REVIEW: The Marriage Trap by Jennifer Probst

Saturday, October 13, 2012 1:00
Posted in category Review

Laura C’s review of The Marriage Trap by Jennifer Probst
Contemporary Romance published by Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) 02 Oct 12

I wish I could tell you a lot about this book, but I can’t because I couldn’t finish it. And I don’t mean, as in some cases, that I couldn’t be bothered because I had more exciting things to do. No, this book isn’t just not great, it’s actively bad. I warn you, this review is mostly going to be quotations because I would rather let you make your own decisions.

Meet Maggie, our heroine. Maybe she becomes more attractive later on in the book, but I gave up less than 20% in.

Maggie cursed under her breath and stared out the window. A sliver of moonlight leaked through the cracks of the organic bamboo blinds. Another evening gone. Another disastrous date. The demons threatened, and there was no one here to fight them back until dawn.

Why did she never feel a connection? This last one had been charming, intelligent, and easygoing. She expected a sexual buzz when they finally touched—or at least a lousy shiver of promise. Instead, she got zilch. Zippo. Numb from the waist down. Just a dull ache of emptiness and a longing for . . . more.

Despair toppled over her like a cresting wave.

[...]

She had everything most people dreamed about. She photographed gorgeous male models in underwear and traveled the world. She adored her trendy condo with no upkeep. The kitchen boasted stainless steel appliances and gleaming ceramic tile. The modern espresso maker and margarita machine confirmed her fun, Sex and the City status. Plush white carpets and matching leather furniture boasted no children and bespoke sheer style. She did what she wanted, when she wanted, and made no damn apologies to anyone. She was attractive, financially comfortable, and healthy, aside from the occasional panic attacks. And yet, the question nibbled on the edge of her brain with an irritating persistence, growing a bit more with each passing day.

Is this it?

OK, so it’s not Ms. Probst’s fault that I find this kind of character unappealing. The “I define my life by things like television shows and my kitchen appliances” characters are an automatic turn-off for me. I know the point of making someone this shallow and stupid at the beginning of a book is so that s/he can grow, but it’s a bad move because if I don’t at least admire them at the beginning, I don’t want to watch their arc.

But if you are going to define your character by her possessions, at least do it right. Because even the cheapest appliances these days are stainless steel, almost all kitchens “boast” ceramic tile, even in pretty crappy apartments, and you can get espresso makers at Target.

The hero, Michael Conte, is straight out of a Harlequin Presents—fabulously wealthy, Italian, wears a cashmere coat, and would do anything at all for his family, including faking his marriage (he just doesn’t seem to want to deal with them or to have much respect for them).

Satisfaction rippled through him, along with a strange emptiness. What was wrong with him lately? He slept less, and the occasional woman he allowed himself to enjoy only left him feeling more restless when morning rose. On the surface, he had everything a man dreamed of. Wealth. A career he loved. Family, friends, and decent health. And pretty much his pick of any woman he craved. The Italian in his soul cried out for something deeper than sex, but he didn’t know if it truly existed.

At least, not for him. As if something deep inside was broken.

Disgusted with his inner whining, he turned and strode down the sidewalk. His cell phone beeped, and he slid it out of his cashmere coat, glancing at the number.

Crap.

He paused for a moment. Then with a sigh of resignation, he punched the button.

[It is his sister, Venezia, wailing and crying.]

He slashed through Venezia’s wails with an impatience he didn’t try to hide. “Calm down,” he ordered. She immediately quieted, used to his authority in the household. “Everyone knows you and Dominick are meant to be together. I don’t want you to worry. I will talk to Mama today.”

His sister gulped. “What if you can’t? What if she disowns me if I marry Dominick without her approval? I’ll lose everything. But how can I give up the man I love?”

His heart stopped, then sped up. For God’s sake, that was a snake pit he refused to jump in. An intense family drama would force him to fly back home, and with his mother’s heart problems, he worried about her health. His two other sisters, Julietta and Carina, may not be able to handle Venezia’s distress on their own.

She’s numb from the waist down. He’s empty. They’re both shallow and unpleasant as far as I can see. A perfect match! YAY! Let’s read all about them!

There’s a trend in publishing to misuse the word “may” where the word “might” is correct. Perhaps Ms. Probst suffered at the hands of an editor, but she really, really should have fought. Because when that’s the only grammatical error or piece of bad writing, I can get over it. In this case, it’s (mis)used over and over and adds to the general lack of competence of the writing. In addition to the may/might confusion, check out this interesting piece of logical inconsistency. Remember how Maggie said she was single because she was numb from the waist down? Well…

Michael was a well-known womanizer. She’d bet in Italy that females had lusted after him, and that hadn’t changed in New York. He was one of the most eligible bachelors in the Hudson Valley. Never a harsh comment regarding his behavior could be unearthed, even from the gossip columns. Yet, one fact remained.

He never got serious.

His longest relationship in the past year was two weeks. Maggie smothered a humorless laugh. In a way, she felt as if she’d met herself, only in male form. She could only come up with one solid reason for why he wouldn’t commit.

Alexa.

He was so in love with Alexa that he refused to give himself completely to another.

But…but…if he’s the male her, and she won’t commit because she can’t find a guy she really wants to be with, then why wouldn’t the same be true of him? And then, for my parting shot, I give you a passage so full of WTFery and clichés I just don’t know what to do with it.

He’d dated many beautiful women, but Maggie held a mysterious quality that hit a man like a sucker punch. Her cinnamon-colored hair shimmered in the light, a straight, silky mass that fell over her cheek and hit her shoulder in a fashionable cut. Her bangs only accented exotically tilted eyes, reminding him of the endless misty green of the Tuscan fields, sucking a man in and allowing him to get lost in the fog. Her features were sharp and clear: a strong tilted jaw, high cheekbones, and elegant nose. The stretchy fabric of her top revealed well-defined shoulders and high, perky breasts. The pewter silk of her trousers glistened as she walked and showed off a perfectly curved rear and long legs that forced a man to imagine them wrapped around his waist. Her scent was a mix of earthy undertones of sandalwood and amber, sneaking into a man’s nostrils and promising him a trip to heaven on earth.

She was no shrinking violet. Her attitude was kick-ass and woman, hear me roar. She walked and breathed and spoke pure sex, and any male in her nearby area scented it. Michael watched as she threw her head back and laughed. Her face reflected an open happiness he rarely caught— only around Alexa or her brother. Even on their first date, a heavy wall of armor barricaded her from any real emotions, evident in her quick wit, sexy smolder, and distant gaze.

She was exactly what she wanted to be without apology. Michael admired and appreciated such women, as they were too far and few between. But something about Maggie pulled him to look closer and scratch beneath the surface. Some lingering pain and need glimmered deep within those green eyes, daring a man to slay the dragon and claim her.

Because, yeah. Um. Count the “a man”s. Plus, I love the idea that a woman having long legs simply forces a man to imagine them wrapped around his waist. Yep. That’s how it works, folks. And how the hell do you walk and speak and breathe pure sex? Sounds gross to me, but maybe that’s just me. And I understand that Michael’s a foreigner, but he speaks English perfectly well—it’s few and far between. “Few between” doesn’t make sense. It’s just a senseless pile of meaningless clichés…since when do the dragons lie beneath the surface you scratch?

Now, here’s the great thing about reading on the Kindle. I can tell you that I pulled all those quotes from the first 10% of the book. I leave it to you to decide whether you want to read the rest.

Grade: DNF

Summary:

To satisfy his late father’s wishes, hot and single billionaire Michael Conte must find a bride—someone who will fit into his traditional family back home in Italy—and fast, so his engaged sister will be allowed to wed. With no intention of being tied down, Michael “proposes” to fiery, free-spirited photographer Maggie Ryan: if she will play the part of his fiancée during her trip to Milan for a photo shoot, he will keep away from her married best friend, Alexa, and stop making Maggie nuts with their too-close-for- comfort flirtations.But once in Italy, sexual tension sparks the hottest no-strings- attached arrangement on any continent. Could marriage be the most enticing trap of all?

No excerpt available.

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