Tessa had loved Paul Demetrius from the start, but from the moment she introduced him to her beautiful sister Lucinda he had had eyes for no one else. At last, unable to bear seeing the two of them together, Tessa had gone away.
Now, two years later, she was home again, expecting to hear that they were married — only to learn that they had never in fact married, that after a terrible accident in which Paul had been blinded, Lucinda had walked out on him and he was now living the life of a recluse in Cyprus. So Tessa took her courage in both hands, went out to Cyprus pretending to be Lucinda, begged Paul’s forgiveness — and married him.
Would her love be strong enough to stand the strain of living such a lie? And what if Paul ever found out?
I read this book thinking it was going to be a train-wreck. It has all of the elements of an old school romance that usually makes me want to tear my own hair out. 1) Doormat heroine so desperate for love and validation that she’d put up with heaps of abuse and humiliation from the so-called hero — CHECK! 2) Olive-skinned foreign lover with “primitive” passions that are definitely unEnglish and commits acts throughout novel that crosses the line to psychotic many, many times — CHECK! 3) Heroine, who believes she’s so ugly that she should be walking around with a bag over her head, has a beautiful, but mercurial sister whom the hero SHOULD BE desiring — CHECK! 4) Heroine has a better relationship with her father because her mother just doesn’t understand — CHECK! 5) Hero is embittered and cold because he thinks all women are whores and should be punished 6) Upon being told by the hero that he will punish her for all her transgressions–imagined or otherwise–heroine perseveres and stays because she believes the hero will come to love her someday if she would only just be patient — CHECK! Oy.
If I had read this book as a romance, I would have given it an “epic fail.” I read it as “Misery” meets “Sleeping with the Enemy.” AND OH MY GOD, DID THIS BOOK BECOME EVER SO SCARY.
The Plot As I Understood it When Tessa meets Paul, she thinks he’s the most beautiful man who’s ever lived. She falls in love with his looks–not because he’s particularly clever or kind or funny–and believes he’s the most perfect thing who ever lived. But all her hopes of Paul taking one look at her and falling madly in love are DASHED when Paul falls in love with Lucinda, her much more beautiful sister, instead. To add insult to injury, Tessa overhears Paul telling a mutual friend how utterly boring he thinks she is and how sad it is that she’s so unfortunate-looking. For a normal person–that is, a SANE person–that should have been enough to kill whatever feelings you have for that other person, but not for Tessa. Nope… Tessa believes it’s totally her fault that she was born so ugly–why was Lucinda born so pretty, why God, why–and why should Paul want her anyway when he’s so perfect and she’s… practically Ms. Quasimodo. Because the world is NOT fair, Paul and Lucinda get engaged, so Tessa runs far, far away and tells her family she doesn’t ever want to hear about Paul and Lucinda ever again because it just hurts so much.
Two years later, Tessa returns to England from Israel or Palau or Micronesia (wherever it was that English Roses back in the day ran away to whenever they got their hearts broken) and discovers that Lucinda and Paul never got married because they were in a very bad car accident–Paul was jealous about some dude Lucinda was flirting with, Lucinda grabs Paul’s arm from the steering wheel because she’s crazy, the car crashes into a wall and explodes, and Paul horribly burns his hands and goes blind–and Lucinda dumped Paul. She dumped Paul because he went blind and ewww, his hands are burned and gross–he burned them, by the way, when he tried to save her ass from the car unknowing that she’d been ejected on impact. Tessa dismisses Lucinda as the coldest, most evil bitch ever and decides to seek out Paul even though TWO YEARS AGO, SHE OVERHEARD PAUL SAYING HE WOULD RATHER EAT A BOWL OF BULL TESTICLES THAN KISS HER (not in so many words). Her father tells her this is a crazy idea because Paul doesn’t even love her, Paul’s best friend tells her Paul doesn’t love her–but Tessa won’t listen. She finds out that Paul has been living as a recluse in Cypress and decides to hunt him down like a crazed stalker.
In Cypress, Tessa pretends to be Lucinda and goes to Paul’s house. Paul’s best friend Joe told Tessa that Paul would forgive Lucinda and take her back if only Lucinda returned and Tessa, because she’s NUCKING FUTS, pretends to be Lucinda. Paul, who is now blind, apparently never got close enough to his ex-fiancée to be able to tell her apart from another woman and totally believes that Tessa is Lucinda. THEY GET MARRIED. Blissful weeks of honeymooning pass and Tessa prays daily that Paul never finds out about her deception because she would JUST DIE if Paul leaves her. Tessa’s father writes her and tells her she’s out of her mind and Paul couldn’t possibly have forgiven Lucinda that easily and that he’s probably plotting some kind of revenge, but Tessa would have none of it. HEY TESSA, I CAN TELL YOU THAT PAUL IS PLOTTING SOME KIND OF REVENGE because I’ve read many of these books and from what I can tell, Harlequin Greek heroes positively eat, live, and breathe revenge. So yeah, Paul reveals to Tessa that he only took back “Lucinda” so he could make her life miserable and kill every single happy molecule in her body, but Tessa remains resolute and tells Paul she’s staying because she’s convinced she could get him to love her. Oh, Tessa.
Where it Gets Awful SPOILER ALERT After realizing he will never ever ever get rid of the Tessa-barnacle, Paul decides to give in and becomes nicer to Tessa. Everything goes well for a bit until Joe, Paul’s best friend, comes for a visit and tells Tessa he had found a doctor in London who can cure Paul’s blindness and Tessa freaks out and I SERIOUSLY THOUGHT SHE WAS GOING TO GO ALL “MISERY” ON PAUL AND MAKE SURE HE STAYS BLIND FOREVER. She tells Joe that she would rather Paul stay blind–she reasons out that she doesn’t want to get Paul’s hopes up–just so she doesn’t ever have to tell him that she’s not really Lucinda. HOW AWFUL AND SELFISH AND COWARDLY IS THAT? I thought these romance heroines are supposed to be selfless or something.
Moral of the Story If you pine long enough for someone–even when he tells you he’ll never ever ever love you because he loves your way hotter sister–he’ll come around someday and love you back. Persistence pays off. It’s also okay to lie to get what you want and to totally pick a guy over your sister if your sister was an evil, skanky ho. Oh, and if you’re a gorgeous Greek billionaire, don’t ever pick the hotter sister; the “ugly” sister will love you for life even if you treat her like doo-doo. Don’t ever cheat on her, though or she’ll totally go Kathy Bates on your ass and cut off your feet and tie you to a bed forever. Just kidding. She’ll take you back, anyway. Just don’t ever lose your killer abs and rock-hard chest–that’s one transgression that can NEVER be forgiven.
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