I read Leonetti’s Housekeeper Bride close to 2 months ago and I’ve had this post in drafts ever since I finished it. I ended up having to reread it during the week as I couldn’t remember it clearly enough to review it. Ooops!
Any regular reader of my blog is well aware of the love I have for Lynne Graham and so I had to read this, her (
99th correction!) 98th novel. And the thing that really stood out to me was that our heroine Poppy is a Goth. I have to ask – is she the first ever M&B Goth heroine? I can’t recall ever coming across any other M&B Goths so it is a first for me. A Goth called Poppy is rather a burden to bear though.
But first, the blurb….
Leonetti’s Housekeeper Bride
Bingo square: Dead Dogs
His Innocent Wife…
The last thing Gaetano Leonetti wants is to be shackled in marriage, but to become CEO of his family’s bank, his grandfather has decreed Gaetano must find a nice, ordinary woman to wed.
Convinced his grandfather is mad, Gaetano sets about proving him wrong with housekeeper Poppy Arnold. With her outspoken nature and unusual dress sense, she’s definitely not wife material!
But it’s not long before hardworking, self-sacrificing Poppy charms his grandfather and Gaetano’s stuck with a union he didn’t want and a bride he sinfully craves! Having set her up to fail, can he really take the precious gift of her virginity?
So the story opens with our hero Gaetano having a bad day. One of his parties had gotten out of hand, photos had been spilled to the media and revenge boy needed heads to roll because his Poppa is not impressed. The head that ended up rolling was Poppy – the household housekeeper. Poppy was not reallly the housekeeper (yep – M&B title fail) but had been doing her mother’s work for her as mum had become an alcoholic over the past few years and her brother was a bit of a deadbeat too. Poppy’s family had always been in servitude to Gaetano’s family and she was the first member of her family to not be on their books (this plays a very important role in the story). Even though Poppy and Gaetano had known each other for a long time, she used to crush on him badly and he barely thought of her except vaguely as that girl who sweetly followed him around. Life and Gaetano’s bad day gets complicated and Gaetano decideds that Poppy had to get him out of his problems.
However, Gaetano was an arrogant dick. His grandfather has been nagging him to get married so, as any rational gazillionaire is wont to do, he bribes Poppy into pretending to be his fiance by promising to cover her mother’s rehab bills. Poppy does so and comes completely clean with her mother and her brother about her fake fiance however Gaetano at no stage tells his grandfather that he was being manipulative and a dick. What Poppy doesn’t know is that he chose her because she was so inappropriate for his life. She dressed funny, she looked weird – he wanted her to feel out of place so his conservative grandfather could be annoyed and tell him to get rid of her. and stay unmarried. Instead, his grandfather is a much better man than Gaetano and sees Poppy for the determined, independent, good person she is.
Oh! I really liked Poppy – she gives her all to her dysfunctional mother and brother, she eats her cereal dry and with her fingers. She is funny and tough and an absolute marshmallow. Though Gaetano changes his ways and comes to like and love Poppy, I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the connection between him and lovely Poppy, I didn’t feel that he came to like her dress sense, and I was mightily disappointed that she started to turn it down for him. I remained unconvinced of Gaetano’s change of heart at the end even if he did consciously question his selfishness and his predatory behaviour. And I really hurt for Poppy when he told her the truth about wanting her to embarrass her grandfather. That hurt and embarrassment shook her. Poppy though stands tall, chin up and all that and Gaetano (after a buffoonish reaction to finding out Poppy was pregnant) realises his love for her and there was much rejoicing for evers. In my head, I had to write a parallel story for Poppy and it is one where she is swept off her feet by an accountant neo-punk who helps her mum and bro and the two get matching lip rings and live a rockin’ good life together (albeit a poor one).
My cynicism aside, this book was full of amusement for me. Despite not liking Gaetano’s manipulation of Poppy, unlike sooooo many romance heroes in M&Bs, he was straightforward and had a frank way of speaking. There are no hidden secrets (except for their at times hidden hots for each other). They both tells it like it is and it kept me laughing throughout the book. In actual fact, this frankness is what hurts Poppy. He tells what he thinks of her both when he disliked her, when he liked her to when he lurrrved her. And perhaps that is why Poppy was fine with him because at least he always told the truth.
Poppy was worthy of Pudding. She had chin swag, she stood on her own two feet, she refused money from Gazillionaire Gaetano, choosing to work in a cafe in London or a bar in her village despite being assured she had access to his gazillions as his “fake” fiance. Her independence is important to her and this sets her as Gaetano’s equal. Not because she was earning money (for waitressing money is piddling in comparison to the amount that M&B heroes make while they stand around yachts looking hot) but because she does not put value on money as a controller in their relationship and she refuses to allow him to do so too. Her value is on the quality of their discussions and respect for each other. So much so that when he fears that she will want to stay with him forever due to the magical powers of his todge she assures him:
Having sex with you is not going to make me fall in love with you. I know you think you’re fantastic in bed, Gaetano, but you’re not fantastic enough out of bed.
Poppy is great but sadly she changes herself. She conforms and gets angry at herself for doing so.
What this book lacks in a redemptive hero it more than makes up for with the signature Lynne Graham funny little zingers and dry wit. Poppy’s inner monologue and outer dialogue had me giggling at intertextual jokes. From Britishism like Tickety -Boo, the death of two dogs (Bingo!) aand theexclamation “”Dogs Die!”– oh yes Ms Graham yields enough M&B power that she can kill them puppies and still get published. From Poppy’s “ruminating over her bridegroom’s lack of emotional intelligence” to Gaetano’s incredulous reaction to Poppy’s pregnancy nnouncement “from one time? What are you? The fertility queen?”.
Ahhhhh! Ms Graham. Even when I am not a fan of her heroes, I remain completely and utterly devoted her writing!
I bought a copy of this book from the local department shop near my home.