Heat Factor: A virgin has a magic orgasm, of course
Character Chemistry: A dickwad meets an angel of domesticity and forgiveness
Plot: A Bad Man is Reformed by the Love of a Good Woman
Overall: Whatever muscles I use when I roll my eyes got an excellent workout
So here’s the thing. The trope of the Bad Man who becomes a better man through the love of the Good Woman is pretty standard in romance novels. It’s nice to think that jerks just need someone to care about them, and then the world would be a better place. Setting aside the fact that perpetuating this trope maybe doesn’t encourage the healthiest of relationships, I will admit that it can be done well. There are plenty of grumpy old dukes and mean bosses who have believable redemption arcs.
Unfortunately, this boss is not one of them.
The basic storyline for The Contract is that Richard (aka, The Dick) is terrible. He is a super-jerk, and everyone knows it. He wants to go work for a competitor and therefore screw over his boss. The only problem is that the new firm is very family oriented and won’t hire someone with his reputation (or just… won’t hire someone with his reputation regardless, because he sounds like a terrible co-worker). So he has to prove he has changed, and what better reason to make a change in your life than finding True Love?
So he hires his personal assistant, Katy, to pose as his fiancée. Never mind that he doesn’t care for her (because she’s too good at her job???), and has treated her like garbage for the entire time she worked for him. She agrees because the money is good. However, she needs the money not for standard materialistic reasons like wanting to move to a nicer apartment. Instead, because she is perfect, she needs the money to make sure she can continue to provide her aunt who has Alzheimer’s with the best possible care.
Sounds like a standard set up, right? They move in together, get to know each other because of their forced proximity, and have to pretend to like each other in public. All of this, naturally, leads to Real True Love.
However, there is a HUGE problem in the execution. Namely, Melanie Moreland uses alternating POV chapters so we get both characters’ perspectives on the situation. Except – she doesn’t alternate. There are 35 chapters in this book, and we get Katy’s voice in approximately… 3 of them.
Katy has two chapters in the beginning of the book where she tells us all about her aunt and how worries she is about money, plus about how much she loathes Richard because he is really really really mean to her. And then she has 1 chapter in the end, where she tells the reader that now she has fallen in love with her husband (oh yeah, they get married for reasons) but he doesn’t love her and never can because he doesn’t love himself. That means that there is a LOT missing in the middle. We never see Katy slowly coming to understand Richard. We don’t know how she feels about the scenes he makes when they are in public. We don’t know what she has to do to pretend to like him in the beginning. We don’t know why she decides to grace him with the beautiful gift of her hymen. We don’t know why she is cool with quitting her job and cooking, cleaning, and interior decorating. But mainly: we don’t know why she loves him.
You can see why this might make the love story less believable.
We know why Richard loves Katy. She is perfect! She makes his condo feel like home. She has irreproachable reasons for all the “flaws” that he mocked; for example, she’s clumsy because she was trapped in a car with her dead parents after a horrific car accident, and her leg was crushed. She soothes him by bringing him cold compresses when he has a headache. She does nothing mean, ever. And while he says he likes it when she grows a backbone, she really continues to let him boss her around and control her life (by picking out her clothes, determining the timeline of their fake relationship, decreeing what kind of work she can do, controlling her eating habits, and reminding her not to chew her cheek by tapping on her face).
Because we don’t see Richard’s transformation through Katy’s eyes, only through his own, it basically feels like this:
Also, Richard smirks 43 times. That is more than once a chapter! Smirking is not something that makes you attractive! In fact, it makes you JUST THE OPPOSITE OF ATTRACTIVE. I don’t care how much you go to the gym.
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