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Book CoverLynne C’s review of The Italian’s Virgin Acquisition by Michelle Conder
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Presents 1 Sep 17

I just read a book (I know, shocking!) and finally, after so many disappointing reads, I got what I wanted. I closed the back cover with a happy sigh. This is what I want when I read a Harlequin Presents. A break from my life, a few hours reading something with characters I can like and situations that aren’t too wild or unbelievable. I loved it, and there’s only one grade for it.

So to details. Poppy Connolly is a woman in her mid twenties who has brought up her deaf brother, who is ten years younger than she is, on her own. She’s doing a degree, working as an intern but also cleaning at night to make ends meet. Martyr, right? Wrong. Poppy just knows what is right and what she needs to do. She doesn’t repine—often, and reflects on her past life with wry humour. Apart from the hero, nobody seems to think she’s stunningly beautiful. In short, she’s a heroine people can warm to, but she’s nobody’s fool. She’s clever, determined, and she has a bright future to look forward to, one she’s created herself. I really like her. She’s approachable enough that I could find myself sharing a pub meal and a drink with her and enjoying her company.

So far, so good.

The hero is, of course, a corporate man, driven and very wealthy. He wants his grandfather to hand him the CEO job of the company he’s been running. And his grandfather doesn’t make it a condition of him getting the job that he marries, he just wistfully wishes that he would. And Sebastian loves him enough to want to fulfill his wish, but so far he’s been happy with the parade of women trooping through his bedroom door and out again shortly after.

Poppy meets him when she goes to his office to talk to his PA. She tips a cup of coffee over him and gets a glimpse of his bare chest. His grandfather visits, sees them together, and gets the wrong idea. But what I like is that attraction bloomed between them before the plot-mover arrived. And they don’t tear each other’s clothes off immediately.

To make his grandparents happy, and to push his grandfather’s decision along a little, Sebastian persuades Poppy to go along with him to Naples for a weekend. She takes a lot of persuading, refuses his cash offer (which is absolutely the only niggle I had with the book—she owed it to her brother to take it), but she does accept his offer of three wishes. The first is the right trainers for her brother. The second is for an apartment for a woman who has been a quasi-mother and friend to them, and the third is left hanging.

The relationship develops quickly, as it has to in a short novel. But in time, too. Normally I’d object, but in this book it works. Poppy and Sebastian are so perfect together, even if they don’t realise it themselves.

I’ll let you read the rest for yourself.

All that, the plot and all, is absolutely typical for Harlequin Presents/Mills&Boon Modern Romance. There is nothing unusual. Poor girl meets rich man, swans about with him in a wealthy, privileged milieu, and they fall in love. But that doesn’t matter. The external plot is relatively unimportant, which is why the line sticks to the tried-and-true tropes. People who criticise it for that just aren’t getting it.

It’s about the people involved. The author has to sell the reader on the characters. Sometimes recently I’ve found the hero too harsh, too unforgivingly alpha-asshat, that I’ve just wanted the heroine to deliver a swift punch to the jaw and walk away. For real. Or the heroine has been so petulant and selfish, I’ve really felt bad for the hero. Or both, in which case they deserve each other. Or the plot has been bent so much it’s unbelievable. Yes, we’re willing to suspend disbelief, but not give it up completely. Or, and this has been happening more of late, both the hero and heroine have been cardboard characters with as much depth as a thin-crust pizza, or rather, the polystyrene base it comes on, and they’ve walked through the plot like automatons.

This book proves that you can deliver on an old plot with tropes to match. And it proves that the books aren’t about the external plot, but how the characters react to it. I love Poppy and Sebastian, and I really wanted them to get their happy ending.

LynneCs iconGrade: A


Sebastiano Castiglione has a problem. His lifestyle of decadent hedonism has convinced his grandfather to retain control of the family dynasty. To take what’s owed him, Bastian must prove he’s a changed man. The sight of his stunning intern sparks an idea—and the flames of a burning desire!

Innocent Poppy Connolly will not become another Castiglione acquisition—but she cannot refuse Bastian’s offer of three chances to change her family’s life. Her response to his smoldering physicality is shocking, and it won’t be long before the molten heat of Bastian’s gaze melts away all her resistance…

No excerpt available.