by Judith Rochelle, contemporary (2006)
Triskelion Publishing, $5.99, ISBN 1-933874-75-9
In The Hired Wife, our hero Reno Sullivan tells heroine Sarah Madison his sad story about his daughter Lizzie (who isn't even his because his faithless whore/slut/cartoon ex-wife is such a convenient plot device) and how he can't find a proper housekeeper and how he doesn't believe in romance or love before asking Sarah to marry him. He adds that this will be a business proposition - she'll clean, cook, and most especially babysit the kid he already has while he'll pay all the bills. He won't ever sleep with her because he doesn't believe in sticking his penis into women anymore. Or something. Although this doesn't mean that he's now gay, of course.
What will do if you are in Sarah's shoes? Slap the man for pretty much offering you a deal that is so lop-sided in his favor that the whole deal goes beyond "insulting" and straight into some new territory that needs a new word to describe it even halfway adequately? Tell him that he sure has a weird concept of the word "wife" before dumping that bowl of steaming hot soup all over his crotch?
Will you be surprised if I say that Sarah ends up accepting this oh-so-wonderful business proposition?
Again she wondered what it would be like living with Reno Sullivan? What did he eat? Watch on television? Read? Did he stay up late or go to bed early? Did he roam the house, and would she be likely to run into him if she made any nocturnal forays?
Dude, he just told her that he'll pay her to take care of the kid. At least a housekeeper has some job benefits. Why is she thinking about what he eats or reads? He just wants her to take care of the kid!
Needless to say, Sarah decides to accept the offer because she is so plain that she imagines that nobody will ever want a woman like her. She also visits Lexie and goes, awww, the girl needs a mother so she'll happily martyr herself to the cause. Predictably he behaves like an ass while secondary characters assure Sarah that he loves her and she must stay strong for their True Love, and in the end her patience and her reproductive abilities, along with a manipulative dramatic incident straight out of a Hallmark movie, all lead Reno to believe that she is the one.
I can certainly see the appeal of having a wife who will silently and patiently bear the man's asshole tendencies while unquestioningly clean, cook, and take care of the kids as if she is some kind of robot created for domesticity. I would love to have a housemaid like Sarah, I tell you. She'll probably even work for free if I tell her that I will kill a kitten for every day she doesn't do all the work for me. But I definitely do not want to read her story! I mean, just look at the premise, the plot, the stupidity of the heroine... everything about it!
The Hired Wife is a Harlequin American Romance reject gone haywire and ugly. Reading it once is enough to make me sympathize with the editors of that particular line who must surely deal with this kind of stories every day in their slush pile. Perhaps this book will be a big hit among readers who still believe that a "real" woman should have no higher ambition in life than to marry and be a man's unpaid domestic servant, but me, I'd rather hit this book hard with a baseball bat.
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