Master of Pleasure by Penny Jordan

There are some Harlequin romance novels that make me want to reach in, grab the hero, and scream in his face, “Shut up and listen! This would all be resolved in a few pages if you just shut up and listen.”

Gabriel Calbrini is a billionaire with an emotional grudge. Ten years ago, the little harlot he hooked up with decided she’d had enough of his bullshit, so she upped and left his ass to marry his elderly cousin, Carlo. Women don’t leave him, he leaves them! And so his poor little pride was hurt, which makes him come up with some revenge schemes: namely, I will make her want me again and when I’ve got her, I’ll be the one to leave her this time. Hahaha.

Gabriel imagines that the 17-year-old “cheap tart” he seduced was also sleeping with his cousin at the same time, so she got pregnant with his babies. She was 17, he was 25. She was a big-eyed girl who was impressed with everything he was because she was a teenager! He also believes she's slept with half of Europe.

Gabriel hates and distrusts women because his mother deserted him and his poor father to marry someone else with money. She had previously ran away to be with her poor, handsome farmer boyfriend even though he was POOR, but after a few months, she decided she didn’t like being poor, so she ditched her husband and the baby. Gabriel ended up in foster care where he was beaten and abused by his foster parents and left starving by them. 

Gabriel’s awful grandfather was desperate for an heir and when Gabriel’s mother failed to produce another boy child, he reluctantly adopted Gabriel and raised him to be his heir.

Our heroine is Sasha, now 28 years old and a mother to 9 year old twin boys, a widow whose husband left her with debts and no money with which to raise her boys. Enter Gabriel, the man who took over her husband’s failing business and bears a grudge against her bigger than his own ego. Carlo, Sasha’s dead husband, left him everything he had and named him in charge of the boys. As Sardinia is a patriarchal society, Sasha can't do anything.

This entire book was told in lots of internal monologues from the hero and heroine. There were also lots of flashbacks to when the H/h were together ten years ago spliced with lots of sex scenes. Imagine again that the heroine was 17 years old in a foreign country on holiday alone and Gabriel was her first ever crush. In order to get him to like her, she acts older and more sophisticated than she is. She’s 17. Gabriel was 25.

Within this story, we've got lots of flashbacks, internal monologues (specifically of Gabriel thinking what a big old whore Sasha is but he wants her anyway), explicit sex (some vivid descriptions of the female genitalia), and Gabriel being mean to Sasha in the present time. He accuses her of so many ridiculous things that the heroine was like, “Are you serious? Is this a joke? ARE YOU CRAZY?”

Through seventy percent of this book, Gabriel believes the most awful things about Sasha even though he witnesses her being a good mother and living a simple life, instead of being a mercenary, gold-digging tramp. He sees no evidence of her being an evil, scheming conniver, but he’s convinced she's some kind of she-devil.

Our heroine Sasha was raised in foster care and all she ever wanted was to be loved. She develops an unhealthy clinginess to people, but goes to therapy for it. Hooray! Seriously, lots of Harlequin Presents women and men need therapy.

Young Sasha tries to get Gabriel to admit he loves her but he says no and tells her love is for idiots. She’s only seventeen…

Finally, when these two get around to talking everything out, Gabriel realizes he’s loved her all along and asks her to marry him and she says no. He ends up chasing her for several months, trying to get her to fall in love with him again, and she was like, “No thanks, I’m good.”

Even though our hero was a hard-headed, stubborn fool, the heroine is emotionally healthy and loves her sons. She can stand up for herself and call Gabriel on his shit… her only weakness is her desire for Gabriel and this lady just goes for it. The hero is hot and willing (though bitchy), so why not?

What I like about any story that features a bully hero is the groveling he does afterward and boy, does he grovel. There's definitely some good groveling here.

I enjoyed reading this book even though the hero was a stubborn idiot. It was funny how every time he was about to arrive at a logical conclusion, his dumb brain kicks in and says “No, do the opposite of everything logical!”

As far as bully heroes go, Gabriel isn’t the worse in a long line of Harlequin Presents heroes. Not even close.

I give this book a 3 out of 5.



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