Amnesia is my favorite Harlequin Presents trope. It’s like a reset button of sorts; it can enable relationships to start over and turn total jerks into fine upstanding citizens and sweethearts. This particular story, however, uses amnesia as a pause button. Neither of the two leads change very much and once the afflicted recovers her memories, the same arguments from before continue, as though a year hadn’t gone by.
Samantha is the only survivor of a very bad car accident, which severely injured her leg. She wakes up in a hospital with severe retrograde amnesia, unable to remember her life before the accident. When she is released from the hospital, she stays in the town where she found herself and finds a job as a receptionist and bartender in an old rundown hotel. She knows nothing about her previous life and as far as she knows, no one has ever looked for her.
Hello, kiddies. I know “rock star” romances are hot right now, but back in 1981, Flora Kidd wrote this rock star story like a boss. It may not look it from the cover, but this is a pretty good rock star story. I was entranced from first page and read 187 pages in less than two hours. Turn the lights out, it’s time to get romantic.
Janos Vaszary, Hungarian violin virtuoso extra-extraordinaire, is the real deal. He’s got the talent, the looks, and the absolute conviction that he’s the best violinist ever and will become really famous one day. He starts out as a refugee from Hungary who is seeking asylum from the U.K. when he meets a young, flighty British girl who promises to marry him so he can gain immigrant status, on the condition that he can get himself to England. A couple of years later, Janos is on British soil and knocking on the door of the young girl’s flat, ready to get married.
Poor, poor Caroline Storr. For years, she suffered through a physically abusive marriage with an alcoholic, afraid to ask for help because she lived in a small town and the scandal would have killed her mother-in-law. But when Peter starts hitting her little girl, Kelly, Caroline decides she’s had enough and whisks herself and her daughter away to London. Cut to three years later and everything is coming up rosy. She had stumbled upon a copy-writing career and with the help of a small inheritance from her father, was even able to buy a house. She hadn’t heard from her drunkard swine of a husband since she’d left him and she and Kelly are doing just fine.
And then comes the asshole in the Porsche. Nick Holt, her husband’s cousin, was a painful reminder of her one emotional indiscretion—she was secretly crushing on him while she was married to Peter. Peter, of course, was a jealous, insecure psycho, and tended to “J’accuse!” Caroline of cheating on him with everyone from the mailman to the kindly town doctor. He also loved to cry his heart out to Cousin Nick and talk about what an amoral, selfish, cheating slut Caroline is. Nick, who was also secretly crushing on Caroline and felt very guilty about it, was at first unable to believe what his cousin has been telling him, but quickly changes his tune, when—say, on a lark—he makes a pass at Caroline by kissing her and she KISSES HIM RIGHT BACK, the dirty harlot! Peter was right! Ever the avenging-angel-slash-hypocritical-asshole, Nick takes it upon himself to hire a private detective to find Caroline, marches his self-righteous ass to her front door, and proceeds to tell her three things: 1) Peter is dead, 2) Peter’s mom is dying and wishes to see her granddaughter, 3) Caroline has been judged and found guilty of harlotry, and Nick himself will be her executioner. Oh, and could dirty, amoral whore Caroline and her little moppet uproot their lives, pack up everything, get into the goddamn Porsche, and go see Grandma before she croaks.
I love vintage Mills and Boon, especially ones featuring a winsome, as-delicate-as-spun-sugar, wide-eyed ingenue being chased and seduced by a barely civilized, steely-eyed Neanderthal in a Saville Row suit in London… or Toronto. There’s just so much gooey, cheesy, melodramatic nonsense going on that you can almost bite into the crazy pie and come back for seconds and thirds without feeling like you just consumed something disgusting (okay, maybe a little disgusting… shouldn’t you be training for that full marathon?). In this lovely offering by Lynne Graham, we have: a secret baby, an Italian billionaire, amnesia, and a car accident reminiscent of Deborah Kerr’s in “An Affair to Remember.” The heroine is a fragile, pretty blond thing who is described as “innocent” one too many times and the hero is a majorly alpha, testosterone-heavy, chauvinistic He-Man who literally drags the heroine back to his castle like some liege lord claiming his lady. And yet… and yet… I ended up liking the hero. Sure, he basically kidnaps the heroine and keeps her with him under false pretenses, but in the end, he just seemed so helpless about expressing what he truly feels about her and utterly baffled as to why he should feel the way he does that it’s almost adorable. OMG, IKNORITE?! Let’s dive into the insanity together, ladies and ghouls, and explore this “Tempestuous Reunion.”
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.