The Marriage Bargain - Jennifer Probst I actually enjoyed reading this book because it was such an easy read. But full disclaimer ahead: I did not appreciate the storyline AT ALL, and my review will devolve into my problems with creativity in the romance market and the hero that I didn't like at all. Read on if you're prepared for the snark.

I've read this wangst before. Emotionally Stunted Super Douche enters a marriage of convenience with teh evulz womanz, falls in insta-lust, gets emotionally involved, and then loses his damn mind. During his big, life-changing revelation, we get this: "He was a gutless coward who hurt people because he only cared about himself." Well, yeah! That's why the heroine shouldn't have married the bastard in the first place. Ladies, a brief moment of honesty here. No man will transform from a gutless coward who hurts people into freaking husband of the year at the turn of a dime. No woman will, either. People's personalities aren't built that way. And sure, I can deal with reading this story once, but it's like this is the only story contemporary and historical authors have to tell. It's 2012, right? At this rate, I'll be reading the same freaking story in a nursing home in 2082 (I plan to live for a long time), only with probably robotic penises and spaceship honeymoons.

In the spirit of fairness, I can't criticize The Marriage Bargain for being exactly what every other romance is. But wait! I paid for this book, so yes I can! In this day and age, I just thought that women had evolved beyond these "all women fall in love with assholes with daddy issues who emotionally berate them until they can think of no better thing than having their babies" tragedies. Or at the very least, I thought we had added some variety to our fantasies. But nope. This story makes no attempt at distinguishing itself in the market. This plot is like the tapioca pudding of the romance genre. On the bright side, it was a fast read!

Meet Nick GotLotsaMoney, an emotionally stunted asshat who's supposed to look like this:


But gives the impression of this:


He has to marry and stay married for a whole year (OMG!) to claim his full inheritance because his dead uncle said so. But BIG PROBLEM. Nick hates relationships, marriage, babies, emotional stability, and holidays. He pretty much hates women, too, because they're all lying liars with expectations and other evil stuff who like to trap men in marriages with BABIES. Naturally, Nick goes in search of the perfect Stepford Wife to fill his bank account. He writes this hilarious list of requirements for his soon-to-be bride captive:

(Just imagine all the internal wangsting that happened to create a monster of this magnitude.)
A woman who does not love me.
A woman I do not desire to sleep with.
A woman who does not have a big family.
A woman who does not have any animals.
A woman who does not want any children.
A woman who has an independent career.
A woman who will view the relationship as a business venture.
A woman who is not overly emotional or impulsive.
A woman I can trust.

I'm assuming that, "A woman who only breathes three times a day" and "A woman who never uses the bathroom" were cut on the editing room floor to save for word space. So clearly, Nick is emotionally damaged. His parents got a divorce, and his dad is an Asshat Scholar. Instead of growing beyond that, Nick has decided to die a little more inside every day and make every person who cares for him miserable. Because THAT'S a reasonable reaction. So who on earth can fix this pathetic lump of twagedy?

Meet Alexa PluckyButPoor! She's basically a Disney Princess, only SEXY.

Pictured: A million times too good for Nick.

Alexa owns a bookstore and can barely pay the bills. She's free-spirited and impulsive! She freaking LOVES animals so much that she adopts bundles of them from the humane society. Alexa's heart is so damn big that her chest probably doesn't have room for her lungs anymore. Her best friend is Nick's sister, and Alexa is desperate. Apparently, the only way she can pay off her parents' mortgage that they can't afford is to marry a douchey rich dude. Despite the fact that Nick broke her heart when she was 14, Alexa takes the plunge and marries the pathetic billionaire.

Blah, blah, blah. They fight! Blah, blah, blah. Steamy kiss! Blah, blah, blah. Nick rejects Alexa because of all the feelings he's feeling. Repeat.

Naturally, their marriage ruse gets all complicated because they're actually meant for each other. So the final quarter of the book is one long death march toward Nick's ultimate destruction of all things happy. Alexa ends up pregant due to a birth control malfunction. Instead of dealing with it like a reasonable adult, Nick goes on the advice of his horrible father who he HATES WITH A VISCERAL PASSION and decides that Alexa planned the pregnancy to trap him and all of his pwecious money. That's all women know how to do, in Nick's mind: trap men and get pregnant. We're very fearsome creatures, right?

Yes, I'm a grumpy goose. The book wasn't bad. It delivered exactly what it promised. Unfortunately, I am just about UP TO HERE with the story. Why are we glorifying men like Nick in 2012? Do authors not realize that men can be sexy alphas without acting like pretentious sexist douchebags? Sorry, Romancelandia. Some of these tropes are getting TIRED.