Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Review: Most Eligible Bachelor by Empi Baryeh

2.5 stars

There were aspects of Most Eligible Bachelor I really liked, and others I had serious problems with. I started off thinking it was definitely a 4 star read, then I revised to 3, and now it's ended up with a 2.5. In a nutshell, the hero exhibited some really worrying, dickhead behaviour and I can't move on from that. 

Set in Ghana, Most Eligible Bachelor is the story of Chantelle Sah, a journalist with a well-respected national magazine, and her interviewee, Lord McKenzie, a construction juggernaut with a playboy reputation. Unbeknownst to Chantelle, Lord has been following her work and specially requested that she be the one to interview him, on Valentine's Day, no less. Valentine's Day has been pretty shitty for Chantelle since her fiance died - with another woman - three years before, but that doesn't mean she's going to fall for Lord's smooth lines. 

For the most part, I enjoyed this take on the arrogant businessman meets resistant woman set-up, and Chantelle's backstory provided some good depth to this, as did Lord's desire for a loving relationship like his parents'. At first, I worried that the stiry relied too heavily on the use of conventional tropes, but the Ghanaian setting and relative strength of Chantelle as a character provided a good balance.

However, as I mentioned earlier, I had some serious issues with the Lord's behaviour, in particular his decision not to tell the Chantelle the condom broke when they first had sex. I read romance for escapism, and men robbing women of their agency is one of the most real life scenarios there is. It's depressing, it's frustrating and it's very hard to keep backing a relationship where it occurs. Even though the reason a man treats a woman this way is, by and large, irrelevant, Lord's rationale somehow does make it worse. He calls Chantelle to tell her, but she doesn't pick up, so he convinces himself that it'll be fine, she's probably on the pill anyway. Then the issue is dropped for ages, and I thought - because he's clearly psychic about her contraceptive choices - that he must not intend to tell her. But, oh no, he still does, he's just 'waiting for the right time'. Even though, by this point, they've been alone together about a dozen times. MATE, there is no right time to tell someone the condom broke, you do it ASAP so they have options and can be checked out. In the end, he doesn't tell her until she is already about to take a pregnancy test, which is so not ok. Chantelle is obviously angry, pointing out that if he'd told her earlier, she could have had the morning after pill. But then she forgives him, because, you know, love. That's where I started to detach from the story, because I was unable to trust his assurances that he wouldn't ever act in a similar manner (there are other incidents where he railroads Chantelle or doesn't respect when she says no), and so my desire for and belief in the HEA was reduced somewhat. 

It's a shame, because at other times, Lord could seem really sweet and be the kind of hero I wanted him to be. In one instance, Chantelle tries to initiate something, and doesn't proceed, concerned that she is emotional and still has regrets over the last time they slept together. I could get behind that Lord, but, unfortunately, he is ultimately eclipsed by his horrible twin.

So, overall, Most Eligible Bachelor was a mixed bag. It started strong, had good writing (although I wasn't a massive fan of the euphemisms in the sex scenes) and a well-executed plot (with the obvious exception of the whole I'm-not-going-to-tell-you-about-the-condom-breaking conflict). I just wish the hero had lived up to his potential, and allowed the heroine the freedom of choice she deserved. 

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