Title: The Manning Brides (Marriage of Inconvenience & Stand-In Wife)
Author: Debbie Macomber
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pub Date: Originally 1992, this edition 2008, MIRA
Mass market, 475 pages
Rich Manning and Jamie Warren have always been friends--and nothing but friends. However, that changes when she asks him to father the child she so desperately wants. Rich agrees--if she'll marry him. Because he thinks their Marriage of Inconvenience could become a real marriage instead.
Paul Manning, a grieving widower with three small children, turns to Leah Baker for help and comfort. When that comfort begins to grow into something else, Paul discovers that he wants more than a Stand-In Wife.
I had never read a Debbie Macomber novel before this set of books, which I happened across our local independent bookstore several weeks ago. I decided I wanted to start a light read last night and, well, that's pretty much exactly what I got and so I'm writing just one review for both stories. I've read a few romance novels, and I actually have to say I appreciate the fact that Macomber does not go into graphic detail when it comes to sex, though there are certainly enough innuendos.
In the end, I have wonder if I'm just not a good candidate for romance novels--at least not those that are like these two books. The story lines just felt so unrealistic and ridiculous--especially the way the couples were acting. I found myself rolling my eyes often, and I'm not sure that I have ever been more frustrated with characters than I was when it came to Rich & Jamie and Paul & Leah. How they could not have a clue as to what the other person was feeling, not know what they themselves were feeling and ultimately say some absolutely stupid things to each other was beyond me. Maybe I just can't relate, but I just can't envision real people acting like these silly couples. The timing of the development of the relationships also felt odd--things happened much too quickly and, to me, the various family members did not react to certain events the way I think most people would. Actually, I felt that both stories--but especially Stand-In Wife--focused so much on the couples and hardly at all on other characters (friends & family) that the stories just felt even less real.
I realize that romance novels are very much an escapist read, but I need more substance to really appreciate a story like either of these and to truly "escape." Macomber's writing is easy to read and follow, and I could at least enjoy the fact that the books both ended "happily ever after." But I think that lately I've been reading so many books that are deeper, more emotionally gripping, and better written, and I was simply unable to appreciate this title in the manner it had been intended.
If you have read and reviewed this book, please leave a comment with the link!