The Oilman's Baby Bargain by Michelle Celmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm happy to say that really enjoyed the second book in the new Texas Cattleman's Club series from Silhouette Desire. I was very disappointed in Taming the Texas Tycoon, which is about Mitch's brother. I had one bit of confusion when I started reading this book. The blurb called the hero Wyatt, but his name is Mitch in the book. That gave me pause, but I decided to soldier on.
I really liked Alexis. She was a 'poor little rich girl,' and I'm not being mean or sarcastic. Literally, she was raised in a gilded cage, with the gold on the outside. Her father controlled practically every aspect of her life. He went so far as to forbid her from learning to drive, and she hadn't even gotten any sex education, other than romance novels. Her only friend was her paid assistant, carefully vetted by her controlling father. So it made sense that she fell hard for Mitch, when he was wining and dining her on behalf of her fiance, his brother Lance. I forgot to mention that her father told her she was marrying Lance, and she didn't get a choice in the matter. He raised her for two intentions: a good marriage, and grandsons. She was criticized for everything she did, and made to feel less than worthy. It's no wonder that she does show some moments of low self-esteem, and feels a sense of inadequacy. So marrying Lance was a foregone conclusion, in her desire to win her father's approval. And she would have gone through with it, although the few days and the last night with Mitch convinced her she was in love with him. Before she knew, she was tumbling into bed with him. The next morning, he tells her the best night of her life was a mistake. So save her own face, she told him she had allowed him to seduce her to get back at Lance, to rub his face in the fact that she had given her virginity to his brother. Of course, Mitch decides she just like his mom, a gold digger who runs off and abandons her family to an abusive father. Needless to say, things don't end well between them.
Flash forward three months. Alexis finds out she's pregnant, and has no idea what to do, despite the fact that Mitch used a condom (except for a few minutes in the middle of the night). Lance broke off his marriage for business engagement to Alexis and elopes with his secretary. Alexis' father is furious. Mitch goes and asks for one more chance to earn his support, since he's a powerful senator who can help the brothers gain oil rights all over Texas. The senator says he'll still support the brothers if Mitch marries his daughter. But she has to agree this time. Alexis gets a call from Mitch, who's asking for her to marry him strictly as a marriage of convenience. Although Alexis still isn't over what Mitch did, she agrees for the sake of her baby, sure that her father would throw her out and take the baby away if she was unmarried when she had it.
The rest of the book shows this couple coming to realize that they didn't really see other for who they are. Like the first book, I felt that I got a much more clear perception of Alexis than I did Mitch (heroine than the hero). However, I still came to like him, despite the fact that he was somewhat callous towards Alexis initially, trying to treat her like the gold digger he thought was, and determined she would show her true colors. Yet, Alexis was so endearing, in her attempts to cook for the first time, do housewifery things, seducing her husband, and lounging topless by the pool. She's fairly inept at most of the things she tries, but her heart is so good and earnest, Mitch finds he can't hold back from his wife, even knowing she's bound to betray him. Things get even more complicated when Mitch finds out she's pregnant and believes it's his brother's child. I did admire that he was more than willing to raise his brother's child, and make a commitment to it, even though he really didn't have to. But I was probably just slightly less offended than Alexis when he assumed she went from his bed to his brother's. Really, who does that?
I'm a huge fan of the marriage of convenience storyline. Throw in a pregnancy, and it's even more enjoyable. I think Ms. Celmer really did a good job with these themes. On the downside, I feel like there is not enough room in these short books to develop the ancillary characters, and at times, I feel that a deeper portrayal of the main characters would be desirable. I wanted to see more of Mitch's angst about his abusive father and the scars his mother leaving gave him. That's probably my main issue, and why this isn't a five star read. The sensual moments were well-written, the attraction between Alexis and Mitch vividly coming off the page. I enjoyed reading about them getting to know each other, and how they both ended up getting more involved with each other than their wary hearts intended. Despite the brevity, this book was very well executed, and I rooted Alexis to get what she wanted, Mitch's heart. Thankfully, the big dumb lug got a clue.
If you want a quick, appetizing romance read, I recommend picking up The Oilman's Baby Bargain. It was a nice way to spend a few hours being a bum on one of this reader's rare days off.
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