H&H’s bloggers are all avid readers, of course, and each has their favorite genre.
So, of course, we challenged them to read outside of their favorite genre—to read a book, in fact, in a genre they never read in. And we asked another H&H blogger who does read in that genre to choose the best book for the neophyte to read.
We’ll be posting the results of the Genre Experiment as each blogger finishes—or does not finish (DNFs)—their book. Today, Kate Nagy reads Molly O’Keefe’s category romance His Wife for One Night, recommended via a category romance post from Wendy the Super Librarian.
I don’t read much category romance. It’s not that I have anything against that particular sub-genre, exactly, but there are only 24 hours in the day, I’m as busy as anyone else, and the things I read these days tend to be either a) books that have been assigned to me by one of my various editors or b) books that I have reason to believe will be particularly entertaining, enlightening, or otherwise special.
Category romances, for me, only very rarely fall into either of those categories. So when I was given the suggestion to read Molly O’Keefe’s Harlequin Superromance His Wife for One Night as part of the Genre Experiment, I welcomed the chance to step outside my usual zone and try something different.
His Wife for One Night relates the story of Jack, whose family owns a large western ranch, and Mia, whose family has worked for Jack’s for generations. Jack and Mia have been best friends since childhood, even though Jack has pursued a research career in hydrology and Mia has remained behind to work the land. Jack’s late mother, unfortunately, was a paranoid, abusive sort, and she was all set to kick Mia off her beloved ranch until Jack stepped in and suggested a marriage of convenience so Mia would have to be allowed to stay. Papers were drawn up, a ceremony took place, Jack returned to Africa (where he was involved in a project to bring water to the desert), Mia stayed on the ranch, and Mom eventually shuffled off this mortal coil, to the relief of pretty much everyone. That’s the back story.
As our story begins, the two have been married in name only for five years. Jack is back in town, and Mia, who has been secretly in love with him since basically forever, is nervous, because she has plans: Now that Jack’s mother is gone, she is going to offer him his freedom, which is to say, she’s planning on requesting a divorce. But a few drinks at a reception for Jack and his colleagues lead to a steamy encounter on the facility’s rooftop, and Jack realizes he can’t let Mia go that easily.
If only he had seen to clue Mia in just a bit sooner…
And that right there is at the core of my problem with His Wife for One Night: If these two so-called “best friends” would have sat down and had a very simple conversation, this book would have been, like, five pages long. Okay, maybe ten; Jack goes through a brief but torturous “I love her, sure, but do I love her?” phase. And there are subplots involving Jack’s father, who has many regrets (and also untreated Parkinson’s disease) and neighbor, a former rodeo star who has assumed the care of his sister’s orphaned children.
I mean, I liked these people, even if I didn’t entirely buy what O’Keefe was selling (the gorgeous, brilliant, compassionate, principled, and did I mention gorgeous Jack has been entirely celibate for the past five years? HO-kay….). I liked Jack and Mia, and I was rooting hard for their HEA. I liked Jack’s father and found him the most believable and in some ways relatable character in the book, as he began to forgive himself for neglecting his family and inch toward redemption. I liked Mia’s snarky sister, who was saying everything I was thinking. I particularly liked the rodeo cowboy (who, evidently, hooks up with the snarky sister in a sequel). These are good people who do what they do for good reasons.
But I spent the last three-quarters of the book plaintively mewling “I can haz honest conversation? PLZ?” at Jack and Mia in turn, and that, unfortunately, tempered my otherwise positive response to the book. In fairness, I should mention how thankful I am that O’Keefe avoids the obvious route and does not throw in a Secret Baby for good measure. I was very much afraid she was going to go there during a sequence in which Mia’s exhaustion is mentioned repeatedly, but (er, spoiler?) it turns out that Mia is not pregnant but merely overworked. When Jack and Mia finally reach an accord, it’s not For The Sake Of The Child but on their very own terms, which—in my opinion—sets up a much stronger conclusion. I just think they could have gotten there a lot sooner.
So, category romances. Am I converted? Not really. His Wife for One Night was fine, and I’m not sorry I read it. But it didn’t excite me enough that I’ll be routinely adding category romances to my ever-expanding TBR list.
Kate Nagy is Editor at Large of Geek Speak Magazine.