even to his son. Then she realizes that she is pregnant (American hoo-hah strikes again!). How is she going to tell Tino?

Perhaps if Ms Monroe had been allowed to write a story without being bogged down by Modern clichés and tropes, Valentino's Love-Child would have been a better read. The author tries to have her heroine address the right issues in her dysfunctional relationship with Tino. One thing I must say about Faith: apart from her desperate need for a family that chains her pathetically to Tino, she's actually intelligent and self-aware for a female character in a Modern book. Unfortunately, Tino is way too high maintenance as this fool whose high-handed and haughty ways always hurt the heroine even if he doesn't mean to do so to her. I actually feel exhausted on behalf of Faith at the end of the day as she tries so hard to get him to see sense. If I were her, I'd just walk away even if I am carrying his kid because I suspect that a long-term relationship with this man means lots of heartbreak. He's too exhausting to deal with! But I guess Faith's desperate need to have a baby and a home allows her to have an inexhaustible supply of patience to deal with this silly man.

The most annoying thing about this story is the creepy son of Tino who is obsessed about wanting a new mother just as Faith is obsessed about having a family. I know kids, I've raised enough of them to know that no kid at that age will say those creepy things that he does or become that fixated on wanting a mother. I suspect he's related somehow to the Antichrist because he's that unnatural. How did we know he didn't mess with his mother's insulin dosage and cause her death, hmm?

Valentino's Love-Child sells a fantasy of an American woman who endures and remains patient long enough to get knocked up and thus makes her lover, who has taken her for granted all this while, take action to force her to marry him. It's a familiar fantasy if you are used to reading this line, and the only things new Ms Monroe offers here are a hero whose greatest sin is being thoughtless - as opposed to being an abusive SOB who should have been smothered to death by the midwife during his birth - and a creepy kid who wants a Mommy, perhaps to tie up and dismember with a cleaver in the cellar when Daddy is away on a business trip. Have fun, folks!

Rating: 75


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