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REVIEW: Paper Marriage Proposition by Red Garnier

Dear Ms. Garnier:

You are really skilled at writing sexual tension and emotional agnst.   One of the things I remember about your single title contemporary, The Satin Sash, was the high level of emotion and the gripping chemistry that permeated many of the scenes.   Every encounter between the characters is highly charged.   The problem, though, is two fold.   First, the emotions don’t always seem to match the setting and second, the plot arcs seem to have gaps.

red garnier paper marriage propositionBethany Lewis married a monster.   She wised up and divorced him but it cost him her son.   Hector Halifax engineered evidence to prove that Bethany was an unfit mother.   Left without a dime and unable to see her son, Bethany seeks out Landon Gage who suffered his own tragic loss at the hands of Hector Halifax.   She proposes that he marry her, support her in her custody fight and in return, she will give him a black book that contains the names of the people Halifax has bought.

Interestingly, the revenge theme is turned on its head at the beginning.   Landon professes that he is uninterested in revenge and turns Bethany away.

"It has been six years. I have put the past behind me, where it belongs. I'm not consumed by rage anymore when for years all I thought of was murder. Do not provoke me, or I may just take it out on you."

Instead of a man pursuing revenge, Landon has suppressed his anger and hatred and essentially every other emotion.   He’s been in emotional stasis since his tragedy six years prior.   Beth’s pleas for help, her encouragement of his pursuit of revenge, brings him alive again, much to the delight of his two brothers.   The concept of the story was fine.   It was in the execution where I felt [ ]

For instance, when Beth and Landon discuss the prenup with Landon’s lawyer present, Landon’s demand for fidelity is met, not with just instant agreement, but a rush of sexual reaction:

Faithful to Landon Gage?

Something effervescent slid through her veins, and an awful burn arrowed down her breasts to the warmed, aching place between her thighs. She felt branded, taken in a way that didn’t demand their clothes to be off, as Landon’s eyes sucked her into their depths and filled her body with a horrible ache.

Time and place, Beth, was all I could think at various moments throughout the book.   I think, partly, the problem rested on the fact that Beth is trying to regain custody of her child whom she professes to love a great deal and would do anything to win back.   I don’t mean to suggest that Beth couldn’t be physically attracted to Landon but did the intense sexual reaction she was having during the prenuptial discussion that was, in some ways, insulting toward her, make sense?   Certainly Beth tried to acknowledge that this was inappropriate:

More silence. His face was as unreadable as a wall as he steepled his fingers before him. "All I demand, Beth, is your fidelity. If you want to sleep with someone-‘you'll sleep with me."

Oh, God, when Landon spoke that last, her skin went hot. He made it sound like a promise, a decree.

And though romance and sex were the last things on her mind right now, his ill-concealed interest stirred her interest and made her aware of how beautifully virile he was.

Clearly romance and sex weren’t the last things on her mind and this discussion was about custody, money, and divorce.   I suppose what I am to take away from this that their attraction to each other was so strong that it takes precedence over the mundane, but it just made my “inappropriate” button go off in my head.   I was further confused by Beth’s seeming nonchalance at signing away any future rights to a child born of any union between herself and Landon given that he was able to make her think of sex even at the most inappropriate times.

I was also frustrated by Bethany’s lack of spine.   Sometimes she would be undefeatable (stalking Landon to the point of harassment) and then she would show signs of wimpiness at important moments which would require constant reassurance by Landon.

The romantic arc is also fueled by misunderstandings which were caused by Bethany’s actions, actions that I found unreasonable.   I read these portions of the book internally yelling at Bethany to stop, just stop. The characters, their motivations, their emotional and sexual attraction never fully meshed for me. I often felt as if I was being jerked around like a muppet.

For it’s flaws though, the story is full of emotion and refreshing twists.   Landon refers to Bethany as his war buddy in this pitched battle against her ex husband.   The two of them draw strength from their revenge plans and use it, at times, to hide behind when their emotions for each other scare them.   Your prose, your phrases, are intriguing:

Kissing Landon’s lips like her life depended on it. Kissing him not subtly, but hard and fast and desperately.

It irked him immeasurably, her desperation, and he wasn’t certain why. Perhaps because he knew desperation. What shallow company it was, what a lousy counselor it became.

I will keep reading your work and someday, it will all come together for me.   C+

Best regards,


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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. Lynn S.
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 14:57:36

    Good review as usual, an interesting concept but the presentation doesn’t appear to deliver on it. I’m still trying to wrap my head around Hector Hallifax. Who would name their child Hector if their last name was Hallifax? If only they’d titled the book Hating Hector Hallifax, the alliteration alone would have hooked me.

    My current category author that I’m willing to keep reading is Lucy King. First book, meh, second book much improved but still problematic. I can see the promise of a really good book in her future though.

  2. Sally
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 02:46:37

    Regarding the cover…No way can the female model bend like that, and is that an Adam’s apple?

  3. Jane
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 09:03:48

    @Sally: Her neck is bent so far that her windpipe is broken?

    @Lynn S.: I don’t know that I have read Lucy King. Is there a title of hers you might recommend to me?

  4. Lynn S.
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 17:22:22

    @Jane: You made my Friday. Love it when I can give a recommendation. King has written two books for the Modern Heat/Presents line and if you want to give her a try I would recommend her second book, Proposition by the Billionaire. I never fully engaged with the characters or the premise of her first book but the second book was an enjoyable mix of comedy and emotion. The only problem I had was with the lack of development or follow through on the heroine's family issues.

    Also, I just finished reading Mira Lyn Kelly's Wild Fling or a Wedding Ring and wanted to say thanks so much for your review which lead me to give her a try. Great book and I'm with you on thinking it felt like a Blaze. I've read other Modern Heat titles, and this book felt more like a Blaze. The heroine's relative inexperience is the only vague reason I can think of for it to be in the Presents line, but Harlequin's marketing is wonky and their reasoning is beyond me. Like I said though, great book with a modern tone, smooth writing style, and realistic emotions. I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

  5. Jane
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 23:29:02

    @Lynn S. Thanks for the rec!

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