Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wife for A Week by Kelly Hunter

Why I read it:  I was browsing through my reader and this one jumped out and said "read me".  I picked it up in a Harlequin sale a while back.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  Nicholas Cooper must produce a wife for his business deal, and Hallie Bennett is beautiful and intelligent enough to pull it off. She needs the money, and Nicholas has determined some strict rules for their week together. Rule No. 1: Displays of affection in public only

Keeping their hands on each other in public turns out to be surprisingly easy. It's keeping them "off" in private that's the problem. Hallie is falling for Nicholas, but will Nicholas make his contract wife his real-life bride?

What worked for me (and what didn't): This was so much fun! It's short, only 120 pages or so but the author manages to create a believable, amusing and sexy romance, not only in a short word count but in a short space of time also - the whole book takes place in just over a week.  

Hallie and Nick meet when Nick's mother is searching for shoes in a shop Hallie is working in and the witty banter and consensual double entendres begin between the two protagonists, egged on by Clea (Nick's mother), who is outrageous but huge fun.
‘No, they met at a birthday party. Clea was in the cake. I try not to think about it.’
Nick is heading to Hong Kong the following week to cement a business deal which has been months in the making.  His potential business partners is widower John Tey, who has a nineteen year old daughter, Jasmine.  Last time Nick was in Hong Kong Jasmine put the moves on him and to let her down gently, he told her he was married.  Now he feels like he has to keep up the pretense of risk the deal and the feelings of both John and his daughter, neither of which he wants to do.  He also doesn't want to set up unrealistic expectations, as he's not in the market for a serious relationship, let alone marriage, so paying someone to pretend seems like the best solution.  After Clea quite outrageously (also shamelessly matchmaking) suggests Nick hire Hallie for the job, things quickly progress to offer and acceptance.

Nick and Hallie are attracted to each other from the start but (and I liked this very much) there is no insta-love.  Both of them take delight in the humour of the situation and I think this helped me to buy into the contrivance of the storyline.

There is a such a light-hearted, flirty tone to the narrative, I found myself smiling most of the way through the book.
‘Size eight, I think,’ said the saleswoman after turning an assessing eye on Hallie.

‘Ten,’ said Hallie.

‘In this shop, darling, you’re an eight.’

Hallie liked the woman better already.

‘Do you have any colour preferences?’ the woman asked.

‘I like them all.’

The saleswoman barely suppressed a shudder. ‘Yes, dear. But do they all like you? Let’s start with grey.’
Nick and Hallie agree on ground rules - there will be no touching in private - appropriate displays of affection only in public where it will be necessary to make the charade believable.  But it is soon something Hallie struggles with, even when Nick is teasing her to get a reaction.
Surely she could resist his considerable charms for one lousy week.
All she needed was a more professional approach.‘So how do you want to approach this business of being married?’ she said crisply. ‘Are we aiming for warm and fuzzy or a fiery attraction of opposites?’
‘Think of yourself as a cross between a personal assistant and a German Shepherd,’ he said. ‘Supportive, loyal, and, when necessary, extremely protective.’
A German Shepherd? Ugh. This new approach worked fast. ‘Anything else?’
‘Are you sure you couldn’t manage a simper?’
‘Only if there was a bucket handy. Because I’d probably have to throw up immediately afterwards.’
Nick sighed. ‘Just be yourself, then. That’ll work too.’
‘Oh.’ And after a moment’s reflection. ‘That was a nice thing to say.’
‘You realize that was almost a simper.’
‘It was not!’
Nick’s answering smile was suspiciously gleeful as he flicked on his overhead light, reached for the in-flight paper and snapped it open, effectively ending the discussion.
Hallie glared at the back page of the paper. It was shaking ever so slightly. He was laughing at her, dammit. ‘That was not a simper.’
‘If you say so, dearest.’
Nick is struggling with his own attraction to Hallie just as much and she gives just as good as she gets in the teasing department. But the tension ratchets up when they are placed in a suite in their host's house with marble floors and only one bed.
‘You can’t take the floor. The floor is too hard. Anyway, I have a plan.’ 

Hallie strode over to the bed and began stacking cushions straight down the middle of it.‘This is your plan?’ he asked, somewhat sceptically.

‘This,’ she said, busily stacking cushions, ‘is the Great Wall of China. You are the Mongol horde and I am the Emperor’s finest troops.’

He looked as if he wanted to laugh, caught her glare, and must have decided against it.‘Well, that hardly seems fair,’ he said finally. 

‘Why can’t I be the Emperor’s finest and you be the barbarians?’

‘Fine. Just stay on your side of the wall, okay?’

‘I will defend this wall with my very life.’

‘Whatever.’ That’d teach her to mix metaphors with a computer games master. 

She slipped beneath the covers and lay down. Moments later Nick approached the bed and the mattress dipped as he lay down. Her plan was working. And then Nick’s head and torso appeared above the cushions, his elbow skewing them haphazardly.

‘The Emperor’s troops are allowed on the wall, right? I feel like I should be patrolling it.’

‘Trust me, you don’t have to patrol the wall. There is nothing happening on your northern border tonight. Get some sleep.’

He disappeared behind the wall of pillows only to return again almost immediately.

‘No raiding party?’

‘No. There is nothing on your side of the wall that the barbarians want.’ 

This was a lie. She knew for a fact that there were enormous treasures to be found just a cushion’s length away.

‘Here’s the problem,’ said Nick. ‘I’ve never slept in the same bed with a woman and not slept with her, if you get my meaning. I feel like I should be doing something.’

‘Go to sleep. Think of the wall.’
 Despite the "wall", whether they are asleep or awake, the couple are inexorably drawn together.
She jerked up on one elbow, looked around wildly, and her knee connected with his crotch. ‘Oomf!’ His eyes crossed. His breath left his body. So much for his wake-up sex fantasy.

‘Sorry,’ she muttered, removing her knee and patting him better abstractedly. 

‘What happened to the pillows?’‘Try the floor,’ he wheezed as the patting continued. Was this heaven or hell? He couldn’t decide. 

He levered himself up on his elbow and looked over the side of the bed. ‘Yep. There they are.’

‘Oh.’ She stared at him and all of a sudden the hand on his crotch stilled.‘You’re leaning on your elbows,’ she said.


‘So if your arms are there, my hand is—’

He watched her eyes grow round and her cheeks grow rosy with no little satisfaction.‘That’s not your arm I’m patting, is it?’

‘Nope.’ Nick settled back against the headboard, amused, aroused and altogether curious as to what she’d do next. ‘It’s not.’
There is also an interesting thread which runs through the book - Hallie was basically raised by four seriously over-protective brothers and she wants to do things herself, make her own choices, including her own mistakes.  Part of that which draws her closer to Nick is, however he may struggle occasionally, he does not insist on taking over. For the most part, he wants to stand by her side and see her shine in her own right. He encourages her to pursue her dreams and believes in her innate skills.  Even when things involving the purchase of an antique vase get hilariously out of hand.

I thought the last third of the book was a little less fun than the earlier sections and perhaps Nick's change from "marriage is years away" to "I love you and want to marry you right now" was a little unexplained, but overall, the book was delightful.

Grade:  B+



Liz Mc2 said...

I forgot how much fun this book was. Perhaps I will re-read and then glom the rest of the series on my summer vacation.

Kaetrin said...

@Liz Mc2 It is a lot of fun. I've been saving these books for when I need a bit of a lift. :)