Rant, Review

Review: His Contract Christmas Bride by Sharon Kendrick (2019)

Harlequin Presents: Conveniently Wed!

Heat Factor: Their relationship is based on hot sex, so…

Character Chemistry: The victim/a**hole dynamic makes for chemistry challenges

Plot: Greek billionaire needs mother for orphaned nephew

Overall: Thought it would be an absurd bit of fun. Was so disappointed.

I love a little fun category romance! I read the blurb for this book and thought, sounds like a ridiculous category romance! Let’s do it for Christmas! The whole premise of having to get married because of a baby in a contemporary romance is so out there that it’s all about a little fantasy here, right?

We were initially off to a reasonably good start. Drakon has custody of his orphaned nephew and decides that he wants the baby to have a proper family life like he and his brother never had, so he thinks through his internal rolodex of available women and comes to the one who was unlike any other. Pure, gentle, a nurse. A virgin, until she took a holiday on his private Greek island. She’s nothing like the high-flying ladies of his billionaire existence. 

So we begin with:

  1. Arrogant billionaire
  2. Virginal, poor heroine
  3. Baby

Lucy Phillips is alone and making ends meet. Her father passed away, then her brother was killed in action, and then her mother wasted away from grief. Lucy is living in the family home outside London, working for a catering business (and saving up to buy the catering business). She met Drakon at an event years after he’d left the school where her mother had worked, and he invited her to visit his island, so she went off on holiday. Naturally, Drakon showed up, chemistry sparked, and they had sex all weekend. Then Lucy went home and hoped for Drakon to call while knowing he never would because he’s a player and way too busy/fancy/important for a little nobody like Lucy.

When Drakon shows up at Lucy’s door unannounced to propose marriage, Lucy is, reasonably, like, “WTF, dude!?” Kendrick tries to make this whole marriage of convenience for the sake of the baby reasonable with Drakon’s argument that the baby needs security and stability and with Drakon flying all over the world for business all the time, he can’t provide that, and he doesn’t want the baby to be raised by servants instead of parents like he was. I was ready to get behind this line of reasoning, but then all his behavior later demonstrated he didn’t actually want the kind of family he had said he wanted, so it fell a bit flat. 

For her part, Lucy is ready to tell Drakon to step off, but then she thinks she might be able to get everything she ever wanted and thought she couldn’t have. You see, Lucy is infertile (!!!) so now she can have the baby that she wanted so badly. She agrees to the proposal so she can be a mom. I was also ready to get behind this line of reasoning, but then Lucy struggles a little to assert herself as the baby’s mother, and she also fixates on what she wants from Drakon while hating the assertive/aggressive things he does. But she constantly – constantly – CONSTANTLY – positions herself as the victim. Hi Lucy, you made this choice, please own it. 

Given the trope, I expected a certain level of this sort of he’s powerful/she’s making the best of it dynamic. But it went on and on, and when we got past the 50% mark, I was over it, because eventually, for this to work, the victim/asshole dynamic has to shift. It really doesn’t. Drakon thinks to himself that she’s there to serve his needs or his idea of what a family should be (which, as discussed, does not seem to match the description he gave Lucy when he proposed). Lucy resents how Drakon controls her life or the family dynamic, but she never takes the opportunity to dictate how she thinks this relationship should look. To be honest, considering the clinical way they go into the marriage, they really should have discussed expectations a little more. But of course they didn’t. Lucy eventually decides to do two things:

  1. Be Drakon’s wife on his terms – focus on the sex and make the best of the relationship.
  2. Push Drakon to be a father to his nephew – engineer a situation where they’re together as a family. 

Which is good…except it’s still not satisfying her, so even when she’s pushing things in a direction she more-or-less wants, she’s still casting herself as the powerless victim in the relationship. 

The other frustrating thing for me about this book centered on Lucy’s alleged infertility. Content warning. I personally do not have endometriosis and I did not struggle with infertility, but I was still extremely frustrated with the way this book handled this situation. 

  1. Lucy thinks she’s infertile because apparently some (presumably) medical professional told her she was infertile because she has endometriosis. She’s completely bought into the belief that she can’t have children rather than that it might be difficult for her to have children. (Apparently ⅓ of women with endometriosis have no infertility issues. For reference, apparently 10% of all women struggle with infertility.) The idea that endometriosis = infertility is extremely problematic in terms of perpetuating a false/simplistic understanding of a condition that is specific to women.
  2. Lucy feels like less than a woman because of her infertility. This is, I am sure, a real and legitimate emotion for many women who are struggling with infertility. But the notion that one cannot be a whole woman WITHOUT having children or the ability to have children is, frankly, revolting. That distills womanhood to broodmare status. You may well ask, “Why did you pick up this book, Erin? Weren’t you expecting this?” To which I would respond, “It is, in fact, possible to execute this sort of story without reducing the role of woman to broodmare victim without agency.” Hard fail here.
  3. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but I will say that if, hypothetically, Lucy miraculously becomes pregnant after declaring herself infertile, that is a bit of a slap in the face to women who are actually infertile. Of course things can happen (and do!) for some families after years and years of trying or after fertility treatments. But going from “I can never have children” to “I’m pregnant after all when we weren’t even trying” – which is typically how this sort of narrative goes (again, no spoilers, so I’m not saying for sure…) – seems to me to be a fantastically insensitive way to treat this very real struggle.

Big. Fat. No. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar? We sort books all kinds of ways so you can find exactly what you’re looking for.

Marriage of Convenience stories!

Category Romances!

Billionaire Heroes!

Heroines with healing skills!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s