A recent trip meant lots of reading in a short period of time. On one flight, I enjoyed the gentle realism of Donna Alward’s Almost a Family followed by the playful Playboy’s Proposal, from Ashlee Mallory. A few days later, it was much further into escapism, with His Diamond of Convenience, from Maisey Yates.
His Diamond of Convenience is a 2015 Harlequin in the Presents line. Yes, there is still a market for stories of idle rich virgins meeting idle rich macho men in exotic locations for hot kinky sex, leading to marriage. It’s not my cup of tea, and I’m tempted to say that if you removed the sex and made the woman poor, this could have been written decades ago, but on second thought, that’s not true.
Victoria was in her teens when she was romanced by an older man, who used her infatuation to learn about and take over her father’s high-end retail clothing business. The loss did not bring poverty. Now in her late twenties, she lives, quite well, off income from investments purchased with a loan from her trust fund, and occupies her time serving on the boards of charities. However, her relationship with her father was damaged, as was her trust in men. A later arranged marriage to European royalty failed spectacularly when her intended prince ran off with the matchmaker, further lessening her interest in romance. She’s all business, and her goal is to get her family company back.
Dmitri is a former prize fighter, from Russia, now living off the businesses he purchased with his winnings, including a chain of gyms, and the business once owned by Victoria’s father. His rowdiness and womanizing is often in the press, which is making it difficult for him to start a children’s charity in memory of his mentor. Victoria finds Dmitri, and offers him a deal: They’ll pretend to be engaged, to clean up his image, and she’ll use all her charity and society connections to launch his charity. In exchange, he’ll give her the former family business.
After a racy meet cute, this settles down to a ‘marriage of convenience turns into marriage of love’ story. And while our hero is immediately presented as extraordinarily crude and obnoxious, his tender side is already known to the heroine and presented in his introduction. This does not leave much room for character revelations and development. However, there is good tension as our couple give in to propinquity and come to terms with the notion of a long term relationship, something new to each of them. Though he is coming from one-night stands, and she is coming from betrayals, their common obstacle is trust.
I’m not sure I buy how quickly both learn to trust, as usual I’m annoyed by first-time sex being fabulous, and while the minor kinks (public sex and bondage) are narratively appropriate, they still seem a little out of place for people who barely trust each other. Perhaps I’m just being old-fashioned, assuming first-date sex should be vanilla, and my dislike of wealthy characters probably reveals a personal bias. On the other hand, maybe it’s a valid plot hole that wealthy Dmitri could have started offering discounts at his own gyms, instead of going the children’s charity route and relying on other people to fund his dreams, boost his reputation, and lower his taxes. At least he’s only targeting the 1% (yes, that phrase is used).
For all this story’s dated romance trappings, it’s not one that could have been written a few decades ago. His Diamond of Convenience is a woman rescuing a man. It’s almost a role reversal, in that the hero cannot redeem himself and achieve his goals without the help of the strong heroine that walks into his life, and tells him what to do. She’s the Victorian angel in the house, but she’s also clearly in charge of more than the domestic sphere. He acknowledges as much when he suggests how she can indicate when she is ready for a sexual relationship (though it does not take long), and throughout the story she represents the couple in public.
I appreciate the role reversal, but I still prefer stories where no-one needs to be rescued, and I prefer more ordinary characters, for whom losing or gaining a business has financial consequences. So why did I read this? It was in a free library, any book is better than no book, and it made a couple of hours in an airport much more pleasant. And now it goes to the laundry room in my apartment building, to bring a couple of hours of pleasure to someone else.