Review: The Aloha Bride

The Aloha Bride The Aloha Bride by Emma Darcy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a huge fan of groveling. I don't think there's enough groveling in romance novels these days. I think people in Romancelandia are just way too forgiving. "So you slept with my step-mother, bankrupted my father, stole my virginity, saddled me with a bastard child--which left me despairing and desperate--financially blackmailed me to be your mistress... and now you're saying you're sorry for all of that and you've loved me all this time? Yeah, okay, that sounds legit. You're forgiven." But then I encounter this particular hero and after a couple of pages of his begging and crying, I actually say out loud, “Sack up, Julian. They can’t all be love ballads. Have some goddamn pride and get off of your knees. ” Oh yes, so horribly progressive of me, I know. But Julian Lassiter is kind of the worst.

He starts out as your garden-variety woman hater (and admits it with an almost saucy defiance) who thinks all women are soulless, gold-digging, soul-sucking bitches just because the ONE woman he married was vain, shallow, narcissistic, and an all-around useless human being. (Um…maybe instead of asking for the prettiest, shiniest sparkle-pony in all of the land for a wife to show off to your society friends, next time you should ask for passably pretty, kind, good to children and animals, amazing in bed despite being a sexually inexperienced virgin) Because of ONE woman, all women are conniving, money-hungry whores in his eyes. That there is the wide paintbrush with which he drags over female folk. ONE woman messed with his noggin and suddenly, he's a proud misanthrope. Seriously, they trust a guy with this kind of skewed judgment and prejudice to run a multi-billion dollar corporation? Heaven help us.

Our story starts with our heroine, Robyn Walker—passably pretty, kind, good to children and animals (plus, as we come to find out, the old and infirm), amazing in bed despite being a sexually inexperienced… young lady. Having grown up with a mother and sisters whose happiness seemed wholly dependent on men, she strives to be more independent even at the risk of alienating her family. But when faced with the idea of her fiancé Larry leaving her to get sex somewhere else, she surrenders her virginity to him but due to some unexplained trauma in her childhood apparently involving her mother’s husband, she is unable to enjoy the experience and Larry is unsatisfied. Not too much later she catches Larry in flagrante delicto with another woman and Larry more or less says it’s Robyn’s fault because she’s lousy in the sack (only with you, Larry).

Whoa… Zack Morris calls for a Time-Out. “Larry” is not a romance novel hero’s name. That’s not even remotely close to: Aidan, Luke, Caleb, Henry, Damien, Alejandro, Rafael, Nikolai, Jean-Luc, Theseus, Gabriel, or… Julian. That’s where Robyn went wrong. “Oh, Larry, faster, ohhhhh… faster…” Gross.

Robyn decides to get away from the drama and goes alone on her honeymoon trip to Hawaii, determined to have fun for a few days and just indulge herself. She won’t be looking around for men to hang out or party naked with; she will just be by herself, enjoying the warm Hawaiian sun, completely relaxing with zero worries. That was the plan, anyway. But then, as soon as she gets off the plane in Hawaii, she encounters a tall, dark, ridiculously attractive man in an expensive-looking suit standing around in baggage claim and Robyn finds herself breathless with desire and longing and all sorts of things she has never felt before. He looks at her and their eyes meet for a moment and he rakes his blue-steel gaze over her, then gives her a half-smirk that says, oh yes, Daddy likes. Before Robyn can even process what just happened, he walks off having already dismissed her from his mind.

Robyn is trying to mentally brush off the incident when she sees a forklift of suitcases about to topple over an old lady. Without thinking about her own safety, Robyn rushes forward and grabs the old lady out of the way, then waves at the forklift operator to stop. Luckily, the forklift stops just in time. Robyn checks on the old lady and the old lady complains of pain. So much pain. But not hers, she says. Robyn’s. The old lady is some sort of touch-psychic (why wouldn’t she be) and she caught a glimpse of Robyn’s future when Robyn grabbed her arm. Robyn, she intones mysteriously, is about to experience the greatest sadness to be followed by the greatest happiness. And that she’s going to be married very, very soon. Humoring the old lady, Robyn asks who the groom will be. The old lady points to gorgeous Lord Suit-and-Tie standing at the curb, talking to a cab driver. Robyn laughs and wishes the old lady well before walking off to find her own way to her hotel.

But the Duke of Sartorial Elegance witnesses Robyn’s heroic act of bravery and insists on sharing his cab with her since they’ll be heading to the same hotel. They introduce themselves to each other and lapse into awkward silence. Robyn sits stiffly, uncomfortably aware of his nearness and yummy smell, when he suddenly tells her to stop being so nervous because he’s not about to start hitting on her. While he finds her passably attractive, he tells her, he doesn’t have the time, the patience, nor the inclination to indulge in any kind of sexual shenanigans involving her person. Ever the charmer, our hero Julian tells Robyn he is not a big fan of the ladies. But, like, not in a gay way or anything. He openly admits to her that he thinks all women are vapid and shallow and mercenary and cruel and only good for one thing. MAKEOVERS!!! Stop it; he means they’re only good for sex and he is way super picky about his bed buddies, Robyn, so don’t even try. Gurrrl, no. Just no. Walk away, gurrrl. This will only end in heartbreak. Trust.

As soon as they reach the hotel, Robyn tries to make a run for it, but she isn't quick enough and is forced to meet David Lassiter, Julian’s younger and obviously seriously ill half-brother, who remarks giddily how thrilled he is to see Julian, the perpetual widower, with a woman at last. Robyn’s like, “Nope, byeeee!” and takes this opportunity to run away, hoping to never ever see either Lassiter again during the trip. Yeah, that's how Romancelandia works, all right.

That evening, Robyn decides to indulge herself with a dinner at the fanciest restaurant in the hotel but doesn't think to make a reservation, so she doesn’t get a table. Just as she's walking away, she serendipitously bumps into Lassiter Brothers who are on their way to the restaurant and of course, they have a reservation, and of course the hotel wouldn't mind adding an extra chair to their party since they're filthy-stinking rich and can get whatever they want. Robyn decides it would be bad manners to turn them down, so she grudgingly joins them at their table, whereupon Julian proceeds to order a $1500-bottle of wine, to which Robyn objects on principle and vows not to drink a drop of. Thankfully, the dinner conversation goes smoothly enough with David asking Robyn a bunch of questions designed to ferret out details about her life and personality, while Robyn answers cautiously, half-wondering why David smiled so approvingly whenever he agreed with the stuff she says and being vividly aware of Julian sitting just inches from her. Julian stays aloof through all this, surveying Robyn coolly from beneath the veil of his dark lashes and sipping on his $1500-bottle of wine. How do you like them apples.

Julian and Robyn are left alone when David complains of feeling ill and tells them he would like to return to their suite, insisting that Julian and Robyn stay and enjoy the ridiculously expensive wine. Robyn puts up a token of protest but even she has to admit how utterly magnetic and attractive she finds Julian and would like any excuse to stay with him. When the bill for dinner comes, Robyn insists on paying for her meal even as Julian tries to bully her into letting him pay for the meal, since she was their guest. Robyn says she hadn't intended to be their guest for the evening, so she's responsible for her own meal, and Julian magnanimously allows her to win. Julian begins to suspect that Robyn may be a dangerous breed of slutbag-whore that he'd never before encountered and finds himself marginally intrigued.

Back in her hotel room, Robyn is getting ready for bed when holy crap, Julian is suddenly on the phone, practically begging to see her as soon as possible and Robyn, thinking haha the day is mine, says yeah okay woo-hoo, come over to my room. Whoa, Yolanda, be cool. We gonna be like little Fonzies here. And what's the Fonz like? He's cool. Correctamundo. Be cool. Soon enough, Julian is by her side, looking feverishly passionate and smelling so darn good, proposing…a business deal? Kinky bastard!

During dinner, Robyn had mentioned wanting to have a child of her own once she is more financially secure, with or without a husband. This apparently inspired DAVEY’S GREAT IDEA and Julian is basically his fairy godmother, helping his dreams come true. David, he explains, is a brilliant scientist working on some cancer research when he accidentally got infected with some radioactive stuff and now he has advanced leukemia with only a few months to live. Davey is also a genius who was once nominated for the Nobel Prize and doesn't want to die without passing on his genetic material, especially since his big bro seems determined to never let sunshine into his life, much less the love of a family. Davey WANTS to have a baby and thinks Robyn would make the best candidate for a mother based on the answers she put forth during her interview at dinner. Yolanda, you were being interviewed to be a breeder and you didn't even know it? Daaaaang, you shoudda let them paid! Julian asks solemnly if she could marry Davey and carry his genius seed. Robyn does not outright laugh in his face.

In fact, Robyn tells him she'll seriously consider it. On one hand, dat ish cray. Like, are you for real, G?! You gonna agree to become the future widow and baby incubator of a dude you just met hours ago? On the other, she could make the last days of a dying man very happy and hooray, get a baby in the process. Julian assures her that she and the baby will never want for anything since the Lassiters are filthy stinking rich and promises that he will always be there for her, like a good big brother should be. Ouch. Robyn decides to do it because it is Julian who asked her and against all reason, she is already halfway in love with him. After all, if Julian were her brother-in-law, he would be a part of her family forever and she could see him all the time. Oooookay, then. He calls her an “Aloha Bride” because if you break down “aloha,” it basically means, “I see you. I give you my love, compassion, and share with you my breath of life.” Which is kind of nice and more profound than “Surf's up, bitches!”

Robyn and Davey marry by a hospital bed and Robyn does a good job of keeping her emotions in check, even as she is screaming inside, “It's you I want to marry, Julian! Oh why can't it be you? I should be getting impregnated by YOUR seed. Oh, Julian, won't you look at me? I don't want to marry your brother. I'm doing this for you. Oh God, love me!!!!” Gurrrrl, it's only been a couple of days. Get your mind right. She gives Julian an extra key to her room and tells him she'll be waiting for Davey with the lights off and could he please tell Davey to keep it that way because she’d really like it to be very dark. So she can hide from her own shame, I guess? Gurrrrl, if you're feeling this torn up about it, don't do it. Run away. Take your ass back to Australia. You don't need this.

Right at the appointed time, the lover lets himself into Robyn’s room and proceeds with Operation: Baby for Davey. Robyn tells herself to keep her eyes shut and just relax and pretend the lover is Julian. She finds herself more than pleasantly surprised when she runs her hands over his body and discovers that daaaaang, for a dude with cancer Davey sure feels strong and buff and warm… warm like life. She could swear it was Julian on top of her, adoringly humping away. She wonders if her mind is playing tricks on her because she's thinking about Julian so hard… the next morning, she's not so sure. The man who came to her room was Davey, right? But her body tells her it was Julian… wasn't it? WASN'T IT? On the third night, she turns on the light and finds out.

Anyway, you know how these things go when they hit the fan. Robyn goes back to Oz and tries to get on with her life, tries her best to forget that she ever met anyone named Lassiter. Only it's going to be a lot harder than she bargained for, especially when Operation: Baby for Davey turns out to be a raging success.

You know, I liked Robyn. Once the lady decides to hold her ground, she ain't yielding an inch. Even at her loneliest, most miserable moments, when just the very thought of Julian is a stab in the heart, she doesn't give in. She doesn't make excuses for herself. Whenever Julian comes over, she's really pretty good at kicking him out. She is resolute against his looks of yearning and words of adoration, even when he tells her that she, Robyn, has changed the way he thinks of women forever because she, UNLIKE HIS EVIL DEAD WIFE, is so giving, so generous, so selfless, so beautiful… oh Robyn, forgive him for initially thinking that all women are gold-digging skanks with no souls. You've changed him for the better, Robyn, you did that! Now please, please, let him get past the threshold. Good on ye, Robyn! Let the bastard suffer.

While I actually enjoyed reading this classic HP and wallowed with glee in the sea of angst, there were a few things that really made me scratch my head in confusion. 1) If Robyn was sexually traumatized as a child, what the heck was it like for her waiting in the dark for Davey, uncertain of what will happen next? That has to be mind-blowing. 2) Why assume that the baby batter has to come directly from the draft? Haven't these people heard of turkey-basting it? All Robyn needs is a little cup of Dave’s fresh stuff and science can take care of the rest. Why complicate it with sex? Isn't Julian the chairman of a multi-billion dollar corporation? Why didn't he think of that shit? (view spoiler) 3) Why did I get annoyed instead of emotionally touched and tearful when Julian begs Robyn not to send him away? What is it about this particular groveling that didn't work for me?

Is anyone else bothered that Robyn fell in love with Julian within hours of meeting him even after he told her he hated women? I mean, she was willing to do anything he asked for the very next day. Marry your dying brother and carry his child? Absolutely! Can I fetch you a beer while I'm up? Methinks Robyn was the victim of a self-fulfilling prophecy: when the old lady predicted she will marry Julian, she was crushing on him so hard that she did everything in her power to make it happen. Dat ish cray.

Moral lesson: Don't get infected by radioactive stuff. It won't give you Marvel super powers, just cancer. Also, don't listen to psychic predictions that a weird old woman gives you at the airport . Dumbass tourist.

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