Daddy by Christmas
The Groom Came C.O.D.
Wanted: Daddy

An Engagement of Convenience
by Mollie Molay
(Harl. Amer. #1071, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-75057-7
An Engagement of Convenience is neither engaging nor convenient. I had to struggle to finish it, and then did so only because I am reviewing it. The two main characters act like teenagers even though they are supposedly successful in the business world and the heroine is a widow with two children.

Lili Soule is French, but her accent only shows up when she is in the midst of a seduction…then she says things like "The sooner the better, as you say in this country. No?" Up until this scene, she sounded just as American as you and me. As for the plot: Lili works as a graphic artist at Today's World magazine, which just hit the big time by publishing “Sullivan's Rules” (introduced in the previous two entries of the series). These rules are chauvinistic and basically require women to put aside their wants and needs and be subservient to their men. Lili thinks they are crazy, and even the author has now been turned off of them now that he’s found a good woman. Lili is divorced and has twins. She is ready to move on with her life and finds herself attracted to her boss, Tom Eldridge.

Tom is stuck on Sullivan's Rules and is looking for that kind of woman. He is under pressure from his father, the magazine's founder, to find a wife and produce grandchildren. He is also under the gun because of a campaign in the building to save a day care center. It seems that when the magazine first rented space in the high-rise building, the owners convinced the building management to run a day care center for employees. Now the center is losing money and they want to close it. The employees, led by Lili and friends, are determined to change that. Tom's life is further complicated by a clause in his lease that states no one in his employ can cause problems with the management. (This is the first of many implausible things the reader has to buy).

So Lili and friends decide to confront the management, first with a flurry of fliers and then with the scheme to raise money to help defray the costs of the day care center. They decide to run contests, sponsored by each floor, with prizes and notoriety for the winners and losers.

Tom is furious and discovers that Lili is behind these schemes. He storms into her office thinking he may have to fire her, only to be overwhelmed by her beauty and the thought that she meets his vision of a demure, beautiful woman. Tom’s lust clouds his judgment and he just tells her to cease and desist. When he meets her kids, and his father thinks they are an item, complications abound. The entire story revolves around the contest and their relationship on opposite sides of the field.

Now, unfortunately for the reader, Lili and Tom come to some harebrain agreement to fake an engagement, in a very loose sense, so that dear old Dad gets off Tom’s back. In exchange, Tom agrees to try to fix the day care dilemma. In Tom's mind, that means Lili backs off, but in Lili's mind that means they become partners. Misunderstandings abound. Sadly, the misunderstandings result in Tom throwing temper tantrums and Lili feeling guilty, but not guilty enough to stop her activities.

But their lust is too strong and in the midst of all this, they make love and then discover they have fallen in love. (I am pulling out my hair by this time). What is there to love? They do find each other attractive. But Tom isn't sure he wants kids and Lili states the man of her dreams must want and care for her children as if they were his own. Lili wallows in guilt, yet not enough to stop. Tom acts like a jealous fool, throws a temper tantrum and says hateful things and then turns around and thinks a simple apology will get her back, while worrying that he is dating an employee. Talk about a dysfunctional relationship.

The story jumps back and forth from viewpoint to viewpoint. The reader is treated to two people's illogical thinking and rationalizations. Their friends are no better, offering advice that can only lead to more misunderstandings. And the things they say to each other do not endear them to anyone. Tom goes from tantrum to tantrum and Lili either excuses his behavior or feels guilty for not being the woman he wants.

Inconsistencies, contradictions in what they think and what they say and a relationship built on attraction but no trust are just a few of the problems with An Engagement of Convenience. Two rather unlikable characters is the main problem however. My recommendation is to find another tale to engage you.

--Shirley Lyons

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