An Unsuitable Husband, by Ros Clarke

>> Friday, May 16, 2014

TITLE: An Unsuitable Husband
AUTHOR: Ros Clarke

PAGES: 157
PUBLISHER: Entangled

SETTING: Contemporary England
TYPE: Romance

Theresa Chartley has no time for marriage, and no room for disappointment--especially with French soccer player Emile Renaud. Sure, he’s gorgeous, but he’s wrong for a career woman like Theresa. If only her mother would stop pressuring her to get married and let her live her own life. Finding a very unsuitable husband to shock her parents into silence and put an end to the marriage campaign is the only answer. Emile will do just fine.

Theresa’s outrageous proposal is the answer to Emile’s problem. They’re complete opposites living in different worlds, but a fake marriage will let him ditch his clingy ex once and for all. Then he’ll be free of commitment and free to live his life the way he wants to.

A contract. Twelve months. And they walk away scot-free. But a year of marriage tests them both in unimaginable ways. Maybe Emile isn’t unsuitable after all, but how can Theresa let herself love him when she signed a contract to let him go?

The marriage of convenience plot is one I particularly like in historicals and I'm always on the lookout for a good contemporary one, where the setup actually makes sense. The description of this one didn't sound particularly promising, but since it had football in it (the soccer kind, rather than American football), I decided to give it a shot.

Theresa Chartley is out clubbing and starts dancing with a really sexy guy. The dancing heats up, and they end up at his. Theresa is really not into sports or celebrities at all, so she only realises her one-night-stand partner is famous French footballer Emile Renaud the next morning, when he actually has to tell her who he is (and what he is when that happens, is very amused).

Turns out both are in a situation where they need to get married. Theresa's mother is driving her crazy trying to set her up with elegible (read: boring) men, and what better way to get her off Theresa's back permanently than actually getting married to someone her mum will be utterly shocked by? As for Emile, after getting involved in a fight with a teammate (one that was not his fault but was partly fueled by his reputation), he has just been informed by his club that his reputation is bringing the club into disrepute and they might not renew his contract at the end of the year. His manager suggests getting engaged would help. One marriage of convenience coming right up!

There were actually things I liked in the first half, which is how far I got. Theresa is competely unapologetic about her sex life, loves her career and has no intention to let her marriage to Emile affect it, and is no pushover. She tells Emile straight out that he doesn't ever get to dictate what she wears, and doesn't go all silly and weak at every opportunity. She's a bit (well, a lot) of a commitmentphobe, and I didn't get the feeling she was going to be portrayed as wrong, wrong, wrong and how dare a woman not want marriage.

The problem was that I did not believe for one second anything about the marriage of convenience setup. The justification was just utter rubbish. Let's start with Theresa. This is supposed to be a strong woman who knows what she wants. Everything else about the book, including her relationship with Emile tells us and shows us so. And yet she can't stand up to her ridiculous mother? She'll go to the extreme of actually getting married to stop the matchmaking (which, as a plan, doesn't even make sense)?

As for Emile's situation, my reaction was along the lines of: hahahahhahahahhahhahahah! I think this might have worked a bit better if he'd had another occupation, something where being a bit of a player and womaniser might actually have an impact on his employers' revenues (although these days, I'm not quite sure what that would be). Sorry, but that just does not happen in football. If you're as great a player as Emile's supposed to be, you have to do a lot worse for the supporters and the club to care in the slightest (and we're talking "doing an antisemitic gesture on the pitch" worse here, not, say, "being caught with prostitutes" worse). At the same time, there were things about his behaviour that would have enraged me as a supporter, but they're completely glossed over and portrayed as fine and unremarkable. Sorry, but if I ever see a Liverpool player out clubbing 'til the wee hours the night before a match, I'll personally march him straight home (and not in a sexy kind of way).

In general, I got the definite feeling that the author doesn't knows much about football, and that was a problem. Emile's supposed to play in the Premier League, in a big club (Woolwich sounds a bit like Arsenal, with their red kits and long rivalry with Spurs). And yet the scenes where he's actually playing and interacting with his teammates feel more like a pub team kicking a ball around in the park on a Sunday morning.

And then... I can tell you exactly where I stopped reading. It was the scene where Theresa takes Emile to meet her parents. Her mum asks how they met, and he says:

"She was dancing", Emile added, "and it was as though she was making love. I watched her and I wanted her." He leaned across to kiss her on the lips, then sat back. "So I took her home and made love to her as though we were still dancing."
And he then adds a couple of paragraphs later (still to her parents) that he wasn't in love with her then, but the next morning "[his] heart caught up with [his] cock".

I get it that the point of the marriage for Theresa is to shock her mother, but seriously. There's outrageous and provocative, and then there's crass, and that was crass.



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