I have peered into a new corner of the contemporary romance genre with these two novels, one known as “secret baby”. Once Upon a Half-Time and Bad Boy’s Bridesmaid both feature a player and a sensible woman whose precipitous actions lead to an absolutely conventional conclusion. These Sosie Frost books also happen to have an African-American heroine and a Caucasian-American hero. HUZZAH! for diversity, especially when it means that a romance novel looks more like the real world. The race issue is not particularly highlighted in Once Upon a Half-Time and Bad Boy’s Bridesmaid; in fact, it can be summarized by these exchanges in each novel:
Because I’m… and your…
She’s a… and your…
Typing that gave me a pain behind my eye. Could no one have caught it in either book?
I want to move on to the secret baby trope. It was the point of my reading selection and will give me a chance to shake my head in disappointment at the kids today who need to get off on my lawn.
Once Upon a Half-Time – Lachlan and Elle
Lachlan and Elle spent an incendiary weekend in a hotel room when they met at an NFL scouting event in Las Vegas. As team photographer, Elle keeps her distance from Lachlan when he’s drafted by her employer and becomes a conflict of interest. He wants more from her and while Elle is very attracted to him, she feels it would be unprofessional and detrimental to her emotional health to become involved. Getting caught still naked by the entire team after an ill-advised locker room hookup, Lachlan reveals to all and sundry that the Las Vegas adventure was by way of a honeymoon as they had eloped at a local wedding chapel. He is mad for her. Elle remembers none of this, but agrees to go on three dates with Lachlan to give their relationship a chance. It’s an excellent beginning and I do so love a marriage of convenience plot.
Elle looked great when she was pissed. That was good for me. I was pretty sure she planned to pluck off my balls, grate them into dust, and spoon feed the remains to me.
Elle flicked her towel at me. “You take nothing seriously in this world except family.”
“I know, right? I’m so charmingly full of contradictions.”
The violet material caressed her with an almost vulgar modesty.
(I don’t know what that means, but I like it.)
Once Upon a Half-Time got off to a really fun start with snappy banter and a light tone. There were subplot machinations causing everyone stress and for which one could almost understand why Elle and Lachlan did not have that simple, revelatory conversation that could shorten the novel considerably. Almost. They both had secrets to keep, but being direct would have helped everyone involved.
I would have liked Once Upon a Half-Time a lot more if it weren’t for the whole “secret baby” genre niche. Lachlan and Elle have unprotected sex on one of their dates and she becomes pregnant, but keeps it secret; hence the trope. First of all, Elle doesn’t figure out she is knocked up, another woman points the signs to her. Secondly, I don’t care if Elle is on the pill, I refuse to believe that a sexually active young woman wouldn’t notice that she was pregnant, especially if she was vomiting frequently. Part of being a sexually active, non-menopausal woman is always being aware of the possibility of pregnancy, and the intestinal distress is certainly a giant red flag.
Lachlan and Elle work out their issues, resolve the machinations, and move forward together as committed, expectant parents in their early twenties. I hate this idea. They are young and financially secure. They could travel. They could play. They could chase each other around the house naked. Why on earth would they want to tie themselves down? It’s all so safe. Live a little! Make a pair bond, hold off on the nuclear family.
Speaking of the “we’re starting our family young” trope, I took this line from the next book to be Sosie Frost’s theme as a writer: “We’re men. We like to protect our woman and our families. What better way than to live with you, stay with you, take care of you?” I understand that the prosaic goal of building a happy home life as a family unit is an attainable escapism, but why move on to the next phase so soon?
Bad Boy’s Bridesmaid – Nate and Mandy
Nate and Mandy have known each other all of their lives and, after one night of scorching hot sex, her status as the best lover he’s ever had, convinces Nate they should be together, at the very least, bodily. The reader knows she is Nate’s favourite because he mentions it constantly as though it is an important honour Mandy needs to know has been bestowed upon her. I just hope she has a speech prepared and a suitable place to display her “NATE’S GREATEST LAY” trophy.
Mandy didn’t understand that she was the only woman who ever made
me want more. My cock had a mind of its own, and somehow, it
convinced the rest of me that it was a good idea to pursue her.
Nate’s a successful business owner, a brew pub which is so very au courant, and the estranged son of the local minister. Nate isn’t really a “bad boy” as the title suggests – they never are – he’s actually very responsible, he’s just sexually indiscriminate.
The rest of us? We had our fun, fucked our way through a relationship,
and then cut when the girl left her toothbrush overnight.
Against the background of Mandy’s intense morning sickness, her sister is getting married and giving bridezillas a bad name. It’s so over-the-top, I worried she had a chemical imbalance, but that would have been a different book entirely. Mandy’s parents are estranged and arguing about wedding costs, so our sweet heroine is just trying to hold everything together until after the nuptials when she can tell Nate about the baby. He’s hard for her to resist and they find themselves having mind-blowing encounters. To Mandy, I would like to give some wisdom from Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck:
Amy: You want to stay with the best [sex] you’ve ever had guy.
Kim: No you don’t. That’s a creepy guy. Best sex you’ve ever had guy is in jail.
It’s funny because it’s true, but Mandy didn’t listen to me, she just went on being a fictional character created at some point in the past and ended up with Nate and her now non-secret baby as they build a family together and, for some inexplicable reason, stay in contact with her genuinely awful relatives. They should have run to California like Nate had planned before giving everything up to do the minivan and kids thing.