REVIEW: Can’t Buy Me Love by Janet Elizabeth Henderson
It turned out hell was a small town in the Scottish Highlands. Oh, sure, the locals called it Invertary, but Agnes Sinclair knew better—the town even had an old woman everyone called Satan. If that wasn’t a sign she was in hell, she didn’t know what was. All Agnes had ever wanted was to get out of Scotland, and now she was stuck there with no escape. And all because of one teeny, tiny incident (he totally deserved it!) that got her blacklisted in the hotel industry.
Now, her only career option is managing a hotel owned by a guy who looks like Disco Santa, in a town where everyone marched to their own damn beat. And, as if being trapped in hell wasn’t bad enough, a spate of thefts at the hotel makes the owner call in a member of Benson Security to help her get to the bottom of them. Agnes doesn’t need help. She especially doesn’t need it from a sexy single father whose every breath tempts her to reevaluate what she wants out of life. A man who makes her wonder if Invertary is where she truly belongs.
Triggers – DV, #metoo (heroine and hero), bullying
Dear Ms. Henderson,
Despite the cutesy small town and it’s cutesy inhabitants including the hero’s mother and her knitting group, I was enjoying this one much more than I thought I would. It’s the final book in a trilogy and ties in with two other series but I wasn’t lost nor did I feel that I was being sold on going back and reading those stories. No, it stood on its own very well and wasn’t littered with Scottish “willnae” dialects.
It had smoking hot sexual tension and a hero who listened to the heroine, acknowledged his past mistakes in relationships and wasn’t going to make them again. The backstories for both main characters were pertinent to their actions, thoughts and feelings. Early on, we learn that the heroine was faced with an unwanted sexual overture but that she forcefully refused it. The heroine’s family also has a history of domestic violence because of the drunkard father. There is depth and introspection as to how these have affected the heroine and her sisters. The relationship between the hero and his children was fabulous. The bantering between the heroine and hero was fun. The heroine has agency and strength in her relationship with the hero. I also liked that the downside of small town life – nosy neighbors and trouble with the economy – is shown.
Then … I got to a scene in which the hero is caught naked outside the heroine’s room. Several people discover him and photos are taken which then appear all over the internet being seen around the world. People in town joke with him about this. I realize this is supposed to be funny but I couldn’t stop thinking about a reversal. If the heroine had had this happen, it would be (rightly) seen as #metoo and sexually degrading. So why should it be seen as cute if it happens to a man?
I kept reading, but had taken some grade points off. Then I got to almost the end when the hero’s daughter tells the heroine about being bullied (to the point she had a bruise on her face). There is no mention made of her telling anyone in authority or her father. The heroine gets (justifiably) outraged and starts to show the girl some self defense moves. Unknown to them, the hero and his son are eavesdropping. Their reaction is … how scary cool the heroine is. The son does get mad that his sister was being bullied but the hero seems more interested in how well the heroine can defend herself. He doesn’t storm over to the school or anything. What?? And then nothing further is said for the (short) rest of the book.
Five or ten years ago, these things would probably not have bothered me as much. But they do now. I think there are better ways that the story could have been moved forward without using the means that were employed. The good aspects of the book are very good but the bad ones are very bad so I’m giving it a split grade B/F.