Thanks to Sara Craven, I’ve rediscovered my love for the Harlequin Mills & Boon Sexy line. Yes, her heroes can be a little overbearing, and her heroines can be a tad wimpy, but for the most part, they’re likeable. They’re flawed, they’re sometimes lacking in self-awareness, but they work through their issues through the book, and I’m cheering for them all the way.
Not to mention, her books make me cry. Every single one of them. Don’t read them at 3am because you’ll wake up with puffy eyes that no amount of caffeine can erase.
The Santangeli Marriage uses a common HMB Sexy plot. Marisa and Lorenzo’s marriage was arranged by their families, but through a series of misunderstandings on both their parts, they got off to a pretty horrible start and have been living apart for the past 8 months. When Renzo’s father falls ill and asks him to work on repairing his relationship with his wife, Renzo decides it’s time for him to try and woo Marisa—properly this time, to make up for the hash he made of it during their honeymoon. Marisa’s shocked when she comes home to find Renzo waiting for her, and although she wants to end the marriage, Renzo convinces her to give it another try for the sake of his father, who is also dear to Marisa.
Essentially, the conflicts in their relationship arise because neither Renzo or Marisa can bear to tell the other how they really feel. Renzo feels he’s made numerous attempts to set aside his pride and treat Marisa fairly and with affection, but feels rebuffed at every turn. Marisa can’t forget Renzo’s rejection of her when she tried to seduce him when she was only 15 years old, and she’s convinced that Renzo could never be faithful to her, what with all the beautiful women throwing themselves at his feet. She’s also been surrounded by people who’ve managed to undermine her confidence, and she thinks her only real value to Renzo is in producing an heir to the family fortune.
I know the plot sounds trite, and in some places, it does fall into a kind of predictable rhythm where I wanted to pinch Marisa and tell her to stop being such a wuss bag already and just jump Renzo’s bones! I found her emotionally self-destructive, but at the same time, I could understand how someone who hasn’t had much experience with relationships might act the way she does. Even though Renzo had a fling in those months he was apart from Marisa, I found him to be a more sympathetic character. Of the two, he’s more willing to communicate openly and honestly with Marisa. Even though he’s alpha and proud, he’s not intractable, and he comes across as someone who truly does value marriage and family.
The love scenes are passionate, and although there were a couple of times where I felt Renzo veering into caveman territory, Craven pulls him back and gives nuance to his actions. This isn’t my favourite Sexy romance, but it’s a pretty good book and Sara Craven remains my favourite HMB Sexy author.
Where you can buy this book
This book was released in Australia in February 2009, so you may have to hunt around for a copy. I got mine from Ever After, and you can also try Fishpond, The Book Depository, Amazon US, Amazon UK, or AbeBooks. The ebook is available directly from eHarlequin. The US version (Harlequin Presents) comes out July 2009.