Sophie's Reviews > A Vengeful Deception

A Vengeful Deception by Lee Wilkinson
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Mar 15, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: 2011, fail

** spoiler alert ** While on vacation at the beach, I picked up four Harlequin Presents romance novels at a used bookstore. Perfect beach reads, or so I thought. The first one I read was an enjoyable, if slightly old-fashioned romance. But each one after that was a little bit less enjoyable, until I reached this one, A Vengeful Deception, by Lee Wilkinson, which is surely the nadir of bad romance. Not just of these four, but of all romance novels. Ever.

The story begins with the heroine, Anna, packing up the remnants of her bookshop on Christmas Eve. Her business has failed because the landlord raised her shop’s rent beyond what she can afford and she has had to sell her inventory of rare books and manuscripts. The collector who bought her stock took advantage of her situation to buy it at below-market prices but she has still been able to pay her debts. Facing starting over with her life and the loss of her dream business, she is understandably depressed. She closes the shop for the last time and is heading to a friend’s house for the Christmas holidays when the “hero” enters the picture.

The “hero” (scare quotes intended, as he is the least heroic romance-novel hero ever) steps in front of the heroine’s car and proceeds to pretend that she has hit him. From the beginning of their acquaintance, it’s clear to the reader that the “hero” is scamming her. As I read through the opening chapters, I wondered how the author would be able to recover the situation. How she could possibly make the “hero” seem like a sympathetic character after all he puts the heroine through. In fact, the only reason I continued reading this awful book was to see how the author would handle it, and the answer is—she never does. Apparently, the author didn’t see any problem with a “hero” who is a cruel, selfish, vengeful, manipulative ass. Nope, no character growth required here.

For the scam to work, the heroine has to be too-stupid-to-live, and of course she is. Unable to see any deception (vengeful or otherwise) she allows the “hero” to manipulate, coerce, seduce, and even confine her, without once standing up for herself or questioning his statements or motives. Far from doubting or resenting his machinations, she falls in love with him after he lures her to his home, tampers with her car to prevent her from leaving, plays an adolescent prank on her that would frighten the wits out of anyone, gets her drunk in his first seduction attempt, and then tries again when she’s sober and refuses to stop when she asks him to:
“I’ll stop when you can convince me that you really want me to stop.”

Wow, nowadays we call that rape. It was more like reading about a pedophile coercing his victim than a consensual sex scene between two adults:
“Well, we’ll share a goodnight kiss or two—you can’t deny you want to kiss me—and then see who’s right, shall we?”
“No, please, I don’t—“
Overriding the half-formed protest, he promised, “I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do.”

Ick. Of course, she never does convince him to stop, since she’s “unable to free herself from his commanding hold on her senses.” Ultimately he coerces her into having sex with him, but only after insisting that she say out loud that she doesn’t want him to stop. What a prince. Afterward, he blames her for not telling him she was a virgin (even though their previous conversations made it clear to the reader that she was inexperienced) immediately withdrawing from her—emotionally as well as physically—and refusing to discuss his change in demeanor. He’s the king of mind games.

By the time we get to the end of the story and find out what the “vengeful deception” is all about, it hardly matters. There are hints throughout the story that the “hero” wants revenge against her because of something to do with her failed business. His estranged father had a collection of rare books and manuscripts that the “hero” believes she stole from. Apparently, it never occurred to the author—or amazingly, to Harlequin/Mills & Boon—that a man who would embark on this kind of subterfuge, who would think nothing of manipulating, coercing, and even imprisoning someone to punish her—however justified he might think he is—is not exactly the stuff of romance.

If he had been upfront about it, if he had faced her and told her he was going to ruin her—because, of course, we eventually find out the “hero” is both the rent-raising landlord who killed her business and the greedy collector who took advantage of her—and the story had been about her attempts to prove her innocence and their falling in love despite their differences, that would have been acceptable. But for him to embark on this manipulative scheme to punish her is unforgiveable. The only thing worse is that she falls in love with him despite it. Or maybe she just succumbs to Stockholm syndrome. Because even after all the truth comes out and she understands what he’s done and manages to use his cell phone to call for help, he’s able to coerce her to stay:
But when Anna would have stepped forward, with a sudden unexpected movement Gideon folded both arms around her and drew her back against his muscular body, trapping her there.
“Please let me go,” she said coldly.
Nuzzling aside the smooth fall of dark silky hair, he kissed her nape. “Don’t be mad with me, darling.”
“Don’t call me darling,” she snapped at him, trying to break free.
He held her easily, effortlessly.

So, of course she stays. And the reader is supposed to sigh over the “happy ending” as the sexual predator manipulates his victim into thinking she has no reason to be angry and that they’re really in love with each other. Eww. I wanted to scrub my mind with a wire brush after I finished this book, just so I would never have to think about it again.

Worst. Romance. Novel. Ever.
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Reading Progress

March 15, 2011 – Started Reading
March 15, 2011 – Shelved
March 15, 2011 –
page 20
10.42%
March 17, 2011 –
page 82
42.71%
March 18, 2011 –
page 128
66.67%
March 19, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011
March 19, 2011 – Shelved as: fail
March 19, 2011 –
page 192
100.0%
March 19, 2011 – Finished Reading

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