The Doctorís Secret Child

Joy in His Heart

Substitute Daddy

A Bargain Called Marriage
by Kate Welsh
(Silh. Spec. Ed. #1839, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-24839-3
The basic premise of A Bargain Called Marriage has been used many times before. Samantha Hopewell wants a child, but she is plain and has been convinced that she is not a womanly woman because she prefers jeans and boots and likes to mess in the dirt around the vines in her familyís vineyard. She is also experiencing endometriosis and must either have a baby or have a hysterectomy. So, she decides to arrange a marriage of convenience with a rich playboy type. Niccollo Verdini is willing because of some notation in his grandfatherís will that he must marry and stay that way for one year in order to inherit the other half of his inheritance. He also doesnít want children, since he has convinced himself that he will be a terrible father because his father was so terrible. It is perfect for both since they decided they would divorce once the year was up.

Sound like a Regency romance? No, it is set in the here and now, and this was one fact that I struggled with throughout. There are so many other options for Samantha that are never explored, and this just didnít ring true for the modern day.

Samantha is the middle daughter and one who is responsible for the operations of the vineyard. The vineyard is deep in debt, however, and the weather is bad. This is weighing heavily on her mind. Enter an old nemesis, Niccolo Verdini, the son of her motherís best friend and her motherís godson. He is famous, having made a name racing speedboats and dating beautiful and vain women across the world. Only a small portion of what has been written in the tabloids is true, but his reputation is strong. Nic is everything Sam canít have and Sam thinks she is everything Nic would never be attracted to, so they mask their feelings in arguments and ďhate.Ē Beneath the surface however, they both are attracted.

Nic is staying at the Hopewell family home to recuperate from a life-threatening boating accident. He is thinking about retiring, and since his family has a history of wine-making, this is the perfect place to explore his ideas about his future. Sam, having just lost her foreman, is floundering with the unpredictable weather that is ruining the crops. Sam and Nic form a truce and become friends. Then they come up with the cockamamie idea to marry.

I liked Nic and I even liked Sam at times. But both were so predictable and the plot so transparent that it was hard to like them for the long term. The unsurprising lines of dialog and the progression from friend to lover to misunderstanding made the tale seem humdrum. When the author threw in a medical emergency, I felt like this tale had it all, not necessarily a good thing.

The family was part of the picture only because they were one of the reasons the couple had to act like they were in love. It would have been a shame if mom and grandmother suspected this relationship wasnít a serious, long-term commitment, you see. Believe it or not, Samís sisters and mother, to whom she professes to be extremely close, do not have any idea she is suffering from this painful and almost debilitating illness. She has hidden it from them.

There is so much predictability; some may like the story for its simplicity. But I found much of the storyline untenable and hard to buy. A Bargain Called Marriage was not a bargain to me, and I caution you as well.

--Shirley Lyons

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