On One Condition by Diane Alberts is a contemporary romance about a marriage of convenience. That’s not a combination that should work, but it does pretty well, most of the time.
This story has an absolutely terrific start. It begins with the, let’s call it the “morning after the night before”, and it’s not pretty. But it is hilarious. Johanna wakes up in bed with a naked, gorgeous man with an absolutely yummy British accent, and no memory of his name. A terrific memory of how wonderful the sex was the night before, but no name. And she just wants him gone.
No matter how fantastic he was in bed (and he was) she does not want to remember her one night of cutting loose from her usual tightly-wound behavior. She’s a kindergarten teacher! She keeps her head under the pillow while she listens to him dress, refuses to take his card, and hopes to forget the whole incident as soon as humanly possible.
This is not to be, or there wouldn’t be a story.
Even living in the U.S. Viscount Damon Haymes has never met a woman who wasn’t after him for his money and/or his title, not until Johanna threw his ass out of her apartment that morning. He wanted to see her again. But, he was willing to honor her rather vehemently stated wishes.
Until fate intervened. Forcefully.
Damon had inherited his title, and his fortune, and all of his businesses, just a few months previously, after his father’s death. He was still, let’s say, settling in to his responsibilities. The sheer number of lawyers, accountants and managers involved in tracking everything staggered him. And he trusted some of them a little too much.
So when a new lawyer arrived in his office to say that yet another codicil had been discovered in his father’s will, requiring that he marry within three months, Damon didn’t question it. He should have.
What he did do was attend the Valentine’s Day Charity Auction that evening in his father’s place. The auction benefited Rowling Elementary School, and, of course, that is the place where Johanna teaches. What gets auctioned? Dinner with one of the unmarried teachers? Does Damon wildly outbid any other contenders for dinner with Johanna? Of course he does.
But Damon doesn’t need a dinner date, Damon needs a wife. However, Johanna doesn’t particularly want a husband. She nearly had to take out a restraining order on her last boyfriend, she’s not interested in another one. What she is interested in is money for the school. So they make a deal. A marriage of convenience for one year, long enough to satisfy that pesky will. Johanna gets a tidy nest egg, and a LOT of money for the school. Damon gets to keep his fortune. And a year to convince Johanna to have a marriage with benefits, for a year.
Johanna believes their marriage to be a business arrangement. It’s a contract. A one-year contract. As far as she is concerned, they can’t be “friends with benefits”, or whatever it is that Damon is aiming for. She told him that first morning when she threw him out that she didn’t do one-night stands. She didn’t do them because she knows she can’t give her body without throwing her heart in along with it.
Reminding herself that what they have is a business arrangement will keep her from being heart-broken when their year is over.
But sharing a house, sharing every day life, and sharing all that chemistry (that one night was really fantastic!) was bound to break down Johanna’s defenses eventually.
Then Damon and Johanna have to find out whether their “marriage of convenience” can stand the strain put on it by some very inconvenient circumstances.
Escape Rating C+: This story starts out with a bang. (Well, literally, but that takes place the night before.)
The story follows classic themes in a number of ways. He’s rich, she’s average. He has to marry to keep his money, she’s the only woman he knows who doesn’t care about his money. Each of them falls for the other, and keeps that little fact a secret as long as possible, because they are just sure the other doesn’t feel the same.
All of that was fun. The second-chance courtship was quite seductive.
(Spoiler alert) Okay, here’s the thing. A “marriage of convenience” being a requirement in daddy’s will is a bit contrived for the 21st century. But it did make for a cute story. However, in this case, it turned out to be a fake, because Damon wasn’t paying attention to all the businesses he’d inherited. He should have had his own lawyer verify the codicil, and didn’t. But he wasn’t that stupid. My willing suspension of disbelief jumped its tracks at this point late in the story and had a difficult time reboarding the train for the ending.
For more of my thoughts on this book, head on over to Book Lovers Inc.