The Bellini Bride, by Michelle Reid

>> Friday, October 28, 2011

TITLE: The Bellini Bride
AUTHOR: Michelle Reid

PAGES: 192
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Presents

SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Category romance

Marco Bellini thinks he has it all: success, wealth...and Antonia -his beautiful, sensual mistress. Then his father becomes ill, and Marco feels bound to marry and produce an heir to the famous Bellini fortune.

But who should Marco choose as a bride? Antonia isn't suitable, but she's the only woman he wants in his life and his bed. Dare he take his mistress to be his lawful wedded wife?
I bought this one because of the review at Dear Author. It sounded interesting, an HP that played with the conventions of the line, and it sounded like it acknowledged the bits I've always found troublesome.

Antonia has been Marco Bellini's mistress for a few years, since he saw a nude portrait of her and went after her. She loves him, but at the same time, she's well aware that although he has feelings for her, he very much sees her as mistress material, not the person he will marry.

And you know what? That's exactly right, and Marco knows it. She's got a scandalous past (there's that famous nude portrait, and everyone knows about her relationship with its painter), so his family will never accept her, and most of all, Marco himself sees her as not quite on his level. It's a double standard, but there you go. Marco, whatever else he may be, is much more self-aware and honest about himself than most HP heroes.

And this is just the situation at the beginning of the book. Before long, everything blows up. With Antonia not willing to let the status quo go on, Marco must realise what exactly losing her would mean. Marco and Antonia end up revealing to each other much more about the real people under the glossy facade than had come to light in the years they'd been together.

The Bellini Bride was all I hoped it would be. It has the level of delicious angst of a true HP, and it superficially even has all the conventions, but Reid doesn't just regurgitate them, she builds something completely new with them. I liked it, I really did.

That said, I must admit to a small disappointment. I don't think it's a spoiler to reveal that Antonia's past is not quite the scandalous one everyone (including Marco) thinks they know. But, I wondered as I finished, what if it had? I think that would have made for an even better book.



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