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Bound By Marriage is a by-the-numbers romance plot set in present day Australia. Jessica Randall, 26, has agreed to marry Gabriel Dumont and have his child in exchange for his agreement not to sell her childhood home (a ranch) to developers. The back-story is sketched (sparely) throughout the novel – Jess’ father was a poor money manager, Gabe has serious issues with attachment, but he’s a handsome fella who the girls fawn over, and wants a wife who doesn’t have “romantic illusions” about him… see stock romance plot 54C.
I’ve read versions of this story a hundred times over, rendered far better by writers like Mary Balough and (my favorite) Carla Kelly. I have literally worn out copies of some of Carla Kelly’s books, which all follow the same basic plot-lines, yet manage to be individually engrossing, rewarding reads. (More about how I love Carla Kelly in a later post.) Bound by Marriage, however, is not a book I’ll revisit. Although the romance-novel tropes are fairly traditional, the modern setting makes the (frequent, graphic) borderline-non-consensual sex far more disturbing than it is in Regency era stories. I think a lot of it is merely context – women of earlier centuries expected to be treated like chattel, and were trained to submit to their fathers and husbands. The scenes of a modern woman submitting to sex that she’s not sure she wants disturbed me. I mean, of course she’s a virgin, and of course the sex is great, and — SPOILER — of course they end up falling in love (and he falls in love with the child they conceive, even though he’s originally cold and hesitant).
“Her desperate plea the night they’d made the decision to marry slammed into his mind.”
“His eyes slammed into hers, but she found the courage to stand her ground. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how much this would hurt you’.”
As for myself, when I finished this book, the thought slammed into my mind – I never need to read this again!