Review of HOLLYWOOD HUSBAND, CONTRACT WIFE by Jane Porter (see her website)
Harlequin Presents #2574, October 2006
Alexandra (Alex) Shanahan had moved to Lost Angeles to make her way in Hollywood. But despite her talent, she's stuck as a low-level go-fer in a large studio. When she gets an unusual offer, she has to think about it. If she'll act as top movie star Wolf Kerrick's girlfriend for a month or so, he'll pay her more than she makes at the studio, give her wonderful clothes, access to fashion and makeup consultants, and guarantee her an assistant director slot in an upcoming major film. Persistent rumors that he's involved with a married woman threaten to destroy his career.
The offer would be too much to even consider rejecting--except Alex had a brief failed past with Wolf--a past she's certain he doesn't even remember since it's been years, she's lost weight, and, well, a man like Wolf doesn't dwell on the past. Finally, though, Alex agrees. She can do it, pretend to be his lover, fake an interest in a man she's had a crush on since she was a girl and saw him in an early film.
The act seems to be working--the tabloids instantly latch onto her as Wolf's latest flame, but the married woman, an acting super-star, keeps up the pressure. When, in a freakish coincidence, Alex is drugged and almost raped, Wolf decides he needs to marry her to protect both of their reputations. One thing Alex is certain of--if they're married, sex is definitely going to be part of the story. Still, there's the important matter of the other woman--Alex just isn't up to sharing.
Author Jane Porter (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of romance by Jane Porter) does a great job delivering on the fantasy--Hollywood stylists and mega-exclusive hairdressers transform plain-Jane Alex into a glamorous beauty, Wolf's unlimited funds and plans for an African film, mean they can travel, dine in top restaurants, and be treated like American royalty. I found it hard, though, to suspend disbelief enough to buy into the whole date of convenience/marriage of convenience thing. Double-standard or not, male actors are not condemned for their affairs with married female actors--the female takes the blame. Insisting on marrying her when the tabloids took her alergic reaction to a date-rape drug as evidence of attempted suicide strained my credulity a bit too far. Alex should have reported her assailant to the police, and the police report would have served as better proof of Wolf's innocence than any marriage.
I did like Wolf's attraction to Alex's innocence (again, delivering the Cinderella fantasy), with the plot twist/complication this brought. Ultimately, despite Porter's engaging writing, I just couldn't buy the whole plot device.
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