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REVIEW: The Trouble with Valentine’s by Kelly Hunter

NOTE: Originally released as “Wife for a Week.”

“The perfect Valentine’s gift?

As far as women’s fashion accessories went, he was spectacular. A black-haired, cobalt-eyed, dangerous- looking toy who no doubt warned you outright not to bother playing with him if you didn’t like his rules. He was like a Hermes handbag; women saw and women wanted, even though they knew the price was going to be
astronomical.

Hallie Bennett likes a challenge, though – and his offer is tempting: £5,000 if she pretends to be his wife for a week. It might not be the most traditional Valentine’s Day proposal… but she’s hardly a traditional girl. Maybe a week in the high life, with a man to match, will be just the ticket. Just as long as she doesn’t start wishing the ‘I do’ is real… “

Dear Ms. Hunter,

When I saw this listed at Netgalley, it looked so cute that I jumped at the chance to read it. It wasn’t until I started it that I saw that it’s a reissue of one of your older books. That’s okay by me as I’d been meaning to delve into your backlist. Now having finished it, I can say that I love it. Except for one tiny thing.

The Trouble with Valentine's by Kelly HunterHallie is such fun – talking to a shoe in her boring sales job and then giving Nick a setback as she doesn’t jump at the chance to be a pretend wife, complete with prepaid gorgeous wardrobe plus expenses and a sizable check, all for one week of work. Of course the sensory reeling kiss Nick lays on Hallie does even things up a bit… I love Hallie and Nick’s mother Clea doing intensive shopping and Nick needing the respite of a sports bar to recuperate from the experience – poor baby.

Usually I’m not one for “we’ve known each other for two weeks but by the end of the story we’re in lurve” but here I feel that it’s not just lust and hormones doing the talking. Not that those two things aren’t there jumping around all over the place but there’s so much more that satisfies me that these two are made for each other and can go the distance. Hallie, as Nick’s business partner says, is the type of person who can make friends with anyone and who makes anyone smile from the inside. Meanwhile Nick is honorable and, while he cooked up the whole scheme as a way to save himself from a relationship he imagined was more than it was, once he catches on to the truth of the matter he easily changes gears and shifts into viewing Jasmine as she really is. Then, Nick has the honesty to confess all to John Tey before signing on the dotted line.

The way Hallie interprets and deals with the situation with Jasmine shows Nick a lot about her. How she genuinely charms those around her and quickly adjusts reveals volumes about the type of kind person she is. Her response to the “morning after” and his offer of money plus her insistence on him telling John the truth shows her inner core of decency. I wasn’t sure how the “morning after” was going to play out but was pleasantly surprised that Nick immediately knows that his innocently meant offer hurt her though it was not intended to be cruel or dismissive of Hallie. He just f*cked up in his timing and made amends. Oh, and the sex had me laughing out loud – but in a good way, trust me.

The secondary romance was something I wasn’t expecting. At first I was leery of a young adult subplot but by the end I was won over. Jasmine is a down to earth young woman who is pretty sure she knows her own mind but is willing to wait to see and experience more of the world. Yet she’s also strong enough that I wouldn’t doubt she has a grasp of the situation and is probably right. If she can get two such pig headed men as her father and Kai to bend to her will, she’ll go far in life.

Despite this being a fairly short book, there is a lot of neat information about Hong Kong and Chinese culture that gets worked into the story. And not in a clunky “this is to remind you that the book is set in Hong Kong. Remember, Hong Kong!!” kind of way either. It’s all natural and there for a reason.

Things were going great when all of a sudden a seed planted early in the book sprouted, or should I say the whole group realized it sprouted. Hallie is horrified, the Teys and Kai are horrified, Nick is gobsmacked and all Hallie can initially say is, basically, “oops?” At first I thought it a little amusing and then it dawned on me that John Tey said that someone died because of this “seed.” And nothing was ever said about that. No reparations or even, “Gee, I’m sorry but I had no idea what I was doing and your loved one died for that.” It tainted the rest of the book for me.

I was so bummed about this last bit. The little bit that follows it is back to the spirited, delightfully, fizzy fun of most of the rest of the book. Hallie is obviously going to lead Nick on a merry chase throughout their marriage and heaven help him if and when their daughters start to arrive. The final scenes in Tiffanys (and I agree with Hallie that it’s only right for him to make her feel truly appreciated with a nice little bauble for her) and the celebration of Clea’s impending grandmotherhood while catching up with the Teys and Kai (John’s gift to Nick is inspired) had me laughing again with glee but I couldn’t get that “seed” outcome out of my mind. B+

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

23 Comments

  1. Sally W.
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 08:35:28

    Too bad this doesn’t come in ebook form. I was ready to try it until I saw the price.

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  2. Shannon
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 08:57:50

    Did someone actually die? I know it was a possibility, but I don’t remember being upset? (Maybe I am just horribly callous?)

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  3. Rebecca (Another One)
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 08:58:21

    @Sally W.: I saw Wife for a Week by Kelly Hunter at $3.10 for Kindle (I don’t know ablout geo restrictions, but it is Harlequin, which I don’t think has any.)

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  4. Elyssa Patrick
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 09:05:41

    Sally, you can buy the book in e-form under the title Wife for a Week.

    I remember liking this one when I read it–it was fun. I would have been interested in reading a separate romance for Jasmine and Kai. I really liked those two.

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  5. Ros
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 09:11:20

    I think this new version is expanded – an extra 30,000 words or so. I’m not sure how much difference that makes.

    I loved Wife for a Week. It is still one of the books I suggest to people who want to try reading category romance. It made me laugh out loud in several places. But I am ashamed to admit, until I read this review, I never noticed that Hallie’s mistake cost someone their life. It was the poison, right?

    It’s part of a series and I would say that the last two in that series are two of my favourite Hunter books. In the UK they are Red Hot Renegade and His Singapore Fling, but I think they have different titles in the US.

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  6. Jayne
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 09:22:11

    @Ros: Yes, it was the poison. It kind of stunned me that the man actually died and I wondered at including it.

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  7. Laura Florand
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 09:51:15

    I loved Wife for a Week, too. It was my first book by Kelly Hunter, and I really fell for her dialogue and verve and the strength and respect in her characters. I haven’t read the expanded version, yet, although I’m curious to see what she’s done. I am wracking my brain for this incident, but it’s been a couple of years now…I think I vaguely remember it, but it came across in such a Indiana Jones-this-blood-is-obviously-ketchup way that it didn’t strike me much. But I don’t know if it’s been more developed? (Or I’m just hardhearted compared to you, Jayne!) 30,000 more words more is about 50% more to the original story.

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  8. Maegan
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 10:41:13

    Does anyone know when the expanded edition will be available as an e-book?

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  9. Ros
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 11:13:33

    @Maegan: As far as I know, the extended version is only on sale in the UK where it is already available in ebook. I have no idea if there are any plans to make it available elsewhere.

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  10. Mom on the Run
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 12:05:17

    There are books for all her siblings that were HQN Presents in the US. Although not related, my favorite Kelly Hunter book is With the Fling. After I read that, I downloaded her backlist and thoroughly enjoyed every one. She does great dialogue and interesting locales.

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  11. Li
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 13:33:55

    I’ve read both this version and WIFE FOR A WEEK – the Jasmine/Kai storyline is significantly expanded in this one, I think for the better. E-version is on the M&B website, but I’m not sure if non-UK readers can purchase:
    http://www.millsandboon.co.uk/books/Special-Releases/The-Trouble-with-Valentines.htm

    I just realised it is £7 though *blinks* – think I purchased via Kobo with a coupon.

    And I’m with Ros – I loved the last two books in this series.

    ETA: Just checked my email and M&B has a coupon code: LOVETHURS for 30% off this title with any other purchase. Valid until midnight today (14 Feb) only – I assume that is midnight GMT, btw.

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  12. Maegan
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 15:55:21

    @Ros: Thanks, Ros! The book sounds great and I love secondary YA romances (Jill Sorenson does those really well), but I really don’t want to buy WIFE FOR A WEEK if there’s apparently a better, expanded edition available…even if we apparently can’t purchase it in the US. I’d just get frustrated reading WFAW, all the while knowing there’s double the story available in TTWV, which may or may not be released in the US later on.

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  13. Estara
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 16:40:37

    SOOO THIS; JAYNE!!! Especially the overlooked bit. I can only think it was overlooked by the editor, it’s not in Hunter’s usual mode at all. Li, who introduced me to Kelly Hunter in the first place – and who points out that there was a significant increase in the Kai and Jasmine plot in this new edition above – and I agreed about that on my GR review.

    However, I can recommend the last Bennett family book and the second to last one wholeheartedly, though – although there is danger involved (especially in the last one) no innocent gets hurt. The last two Bennett family books are set in Singapore, by the way.

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  14. Estara
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 16:44:18

    @Ros: As a German with German credit card I was able to buy it at Kobo. A coupon code is a good idea, though.

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  15. Statch
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 17:03:53

    I absolutely loved Wife For A Week when it first come out. I can still remember thinking ‘this author is going to be someone.’ I hadn’t noticed either that someone died, and it does bother me, but the book is still just really good. I’m particularly fond of the ‘meet cute’ scene in the shoe store. I also loved Bedded For Diamonds, which I think was first published around the same time. (There’s a Kindle version..) It had the same quick wit and fun characterizations.

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  16. Frannie
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 19:47:05

    Wife for a Week was my first Kelly Hunter book, bought because of of mention of The One that Got Away being a DA book club choice. I loved it, bought up all of her backlist, all of which I thought were terrific. But I’m mortified to realize that I have no idea what the “seed” incident is!!! And what’s with the cover for the One That Got Away? Rough sex….with balloons?

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  17. hapax
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 21:41:57

    ????

    This was possibly the most confusing “review” I have ever read. I have no idea whatsoever who “John Tey” or “Jasmine” or “Kai” are, or what Hong Kong has to do with anything. It rather like saying, “I really liked how that guy said that thing to to the other girl, but when the other guy did that thing — you know the one — I thought that the first girl shouldn’t have done what she did.”

    I suspect that this is much more meaningful to people who have actually already read the book; certainly people seem to be reacting, “OMG, I felt exactly the same way!”

    But as to whether or not *I* should buy it: is it funny? Is it sexy? Is it cozy or suspenseful or sweet or angsty? I still haven’t a clue. I’m not asking for spoilers, but just something I can hang my hat on, okay?

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  18. Ros
    Feb 15, 2013 @ 05:39:17

    @hapax: It’s very funny. It’s a bit sexy. It’s not angsty or cosy. It’s a little bit suspenseful but not really a suspense novel. It’s clever and witty and has a great sense of place.

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  19. Julia Broadbooks
    Feb 15, 2013 @ 07:05:10

    @Ros: I never really stopped to consider that that man died either. I can’t decide if that’s awful of me because he DIED or not that big a deal because he was only a character in a book.

    @hapax Wife for a Week was my first Hunter book a couple of years ago. I then bought her backlist, all of which I enjoyed. I think Ros summed it up well. It’s breezy and fun and romantic and smart.

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  20. Jayne
    Feb 15, 2013 @ 07:27:32

    @hapax: I’m sorry that I didn’t explain the characters that well. Nick is trying to seal a multigazillion dollar deal with Hong Kong businessman John Tey. During a previous trip, his daughter Jasmine had misinterpreted Nick’s “I’m just being nice” attitude for something more (she’s been very sheltered due to the fact that her mother was kidnapped for money). Kai is her bodyguard. Given his position in the household, Kai refuses to act on his feelings for Jasmine and also refuses to let her act on hers for him.

    It turns out that Nick didn’t really need Hallie as a shield from Jasmine anyway which Hallie quickly realizes – this was a nice change.

    Now for the spoilers about the “seed” incident. [spoiler]Hallie is taken out shopping one day by Jasmine and Kai. She wanders alone into a store while looking for something to buy Nick (she’s studying Asian antiques). She buys something that she shouldn’t have because she’s actually buying a service instead of just a funeral vase – as the store clerk tells her, usually the vases aren’t delivered empty, if you get what I’m saying. So, these mysterious things start to happen when Nick is out in public – a car almost runs him down and then while the group is all out for dinner, a diner at the table next to them suddenly collapses. Turns out he was poisoned. Later reports in the book mention that he’s in a coma and then that he dies. [/spoiler]

    The reason I think this is so awful is that someone died because of what Hallie (albeit innocently) does and none of them seem to give a shit.

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  21. hapax
    Feb 15, 2013 @ 08:51:50

    Thanks everyone! This does sound like the sort of book I would like a lot.

    (Didn’t read the spoiler, though; I’ve gleaned enough from the comments to brace myself for it.)

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  22. Janet W
    Feb 15, 2013 @ 11:54:33

    It was so frustrating reading a review of a book that I’d already read (and liked) and then sort of figuring out that the book was significantly expanded — and then realizing I couldn’t buy it even if I wanted to. But then it occurred to me that readers outside of the United States must encounter this frequently so it’s shut-my-mouth time.

    I read The One that Got Away and I have to say that I don’t think Hunter is being well-served by all the confusion around her most recent book — now it would be a book that would benefit from the inclusion of the omitted scenes and a more appropriate cover. I do like her heroines, very much — each of hers that I have read has an unusual freshness and lots of backbone.

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  23. Kat
    Feb 17, 2013 @ 11:04:47

    I suspect the character had to die to show that the people doing the thing that was set in motion weren’t completely incompetent. I must admit, it didn’t bother me when I was reading it, but after it’s been pointed out to me, it has started to bug me.

    I loved the secondary romance in this extended version, and in fact for me it overshadowed the main romance towards the latter part of the book. I’m crossing my fingers that books 3 & 4 of the series are re-released so can I have a full set in print.

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