All through December I'm talking about some of the best books that I've read this year, and today's offering is...
The Virgin's Shock Baby by Heidi Rice
The Italian’s one-night heir...
Vulnerable Megan Whittaker has orders to find out if tycoon Dario De Rossi plans to acquire her father’s business. Reluctantly agreeing, she doesn’t expect to be so distracted by their searing chemistry that she ends up in his bed!
Dario does have takeover ambitions, but when Megan is violently punished for her night with the enemy, he feels honour-bound to protect her. They escape to Italy, but this commanding businessman soon discovers a deeper problem. Not only is Megan suffering from amnesia, meaning she believes they’re engaged and passionately in love…but she’s also carrying his baby!
In some ways I feel like I should begin with a disclaimer: I'm a Heidi Rice addict.
Her RIVA books were what reintroduced me to Mills & Boon at university after a real of nearly ten years, and I've veritably inhaled each book of hers ever since. That, coupled with the fact that this particular release is from Mills & Boon Modern / Harlequin Presents imprint (the line that I'm focusing m PhD research on), meant that I was fairly certain that I'd enjoy it.
And of course I did.
Rice is incredibly goof at creating sympathetic alpha heroes - the kind of men who you wouldn't mind being swept off your feet by, and whom will actively seek consent during various stages of sex.
But what I was particularly struck y, is the way in which she interweaves PTSD and domestic violence with the narrative. I'm all for an amnesia storyline - if done well - and so to read how this comes about through PTSD for Megan demonstrated a sensitive approach to a delicate and important subject. I have long been an advocate for category romance to be acknowledged as a way of engaging with social issues, and The Virgin's Shock Baby does this brilliantly.
I'd also like to take a moment to reflect on the title. Often readers (and authors) have a love-hate relationship with the Mills & Boon Modern / Harlequin Presents titles. In some ways they can be seen as embodying all of the stereotypes that those outside Romancelandia throw at us. However, they're an incredibly valuable marketing tool. When faced with eight titles to choose from each month, it makes it easy for readers to identify the tropes they most wish to read (secret baby; marriage of convenience etc). And Dr Amy Burge gave a paper at a conference in Sheffield in 2016 that reflected on some fascinating analytical research that she was doing based around these titles.
Although the crux of the matter is, that I kind of love these titles.
Heidi Rice’s first love was watching movies so, not surprisingly, her first proper job was as a film journalist. But after spending years sneaking off to read romantic fiction when she was being paid to watch some crappy B-movie or other, she decided to try writing a novel of her own.
She loves her job, because it involves sitting down at her computer each day and getting swept up in a world of high emotions, sensual excitement, funny flawed women, sexy tortured men and glamourous locations where laundry doesn’t exist.
Heidi lives in London with her husband and two sons, and lots of other gorgeous men who are entirely in her imagination (unlike the laundry, unfortunately).
For more information about Heidi's writing, check out her website and blog, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.