I love a good As-If novel. For the most part, this is one of the most excellent aspects of reading category romance fiction. Plot lines are so absurd that they test a reader’s suspension of disbelief. Done badly, the reader rejects the story with disdain. But when As-If is done well, despite all the impossible, ridiculous plot bunnies you become lost in the emotional wellbeing of the two characters that you are reading about. So to test my As-If-O-Metre, I read Lynne Graham’s 99th novel The Sicilian’s Stolen Son.
The only link Jemima Barber has to her troubled late twin sister is her nephew. So when the boy’s father storms into their lives to reclaim the child that was stolen from him, Jemima lets the forbidding Sicilian believe she is her smooth seductress of a sister. Though his son’s mother might be gentler than Luciano Vitale remembers, he’s resolved to make her pay in the most pleasurable way imaginable. But when he discovers she’s a virgin, her secret is out! Now Luciano has a new proposal: Jemima can atone for her sister’s sins–by becoming his wife!
Good twin Jemima is left holding her recently reconciled but dead evil twin sister Julie’s baby. Dead Julie was so evil that she committed identity fraud against her sister, and used Jemima’s passport and name to become Jemima!EvilTwin and entered into a surrogate agreement with Italian gazillionaire Luciano. Jemima!EvilTwin has a change of mind after she gives birth, asks for more money and then runs off to England whose surrogacy laws protect her. So Jemima!EvilTwin rocks up at Jemima!GoodTwin’s house, hands her the baby without revealing who the father is, steals Jemima!GoodTwin’s proselytising Hellfire and Brimstone boyfriend Steve, and then goes to the city and rips off a ton of other men and creates a huge debt all in Jemima!GoodTwin name who still manages to see good in her evil twin.
As-if it upper:
So Luciano the surrogate dad and hero of this novel is on the hunt for his made to order child’s surrogate mum who ran off with the kid. He is a hottie with a “Rave from the Grave voice” who (but of course) chose to have a surrogate child because he doesn’t want to be in a relationship because his previous ho-wife showed him that women were all thieving, lying sluts who were to be mistrusted AT ALL COSTS. Hos are fine for dipping your dick in them when the sexual urges are high but sowing your seed is reserved for anonymous women only. Luciano, just like Jemima!Good/EvilTwin too has a duality going on in his life in that he is the first generation of a long line of mafia dudes to go legit. Loopy Lucky yearns for respectability. He craves a conservative family without scandal which he wasn’t afforded in his first marriage but he has some odd ways of trying to achieve this with Jemima!GoodTwin calling him out on the surrogacy child idea
You do think in some seriously screwy ways sometimes
Push that As-if, baby:
*Huge breath* Anyway, when Jemima!GoodTwin finally meets Luscious Lucky, in a moment of panic and concern for her nephew that she has been caring for, she goes against her usual truth and goodness and lies saying that she is Jemima!EvilTwin and the mother of Lucky Luciano’s baby. So he swears at her, abuses her and then decides to pay off all her Jemima!EvilTwin thieving whore money before taking her back to Italy to help him with his son/baby.
The As-If-O-Metre of category fiction has hit an all time high:
Of course, Jemima!GoodTwin continues to hide that she is not Jemima!EvilTwin from Lucky LooseLips so as to ensure her nephew’s safety. Livid Lucky treats Jemima!GoodTwin meanly because he thinks that Jemima!EvilTwin is ammoral and a liar for stealing away with his son. Being the altruistic kind soul that Jemima!GoodTwin is, she refuses to take any of Lucky’s money and she also refuses the brand new swanky designer clothes that he gives her. However, there is a bit of Jemima!Evil in our Jemima!GoodTwin and she swoons when she sees the fancy blinged up sandals that she decides she must wear out of good manners.
We are at the mercy of THE QUEEN of AS-IF plots, Lynne Graham continues to amp it up:
Luciano meanwhile feels attracted to Jemima!Good/EvilTwin and he is at odds with himself (ahhh! that duality of life again!). Can he bonk an evil ho that glimmers with goodness? Meanwhile, Jemima!GoodTwin too is attracted to Luciano “with that much unclad masculine flesh on view she found it impossible not to stare”. But she only has one job to do and that is to keep her pants on because he can’t discover that she is a virgin because then he would know she wasn’t her nephew’s mother. But it is hard (erherherherh *snort* #punintended) because Lusty Lucky is a babe and Jemima!GoodTwin thinks
he was gorgeous and he had to know he was gorgeous. After all, he saw himself every time he shaved…
With the help of private investigators Luciano discovers that the woman taking care of his son is Jemima!GoodTwin and not Jemima!EvilTwin so of course it is all ethically fine for him to take her to bed before revealing he knows her lies. Jemima!GoodTwin is overcome (yes…yes… pun intended again) with her confusing love for Libido Lucky, she forgets her ONE FRICKING JOB, they do the deed and her innocence is revealed. Jemima!GoodTwin is horrified that she got so carried away
Fantasy is one thing, actually acting on fantasy something else entirely.
And thus Lynne Graham speaks for all category romance readers around the world. Thank you oh Diva Divine!
But wait! There is even more As-if!
So Luciano suggests to Jemima!GoodTwin that she becomes his mistress which she scoffs at saying
I thought mistresses died out with corsets
Jemima!GoodTwin is funny and mouthy. She cuts through Lucky Luc’s weirdness and she gets him to loosen up. The two get on quite well when she isn’t lying and he forgets that she isn’t a thieving ho and the two decide to marry for the conservative family needs of his son/her nephew. But love isn’t that easy. Jemima!GoodTwin (and Jemima!EvilTwin)’s holier than thou ex-boyfriend (oh his own duality in lusting after the evil twin and repenting and needing the good twin’s forgiveness) Steve is constantly lurking and warning her of Lickable Luciano’s evilness. As-If this wasn’t ludicrous enough, Luciano’s dead ex-wife’s biographer and sister takes up residence in his guest house and feeds poison stories to Jemima!GoodTwin. But just like in Scooby Doo, Luciano rushes home to reveal his sister-in-law’s devious ways, he reveals his big lurve for Jemima!GoodTwin, buys her lots of sparkly bling-y shoes and they all live in Sexy Harlequin Mills & Boon Happy Ever After bliss.
I am so happy because my As-If-O-Metre disappeared somewhere between Jemima!GoodTwin’s strappy high heels and Lucky Luciano’s helicopter dash home for the love reveal.
Ahhhh but I do love an incongruous storyline….
This novel carries the trademark Lynne Graham humour, zingers and pathos that we, her devoted readers adore. Her heroines who couldn’t care less about money, her heroes who only understand life in monetary terms and their transition to realising that the prize is in the woman who does not value him for what he has but for what he is. The thing is, my As-If-O-Metre DID get suspended. I stopped realising that every pilot twist became more and more ridiculous because these two characters were so well written and fab together. They were funny and lovely and they just got on so well. As Jemima!GoodTwin says
“His wealth doesn’t matter to me. His kindness does”.
I love the disappearing As-If-O-Metre. It is a rare indicator of how a brilliantly told story can be that as the reader you have forgotten all the storyline impossibilities and you are turning the pages of your book as quickly as you can because you want to know how these two improbable beings will reconcile and fall in love.
A copy of this book was borrowed from a New South Wales public library.
Note: “I thought mistresses died out with corsets” is such a cheeky line. Lynne Graham’s titles are peppered with “Mistress” this and “Mistress” that. It is such an antiquated term in this modern age that it firmly places category romance fiction into a hyper-real world where occurrences and people could be real but they bend toward the absurd. These little markers are a hat tip to the reader that this author lives well within our own world where no-one gets called a “mistress”. It is a wink to the reader acknowledging that all the “Mistress” titles that so many of us cringe over, is seen in the same way by the author as it is quite well-known (I know I should reference this point but the info is out there somewhere in the interwebs) that few Mills & Boon authors get to name their own books. The titles are decided upon by a marketing team who have a propensity for the word mistress (they must all be French).