This book started off strong, it really did. I was pretty excited about it: a heroine with actual interests in things that are not babies and husbands, a marriage that grows into a romance instead of the other way around, even a hero that wasn’t the usual beefcake. Sadly for My Darling Caroline – and especially sad for me, as the one reading it – all those good intentions promptly turned to poop.
OK, so, in the first 15 pages we meet our heroine, Caroline, who’s hard at work breeding a new kind of purple rose (“it’s not purple, it’s lavender fading to purple!” she insists, more than once) and her sister, who seems like a friendly sister but also appears MUCH too pleased to tell Caroline that her father is entertaining a semi-attractive duke or something who he plans to marry her (Caroline) off to. She overhears their conversation to exactly that effect: something about getting back your property, blah blah blah, if you don’t want me to sell it off you have to marry my daughter. Supposedly Dad is a nice guy, but he seems like a real asshole. Anyway, Caroline is almost 26 (!!!!) and smart (!!!!) and she has interests beyond getting married and pumping out babies (!!!!). SAY WHAAAAAA? She’s been accepted to Columbia University to study botany and plans to run off to America, but figures she might as well get married to this guy first and then it will be easy to convince him to get an annulment or let her go. For such a Smart Lady the logic is a little fuzzy, but whatever, I’ll go with it. So finally her dad is like, come and meet your future hubs and OMG Caroline you’re all dirty have you been playing in the dirt?! And she’s like, yeah Dad…botany, remember? So she meets him and he’s kind of a douche and makes a big show of looking her up and down and says he’d prefer a virgin but he’ll take her “ruined” if he has to and she’s like, you’re a jerk, and later they have a tentative moment where they sort of don’t hate each other but then he goes douchey again, so. Caroline is the short, brown-haired middle daughter out of FIVE, the other four being gorgeous and blonde and married off or engaged already (I wonder if they’re the subjects of other novels by this author and I’ve unknowingly jumped into the middle of a series?). And the hero, who’s name I haven’t bothered to learn yet, is described as SKINNY. YES, SKINNY. Where are the rippling man muscles? Where are his arms like tree trunks and his shoulders as wide as a doorframe? Who is this romance hero imposter? I LOVE HIM. Not as much as I love her of course, but they’re shaping up to be a fun pair. Also, how neat is it to have a romance plot that happens AFTER the wedding?! There’s still plenty of time for her to realize the error of having such a sillypants smart brain (doesn’t she know dudes hate that?!) and I imagine she’ll probably come around to wanting some little goobery demon children, but for now…she rocks.
So they marry and start living in his broke down castle (he’s been away at war and his cousin sold all his stuff EVEN HIS HORSES WHAT AN ASSHOLE to pay his own debts and also he hates women except to have to sex with them because they’re all so vain and selfish and manipulative…ho boy, he’s got ladies down to a T, am I right?!) and they have a big fight because he wants to DO IT and she’s like, I’m on the rag, and he’s like, I can work around that, and she’s like, I SAID NO. So a routine is established where she’s working in the garden a lot and he’s obsessed with getting his horsies back, but also with having a son ASAP. She asks him about building a greenhouse for her plants and he’s like, I’ll trade you one for a baby LET’S PLANT SEEDS, which made me almost throw up because it’s so gross. They fight a lot and he dictates how she’s allowed to wear her hair (long! Flowy! Completely unsuited for working in a garden, which doesn’t matter because I don’t care that you like plants and once you start popping out baby boys you won’t have time to remember that you used to be a real person with interests in things!) and the servants are all like, oh look how in love they are how adorable wink wink nudge nudge, and she won’t have sex with him even though he’s all amped to start the baby-making. She’s really not into that and tells him flat-out, I don’t want gross slimy babies. And he’s like OH REALLY? WE’LL SEE! And then he gropes her a lot, which of course she just loves (of course she does), but he doesn’t force her to have sex with him because he’s NOT THAT KIND OF GUY. He’s every other kind of asshole guy, but not THAT one, because it’s TOTALLY not a bad thing to coerce your wife into having sex that she doesn’t want to have as long as you don’t hold her down for it RIGHT? And then he also acknowledges that she’s kinda smart by letting her do the accounting for the castle and, whoops, he can’t do math so they actually have more money than they thought, awesome. He leaves town to go get his ponies back and leaves her to play in the dirt and do math and prepare for his Super Awesome Irresistible Baby-Makin’ Seduction. CAN’T WAIT.
So next we get some BIG NEWS about the hero (his name is Brent, btw). He has a cool war nickname (THE RAVEN) and an enemy who might be dead but might be coming to kill him, gee I wonder. He thinks a bit about whether to tell the wifey about this killer guy but decides he better not. Totally sensible – you know how those lady brains are! Also he has a DAUGHTER (her mom’s a prostitute, naturally) and she runs wild around the estate and also takes things from Caroline, including her botany notes, which she promptly destroys. Caroline FREAKS OUT and demands that something be done about the kid and then he reveals that it’s his. Oh jeez. Then Caroline does a 180 and figures the kid isn’t stupid or insane like everyone thinks, she’s probably just DEAF and needs a MOTHER…or a teacher. A mother who teaches! And of course they become fast friends and Caroline teaches the girl how to bathe and not be a nasty gremlin. Meanwhile, Hubs is still all hot for her but has now decided that they won’t have sex till she comes to HIM begging for it so he fondles her every chance he gets, hoping that will push her over the edge and make her want to get sexy and make a baby. No luck yet. There’s also a nice little scene where they talk about love and he’s like, I don’t believe in love only lust and manipulation and no one’s ever loved me because love takes time and no one will spend time with me, and I’m like, maybe because you’re such an asshole? But then the maid explains to Caroline that he acts like a big asshole because he’s so shy and lonely. Oh, right. Totally. Poor guy. She should really just hurry up and let him impregnate her already, what a buzzkill.
Oh, I forgot to mention that in the last chunk I read, THE RAVEN revealed that he watches her sleep because she’s sooooo sexy. She’s rightfully creeped out by this and can’t sleep the next night because she’s waiting for him to pull another Eddie Cullen on her. Then she hears the sounds of a nightmare and goes to comfort Brent, who begs her not to go (for someone who doesn’t want kiddos she sure is happy to play Mommy to everyone). The next morning they don’t get to baby-making STILL but male nipples are involved. Also his velvet-wrapped marble staff. You know. Then they have a family picnic and the little girl communicates a thought and Caroline is absolutely OVERCOME with mommy joy and Brent communicates his own thoughts. With tongue. Her sisters show up for a visit at that moment and she makes him stop but of course she’s falling in love with him and the kid and wondering how she’ll ever find the strength to run away to America and study botany now. Better put aside those ambitions and interests of yours and settle down to pumping out kids with His Highness as God intended! Also…THE RAVEN’s evil nemesis is staying at his neighbor’s house ONLY MILES AWAY DUN DUN DUN OH NO!!!!
Next…it’s Caroline’s birthday! She’s 26, which I think makes her the only romance heroine I’ve come across that’s been older than me. Weird. Anyway, she finds a greenhouse! But she’s mad because Hubs didn’t tell her, so she decides not to tell him and just to sneak away every day to plant things in it. That will teach him!!! Then this woman shows up. She figures it’s one of his old mistresses, but it turns out it’s his sister, Charlotte (which is also the name of one of HER sisters, which is needlessly confusing JUST PICK ANOTHER NAME JEEZ). Hubs won’t speak to his sister because she married an American instead of the British earl he picked out for her (she probably stars in her own novel). So Caroline is like, I’ll throw a dinner party! He can’t ignore her at a dinner party! And then at the party he’s like, Caroline is super smart and she takes care of the books, and one of Caroline’s brothers-in-law is like, STUPID! GIRLS CAN’T DO MATH, and Hubs is like, OH REALLY? And he makes Caroline do some math and the men are like, MY MIND IS CHANGED! Then Charlotte decides to tell Hubs about Caroline sneaking off every day because she’s sooooooo sure that they’ll talk it out and mend their broken marriage. He accuses her of cheating, naturally, but does it by completely losing his shit, as in, FINE GO HAVE AN AFFAIR YOU STUPID SLUT OBVIOUSLY I EXPECTED THIS SINCE YOU’RE SO TERRIBLE TO ME AND SO SELFISH THAT YOU DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT ALL THE FEELINGS I HAVE THAT I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT BUT HAVE DECIDED NOT TO AND ALSO DESPITE ALL THE TIMES I TRIED TO MANIPULATE YOU INTO LETTING ME PUT MY PENIS IN YOUR VAG YOU STILL WON’T LET ME BECAUSE YOU’RE THE MOST SELFISH AND TERRIBLE PERSON EVER AND I HATE YOU! And Caroline is like, it’s just a greenhouse but you’re so right, I AM terrible and selfish, gosh. And I’m absolutely sputtering with indignation just reading this garbage. I mean, really? SERIOUSLY? All of this guy’s many, MANY glaring faults are explained away by his mommy issues and all the ladies just shrug and say, oh yeah mommy issues, what can you do? Well I have a few suggestions but I don’t think Caroline is open to them. Anyway, she decides not to behave like a human person deserving of respect anymore, so she’s like, OK time to put your penis in my vag, which he does of course and she’s a virgin OF COURSE and he’s like, oh jeez I’m sorry for all those times I called you a huge dirty whore but don’t worry you’ll like this better. And meanwhile, she’s supposed to go to America for her botany studies in like two weeks but she’s having a total crisis about it and now that she’s realizing that wanting to be educated is a stupid, selfish thing and having dreams is for ugly women without men to love them, she’ll better understand that growing flowers in his greenhouse and sons in her uterus is way better in the long run. He lets her do math! Come on! We have true love here!
Caroline wastes no time in explaining to the reader that even though she’s bummed about not getting to go to America and study, she’s SO FULFILLED by her life with Hubs and her plants that it doesn’t matter anymore. She does get a letter from Columbia and they’re all, when are you coming?! but she just files it away, not intending to go anymore. Then she and Hubs have lots of sex in the greenhouse and he’s like, tell me you love me, and she’s like, no you first! but he can’t do it because of his mommy issues so instead he figures it’s a good idea to be all, I WILL NOT SAY IT AND IT’S NOT BECAUSE OF MY MALE PRIDE IT’S BECAUSE I DON’T LOVE YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE HORRIBLE UGH GROSS. Eventually his sister intervenes (he reveals here that he stopped talking to her because he felt abandoned by her and she’s like, thanks for that, I had a baby and it died and I’m glad you were around to support me instead of nursing your own hurt OH WAIT) and he decides to talk to her again and she’s like, look, OBVIOUSLY she doesn’t love plants and flowers more than you HOW COULD SHE?! so stop being a jerk and just say you love her, problem solved, the end.
But before he can the evil guy shows up and tries to take her hostage and threats are exchanged but THE RAVEN eventually kills him, wow what a great subplot. Anyway, after he kills the guy (in the greenhouse, of course) he sends Caroline up to the house to recover and waits for the authorities, but can’t resist snooping in her stuff and of course finds the letter and is all mad. So the next day he confronts her with this big contract where she can go to America and he’ll provide her with an allowance but if she’s preggers she has to give the baby back because he made it and it’s his only his. I think this sounds AWESOME but she’s less thrilled and also pretty hurt because he calls her a lot of terrible names and is just generally a huge asshole, like anyone is surprised by that. So he bullies her into signing it and then she goes to her sister’s house to hide out and he crawls into a bottle because he’s JUST SO HURT and women are bitches, man, totally. So the sister comes to see him and she’s like, here’s what you don’t know about Caroline: SHE’S A SUPER GENIUS and never had any friends, so the fact that she likes you is a BIG DEAL, stop being an asshole. And he’s like, aw jeez.
Then he lures Caroline back to his estate and she goes to get something out of the greenhouse and guess who’s there? Not THE RAVEN, but the famous botanist who she idolizes and who she wanted to study with but he rejected her because of her dumb lady brain AND OH BY THE WAY he’s her husband’s uncle, haha! And also he never got her letter, haha! It was his secretary that wrote her that horrible reply, haha! But he really likes her work, haha! And it would be great to collaborate, haha! But he won’t pay her or let her study in a school because she’ll have the babies to take care of and anyway she’s still just a woman so she should be happy with what she can get. Also, she’s pregnant for sure, so, great.
Hubs is waiting for her in the house and she’s like I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU NEVER TOLD ME THIS and he’s like, I love you! There! I said it! Now I deserve a cookie and some sex! And she’s like, oh okay. And I’m pregnant. And they’re both like, let’s never fight again. There’s also an epilogue which made me REALLY uncomfortable because it’s basically just Hubs and Caroline’s dad talking about Caroline, and how her dad and her little sister planned this WHOLE thing because they just knew that those two would get along so well and be so happy (HELLO HE SPENT MOST OF THEIR MARRIAGE TREATING YOUR DAUGHTER LIKE SHIT, WAY TO BE A GOOD DAD) and isn’t it nice that they had twin baby girls and speaking as a dude who has five daughters and zero sons, he’s so so happy that he never had a boy because it turns out girls aren’t totally horrible.
And they all lived happily ever after, until THE RAVEN got mad at Caroline for the 10,000,000th time and she finally realized that she should probably find a new man to love, one who didn’t treat her and their daughters so terribly. Right??
JEEEEEEEEEEZ. If any of my girlfriends told me a story even half as terrifying as this supposed “true love romance” I’d demand that she break off all contact with the abusive loser and get a restraining order and a BIG MEAN DOG post haste. As soon as I finished this idiotic book I was overcome with the desire to throw my arms around Joe and thank him for being a really good, loving, nurturing, respectful boyfriend and not an overblown douchewad like THE RAVEN.