Say You Love Me (Malory Family Series) - Johanna Lindsey I hate it when I miss the memo that the book I'm about to read is apart of a series. And no, not just any series, but a series based on a cutesy family with a bazillion members that I know absolutely nothing about. Say You Love Me could have been half its length if the author cut out shoving all of her past happily-ever-afters in the reader's face. Uncle So-and-So married this lady, and Cousin So-and-So married this titled gentlemen, and these brothers-in-law like to pick on each other because they used to be enemies in a book you didn't read. Isn't this adorable? No, it's not adorable. Just really boring for me. This reminds me of how diseased Julia Quinn's Bridgertons became with Super-Cute-Family-itis, only I started this one right in the middle of the shenanigans instead of slowly watching the story devolve into absurdity as I did with the Bridgertons.

You're probably reading my complaint and thinking, "Rachel, just read them in order." Well, it's too freaking late, for starters. But also, shouldn't any stand-alone book in a series be capable of getting at least 90-95% of the story line from new material? That was my problem with the constant invasion of the Malory clan, the hero's family, in this book. Peripheral characters that already had their own books crowd and muddle the works, distracting me from the people the story is actually about. At so many points, these previously established, sickeningly happy characters robbed the agency from the protagonists. Who needs a hero to save the day when his big bad uncles, who are totally tough and used to be rakes, can do it for him? Why make a heroine face her self-esteem issues when the hero's clever cousin can snap her fingers and make all the scandal go away?

In short, the Malory family is one big, annoying deus ex machina. It really held the story back for me.

Say You Love Me is supposed to be about Lord Derek Malory, a future marquis who's supposed to be quite a ladies' man but never really displays that trait. He comes across Kelsey Langton, a real lady dressed up as a prospective mistress, at some high-priced (probably illegal) auction where wealthy men can buy a virgin mistress in a contract that brings to mind slavery. When a man that Derek knows is cruel and violent starts bidding on Kelsey, Derek does the honorable thing and ... buys her for himself! But of course! That's the only way they can have teh smexy times. Obviously Derek and Kelsey are meant to be, and it's one long journey of them being perfectly pleasant with each other (no joke) while the Malory family makes wise-cracks and summarizes their own history until the ultimate happy ending.

Lindsey's writing isn't bad. I loved the interactions between Derek and Kelsey because they do make a cute couple. The plot just ended up getting all wrapped up in Derek's freaking family, and I didn't care about those people. At times, Kelsey disappears for generous portions of the book so the reader can visit with past characters. It zapped all of the suspense and fun out of the story.

Since Lindsey's writing managed to keep me interested, I'll try another of her books, but you can be sure that I'll check and double-check that the book isn't apart of a series. Fiddlesticks, this one almost put me into sugar shock.