ARC Review – ‘A Bride At His Bidding’ by Michelle Smart

Title:  A Bride At His Bidding
Author: Michelle Smart
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: 16th January, 2018
Page Count: 192 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Book Depository)

Hired by her enemy. Yet tempted to say “I do..”. Billionaire Andreas Samaras is nobody’s fool. And his beautiful new employee, Carrie Rivers–an undercover journalist–is playing a dangerous game. He’ll keep her at his command until he can expose her deception… But when her ruse is revealed, there’s only one way to protect his spotless business reputation: blackmail innocent Carrie to the altar!

This is a thoroughly delightful romance story and I enjoyed every moment of it. The author subverted so many tropes and specifically addressed a lot of the issues I’ve had in the past with romance novels, it’s almost uncanny how this seems to be written specifically to please me!

Our hero and heroine are a perfectly matched couple – both are strong-willed and driven to succeed, devoted to family and have in common that they were forced to grow up too soon and take responsibility for their loved ones. Unfortunately they start off at odds as Andreas was blamed for ruining Carrie’s sister’s life, and given how dedicated they are to protecting their respective families, this leads directly to conflict!

The synopsis reveals that Andreas sees through Carrie’s undercover ruse, but I didn’t realize that he would pinpoint her as a spy right from the very start. This cast a refreshing new angle on the ‘assuming a false identity to spy on the love interest’ trope and allowed him to have a great deal of fun at Carrie’s expense! It also meant we were spared the usual lashing out due to feelings of betrayal as he wasn’t ever taken in by her guise; I always dread this confrontation, so it was a big relief to have that out of the way. That’s one of the choices by this author that I really appreciated – instead of picking the safe well-trodden path, she develops the narrative in unexpected directions and keeps me guessing. ^_^

I really adored their growing fondness for one another and how playful their interactions became once the truth was out in the open, quite a few of their exchanges had me chuckling:

“I should have guessed that what happened to my parents would make you angry. You are a one-woman crusader against injustice.”

“I’m surprised I didn’t already know about it.” She swallowed before giving a small, apologetic smile. “I did a lot of research on you.”

The main thing that pleasantly surprised me was how the main couple actually behaved like the mature and responsible adults they are! I frequently nope my way out of romances where the heroine acts like a spoiled brat or the hero like an alpha asshole, but Carrie and Andreas were so likable and compelling. Even when they confront each other about the truth of what happened in the past with Carrie’s sister, they still remain coolly rational while flinging vicious accusations back and forth, rather than turning on the histrionics or becoming violent.

My main litmus test for whether a romance has potential to be enjoyable or not is whether the hero is the type to ‘silence a woman with his lips’ and I’m so thankful that at no point did Andreas manhandle Carrie, even when he had the balance of power in their relationship. His respect for her throughout the story was one of the most attractive things about him, honestly. I skim through sex scenes most of the time, but the emotional resonance in the love-making here actually kept me reading once the relationship turned intimate because it wasn’t simply a generic ‘insert tab a into slot b‘ scene, but actually showed character growth and deepened my understanding of these characters.

“Don’t say it. Please, don’t say it.”

He gave a short, sharp shake of his head. Even if she hadn’t asked, he couldn’t look at her and smugly say, See, I knew you wanted me.

That had been the most erotic, mind-blowing and…touching moment of his life, and he would never diminish it.

My heart! ❤ Considering the circumstances under which their relationship began, I love how these two can show such compassion and vulnerability to each other, there are so many touching moments where each shows support to the other and it’s wonderful to watch as they fall in love!

I did have a few minor quibbles that kept this from being a 5-star rating, for instance, the impetus for marriage felt rather weak and towards the end, the last couple chapters did take a turn for the cheesy and overwrought tropes that were avoided for 95% of the story, but overall, this excelled at what it aimed to achieve and was thoroughly entertaining. I’d definitely recommend to romance lovers!

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties approve this book!

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Harlequin Presents via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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