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REVIEW: A Few Harlequin Presents for October 2010

Public Marriage, Private SecretsPublic Marriage, Private Secrets by Helen Bianchin

Bianchin has a certain trope she likes to write and most of her books are a variation on the theme of two people who married because their families wanted it and they were a good match on paper, who secretly fall in love with each other, but the woman is beset with jealousy because the man is so gorgeous and is usually the victim of some CRAZY stalker woman who drives the woman away until the man comes after her and forces her to see the light. This book is essentially no different. Gianna married Raúl Velez-Saldaña when it was discovered she was pregnant with his baby. Gianna felt like she forced Raúl into marriage and her confidence was further shattered when she discovered that he was cheating on her with another woman and she lost her baby. Raúl was never cheating on Gianna and when Raúl’s mother falls ill, he takes this opportunity to lure Gianna back into his home and his life. The success of these Bianchin stories rests upon how much I like the heroine, whether I think she is a fool or whether the CRAZY other woman made the heroine’s distrust of her husband believable. In this story, I felt like Gianna was initially had good cause for believing the other woman, but she veered toward fool at the end when she decided once and for all she was going to prove whether Raúl was innocent, something she could have done four years previous. C-

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Innocent Secretary...Accidentally PregnantInnocent Secretary-Accidentally Pregnant  by Carol Marinelli

Emma Stephenson got the position as Luca D’Amato’s assistant by not succumbing to his early flirtations.   She really needed the job far more than she needed to be in Luca’s bed.   As Emma became more and more indispensable to Luca, the frequency of flirting abated. Luca begins to really like Emma, as a person.   He enjoys seeing her in the mornings and working with her all day long.   Unfortunately this doesn’t reduce Luca’s desire for Emma and he really struggles with suppressing his instinct to ask her out, try to pursue her but he knows if he sleeps with her, he’ll lose the best PA he’s ever had.   The reason he can’t have a long term relationship with anyone, including Emma is because his father was a brute, his uncle was a brute and Luca fears that any woman to whom he feels a deep attachment would suffer under his hands.   As an HP, I thought this had some meaty agnst. Emma was a great character who not only stood up to Luca but stood up for herself.   B-

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Maisey YatesHis Virgin Acquisition  by Maisey Yates

The set up of this book is pretty bad. Laughably bad. Our intrepid heroines proposes marriage to a billionaire on the basis that marriage will make him more money. How? He’s on the verge of acquiring her father’s business, one that she wants to buy but her father refuses to sell to her. The contracts are signed and she will then “inherit” the business through the divorce (you can’t inherit anything in a divorce. Inheritance is bequeathed to you. Assets is a divorce are distributed via court order or order approving a private property settlement). What’s in it for him? She claims that married men earn more money and that in divorce he’ll make more deals as men commiserate with him for getting married to and then rid of a worthless piece of femininity.

WAT? I almost would have rather had one of those “If you don’t marry, I’ll disinherit you” plots.

Worse, Marco, the billionaire hero, is an asshole who basically believes that the world is his platter (and I guess that is somewhat believable in a billionaire but it makes for a distasteful hero). I never believed in Elaine’s savvy business acumen and while she wasn’t entirely a doormat, I still found her character, conceptually, as fatally flawed. In other words, she came off as a nitwit to me. D

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Three more mini reviews tomorrow.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. hapax
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 16:45:44

    Okay, I know it’s an HP, but the plot summary left me baffled — how the heck did the “innocent secretary” end up “accidentally pregnant”? Did she fall arse over teakettle down a flight of stairs and end up sans panties, legs in the air, just as a shower of sperm came over the railing?

    Enquiring minds want to … wait, maybe they don’t.

  2. orannia
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 16:53:49

    I’d be very grateful if you could enlighten me as to whether the heroine in Public Marriage, Private Secrets slim and blonde? I’ve read a few of Helen Bianchin’s books – I will confess an earlier weakness to the trope – but I started getting frustrated when I realised the heroines all looked the same to a greater or lesser degree.

  3. Ros
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 16:55:12

    @hapax: LOL – I read this one precisely because I was so baffled by the title (it came out in the UK quite a while ago). I actually really liked it. I can’t remember quite how the ‘accident’ happened – broken condom or ineffective pills are the two usual Harlequin standards in that scenario.

    BTW, Jane, you have Carol Marinelli’s name wrong in the tags, just in case anyone is looking for this review later.

  4. peggy h
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 19:13:34

    I’ve only ever read one Helen Bianchin about 3 or 4 years ago–and what do you know–the plot you outlined was EXACTLY the plot that I read! Yeah, the heroine wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the kitchen (constantly believing her husband’s crazy stalker-y ex and never having the guts to just ASK) but the hero was at least as bad, if not worse. He had some proof (I forget now what it was) that he had not slept with crazy ex since their wedding, despite the semi-sort-of-kinda convincing stuff crazy ex was laying out to heroine. And he knew his wife was being driven half-mad. But did he say anything? Of course not. He let his wife be tortured for all but the last five pages or so of the book, because “Darling, surely you must have known!” Gaaahhh!!!

  5. Jane
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 20:24:54

    @Ros Thanks Ros. Made the change. @hapax, I can’t remember and as I quickly scrolled through the book, I a) realized how much I really enjoyed the story (should have given it a B) and b) how emotional it was. They had sex. She was on the pill but he didn’t wear a condom.

  6. Jane
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 20:28:59

    @orannia You are so wrong. She is slender and blonde in PM, PS not slim and blonde. Very different.

  7. RebeccaJ
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 21:05:24

    Orrania, would you refuse to read a book because of the blonde/slim heroine overuse?

    I do pay attention to see whether or not the heroines are chubby–yeah, they RARELY are, more so in chick lit, but not in the Harlequins or Silhouettes. Hair color doesn’t interest me much UNLESS they claim she’s a red head and she’s blonde on the cover. That makes me a little crazy because for some weird reason, I keep checking out the cover as I’m reading:). Anybody else do this?

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  9. Gennita Low
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 22:48:34

    Don’t forget the beloved Bianchin en suite bathrooms! I must have at least two mention of en suites per Bianchin book to be satisfied ;). And one being carried to bed without waking up at least once a book. What can i say–Bianchin is my comfort candy.

  10. cead
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 07:10:59

    @RebeccaJ: LOL. I used to do that too, but now I’ve gone to the opposite extreme of viewing the cover as completely independent from the book.

  11. Eileen
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 07:37:18

    I haven’t read too much Bianchin lately, but she sure does repeat herself a lot. In the ones I’ve read, the characters always seem to be rushing home late from work and then rushing to take a shower (in their en suite bathrooms of course) and get dressed up for some sort of fancy social function. They do this several times throughout the book. It is like a major plot detail. Crazy!

  12. DianeN
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 13:53:30

    I know it’s probably narrow-mindedly judgmental of me, but these reviews are exactly the reason why I refuse to read HPs. I tend to shy away from category romances anyway, but any time the plot can be summarized by the title or the writer just changes the characters’ names while telling the same story in the next book, I am so not interested.

  13. RebeccaJ
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 16:26:41

    Cead, glad I’m not the only one! I’d like to think they’re separate, but I can’t:)

  14. ka
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 18:46:12

    That opening sentence is a mouthful, er, eyeful!

  15. orannia
    Oct 20, 2010 @ 15:55:30

    @Jane – I stand corrected.

    @Rebecca – it’s more so with this particular author. I just wanted…some variety with the size and shape of the heroines. They all felt…like they came from a mould. But no, I wouldn’t decide against reading a book just on the heroine’s physical characteristics :)

    I must confess to always being on the lookout for brown-haired, brown-eyed heroines though as they seem like an endangered species ;)

    @Gennita – LOL WRT the ensuite bathrooms! I had forgotten about those. I do have a favourite Bianchin that I usually pull out over Christmas.

  16. RebeccaJ
    Oct 20, 2010 @ 21:55:06

    @Orannia, oddly enough the brown hair/brown eyes combo is what I always look for in my heroes!

  17. Jane
    Oct 21, 2010 @ 08:44:30

    @orannia You know I was kidding right? Because she was totally blonde, slim, with an en suite bathroom.

  18. orannia
    Oct 21, 2010 @ 17:07:36

    @Rebecca – LOL! The combination works for heroes too IMHO :)

    @Jane – not initially *blushes* My bad – I saw the word ‘wrong’ and jumped to the (LOL) wrong conclusion. Then I read the rest of your comment :) And I’m so glad she has an ensuite bathroom – obviously the latest accessory ‘must have’ *grin*

  19. Françoise
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 13:43:19

    Hi, I’m a French translator of Harlequin books, currently working on ‘Public Marriage, Private Secrets’ by Helen Bianchin. I’ve got a problem with the crucial passage of the hero’s cellphone and the call from his wife which Sierra answered. I’m not an expert in mobile phones and their functions, so I’m quite at a loss here. How could she do it? Would someone care to give me full details on this matter? Thanks for your help !!!

  20. Jane
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 13:45:49


    are you talking about this passage:

    Sierra's eyes glittered with malevolence. ‘So how do you explain my presence in his suite?' she posed sweetly. ‘If you recall, I answered his phone.'
    ‘Coincidentally logged at the same time Room Service delivered Raúl's meal,' Gianna enlightened. ‘A little too convenient, don't you think?'
    ‘What a vivid imagination you have.'
    ‘His cellphone statement logged a call made at the same time you picked up on a logged call from me to his suite's phone line.' She paused momentarily and her eyes darkened. ‘Raúl threw you out, but the damage was already done.'

  21. Françoise
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 13:56:54

    Oh, yes, Jane. That’s it precisely. I just don’t understand how she did the trick. Would you mind explaining?

  22. Jane
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 14:05:53

    @Françoise When a cell phone call is made, the date, time and length of the call is recorded on the billing statement so Gianna is saying that Raul was taking a call on his cellphone at the same time Sierra picked up the land line. Sierra had originally said that Raul was taking a spa bath at the time of the phone call but I guess he would not have been taking a spa bath if he was taking a business call on his cell phone. The billing statement showed the outgoing call made by Gianna and the received call by Raul. The room service would have been recorded on the receipt.

    To sum up:

    Sierra was in the room and picked up the call from Gianna. Raul asks who it is, but is told that it was an “in house” call (someone from the hotel).

    In following up, Gianna gets cell phone records of her phone and Raul’s (although this could not have been done in the US with his permission) and compared the time, date, etc. to the calls that she and Raul made which confirm Raul’s side of the story.

    Hope that helps.

  23. Françoise
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 15:24:30

    Oh! Thank you so much, Jane. I’m so grateful… Now I know that I’ll do a decent translation. If I can help you too, with French books for example, just let me know.

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