Today’s thought for SBD: where is the line between innovation and gouging readers?
The Marriage Betrayal by Lynne Graham
(c) August 2011, Harlequin Presents, also published by Mills & Boon as part of their Modern line, June 2011. Part of a mini-series, The Volakis Vow.
Careless passion, pregnancy surprise…
Sander Volakis goes his own way. He’s forged his reputation in business, rather than relying on the family fortune, and indulges his darkly passionate, wild streak. He has no intention of marrying…
He doesn’t do country weekends, either. Pitching up at Westgrave Manor is a favor to his father and a bore…until he sees Tally Spencer, so pretty and voluptuous that he can’t resist her. Sander’s looking forward to casually seducing her, not knowing that one night with the innocent Tally could end his playboy existence…
Sander and Tally’s story continues next month in Bride for Real.
TMB was…fairly typical for a Presents book. Virgin heroine, utterly put-upon and in love with a Greek billionaire. Said Greek billionaire prizes Tally because she’s so different and not of his normal millieu; what he doesn’t know (until too late) is that she’s the illegitimate daughter of a member of his business/social circle. Add in a surprise pregnancy resulting from ignorance about birth control + two towering egos + latent doormat syndrome = The Marriage Betrayal. The only slight difference was that both hero and heroine were relatively young, 25 and 20. In terms of plot and characterization, there was nothing original here and the execution was fairly uninspired.
I suppose I would feel less cranky about this book if it wasn’t for the excerpt of the next book of the series that was included at the end. TMB got to the end and the h/h were, in theory, happy and in love, expecting a child. And yet in the excerpt of next month’s book, we fast forward at least a year and learn that the infant was either stillborn or died very young and the h/h are separated. So readers get to pay for the pleasure of reading about a second attempt at an HFN or HEA for the very same h/h. How convenient for HP and the author! Tell the same story twice!
Okay, marriage in trouble is a legitimate trope in Romancelandia in general and in HP’s in particularly. Normally, the early part of the marriage, with some happiness, is recounted but is not seen on the page, only the trouble and the reconciliation. What irks me here is that what is essentially a very long category (or soapy single title) has been split in two. Readers get to pay to read one ostensible HEA and then are told “oops, no, buy the next book to see if the h/h really are going to be HEA.”
Is this innovation? The migration of the omnipresent sequel bait of single titles into categories? Or something less benign? Being a cynic, I see it as something less benign: as the publisher reaching into the reader’s pocket. The publisher’s goal is, of course, for the readers to buy their books. But this is just cheap, and as a semi-regular HP reader it feels like a money grab. No sale for me, and I’ll be careful about what HPs I buy in the future.