Considered the weakest of the Three Rich Husbands Trilogy, Miranda Lee’s The Billionaire’s Bride of Innocence was the only book that we did not discard in despair after the first few chapters.
2010 must have been the year of the shy heroine as Lee offers up the introverted and unworldly Megan Donnelly to sate James Logan’s dynastic ambitions. Many took umbrage at James’s violent reaction to the discovery of Megan’s reluctance to conceive another child less than three months after her miscarriage. As abhorrent as that reaction may have been, such behaviour is par for course for the Harlequin hero.
What is becoming a worrying trend in the Harlequin-world is the perception that the heroine’s fertility is an indicator of her virtue. It is common for the hero’s erstwhile partner to be vilified and exiled for her infertility (social or medical). We are told that James’s former wife Jackie is a ‘selfish cow’ (lets not go into the difference between a cow and a heifer) for not giving James the family he craves despite being sterile (p.40). In the end, Jackie is redeemed by surviving cancer. On the opposite ledger, Megan’s virtue consists of her fertility and being a ‘natural home-maker(p.258).’ Just what a girl wants to be praised for in 2010!
Like other in the Harlequin writers stable, Lee struggled to embrace the shy character (least we were spared the usual psycho-babble). Rather than the hero loving the heroine despite of or because of her flaws (debatable if you would want to be the object of James’s affection) the shy heroine must transfigured to be worthy of his love while there is no corresponding change in the hero. Being shy, Megan is subject to much patronising as evidenced in the exchange between James’s friend Russell and his wife Nicole:
‘Poor Megan…No wonder she’s lost confidence in herself. She probably feels the fact that he’s not in love with her. Thank goodness I managed to convince her that she was just imaging things.’
‘That’s good. Very good. Look, who knows? He might fall in love with her in time.’
‘Hmm. That’s unlikely to happen unless she changes,’ Nicole said thoughtfully. ‘She’s got to stop being Megan the mouse, My makeover this week will be none too soon.’
‘Don’t do anything too dramatic, Nicole. James likes Megan the way she is.’
‘Yes, but he’s not in love with Megan the way she is…(pp.86-87)’
Just love the condescension and the implication that shyness is closely correlated to intellectual impairment. Of course shyness can be overcome by a new wardrobe and weight loss!!
The most disturbing aspect of this novel was Lee’s casual dismissal of depression as a serious mental illness (see http://www.beyondblue.org.au). Megan is diagnosed and prescribed medication for this condition. Within the novel, there seems to be a general attitude of ‘get over it.’ Further undermining the seriousness of the illness was the character’s actions. ‘She finally thrown all the pills away a few weeks ago and hadn’t felt any worse. In fact, surprisingly, she’d began to feel better (p.19).’ This dismissiveness just serves to perpetuate myths about depression in the broader community. FFS She miscarried her child. This and the characterisation of James just set my teeth on edge.
Admittedly, as with Emma Darcy, we have being disappointed with Miranda Lee’s recent offerings. The characters were hardly endearing and perhaps more irritatingly for an Australian Mills and Boon, for all the alleged inner city sophistry the characters came across of cashed up bogans.