As a distinguished bookworm, I spend most of my free time buried between pages. So when I found myself stranded at the airport with not a lot of options to pick from, I decided to indulge in a Mills & Boon novel. It seemed like a harmless choice at the moment. What’s the worst that could happen? If anything, it would give the hopeless romantic in me a sliver of hope.
But what I didn’t expect was that the feminist side of me might have more to say about the book than its romantic counterpart. Here is what the jacket of the book read…
“Reclusive billionaire Des is desperate for a child of his own. His solution - marry medical student McKenna Moore in name only, but when complications with the baby’s health force them to live as a man and wife, the temptation to make the marriage real is hard to ignore…”
I know! I know! I should have seen the signs. I mean, it’s called The Marriage Contract (by Kat Cantrell) for God’s sake! But it’s a good thing I didn’t drop the book at that point, because that brings me here. Now I can throw a little light on how a romantic novel, that is supposed to give me butterflies and rainbow dreams, actually ended up being a feminist nightmare!
“You should find a man, have lots of babies, they’d said. There’s no greater joy than children.
Except she didn’t want kids. She wanted to be a doctor, to help people in pain and in need. Desmond had yearned for a baby; she could give him one and experience pregnancy without caving in to her parent’s pressure.”
The book begins with McKenna who decides to be a surrogate mother for billionaire Des’s child, in return he promises to pay her tuition fees so she can become a doctor. The catch? They get married on paper because that’s easier than surrogacy paperwork, it seems. He promises her a divorce after the child is delivered. I’m surprised by the beginning with a strong female lead. That’s what happens when women write. You go, girl!
“What she wasn’t prepared for was the request to use them (her breasts) to feed her son. Desmond’s brows came together, ‘You’re concerned about your figure?’”
OH NO HE DID NOT! She wants to be a doctor, plus Des already has the divorce drawn out and she’s concerned about her feelings. Did the same writer pen down these characters?
“He’d never brought a woman home to live. Lacey had forever snuffed out his ability to trust a woman as easily as she’d snuffed out the life of their ‘accident’ as she’d termed it. The baby had been unplanned definitely, since their relationship hadn’t been all that serious, but he’d had no idea how much he wanted the baby until it was too late.”
So basically this billionaire is bitter because his ex-girlfriend/fling aborted their unplanned baby? Yeah, must be a horrible woman for not wanting a child she wasn’t equipped to take care of. What a witch!
“This woman was feeding his son in the most sacrificial ways. But neither could he deny the purely physical reaction he had to her naked breast.”
First, EW. Second, we’re trying to normalise breastfeeding in public. IT IS NOT SEXUAL! I expected better from a female author.
“He jerked his head toward the back of the workshop without taking his eyes off her. ‘I build things. Shape them, put the pieces where they go based on the images I have in my head. I communicate through my hand.’”
Okay, that’s kinda sexy. So the billionaire is a genius who makes robots and humanoids…changes a few things.
“‘Oh, it’s a good idea.’ His piercing gaze tore her open inside as he promised her exactly how good it would be without saying a word. ‘But we both have to think so.’
With that, he stepped back, releasing her.”
Scratch that, changes nothing for me. Incase you’re wondering - they’re talking about sex. He wants it, she thinks getting involved is a bad idea. Hints of mansplaining floating around in the air as he tells her that she will want to eventually sleep with him. But she can believe she has the illusion of consent. I don’t know what to think of this guy!
“He shifted, but there was no comfortable spot when sporting an erection that never should have happened. He hated that he couldn’t control it.”
Can she just breastfeed without this guy’s pervy brain around? Just when Cantrell had me liking Des a bit, she goes ahead explaining about how he gets turned on everytime she is breastfeeding.
“‘Well, of course, but he needs a female influence. Someone who can be nurturing and kiss his boo-boos when he falls down.’”
So she wants to be a doctor but doesn’t think a man is capable of being nurturing?! Now I’m confused. Are any of them not stereotypical? Oh and they’re sleeping together (just keeping you in the loop).
“‘Stop, it’s too much,’ She gasped and then cursed as he ignored her, wholly unsatisfied with how little he’d done for her. ‘Please, Desmond,’ she nearly sobbed.”
NOOOO. Not only is this a really badly written sex scene, but she’s saying no and he’s constantly ignoring her to the point that she’s actually in tears.
“Imagine if she hadn’t insisted on condoms. This dazzling experience could include so much more than just an orgasm. He could impregnate her. Today. If she conceived, he would watch her grow with his child. He missed that the first time and it was an injustice he ached to rectify.”
She JUST gave birth and is still breastfeeding, do we need to butt in with the child making scheme?! Also, STDs! Unprotected sex isn’t a joke.
“‘Hell, no, you won’t be dressed,’ he shot back. ‘The point is that I want you in bed naked. I want you to be here when I go to sleep, when I wake up. When it’s time to nurse the baby and all the times in between.’”
Now they’re having loads of sex and she wants to leave to go study to become a doctor and this is his response to having a conversation about it. Babe, you don’t want a wife, you want a sex slave.
“‘I love you,’ he murmured, ‘Too much to let you make such an irrevocable choice. There is absolutely no reason you can’t keep going to school. I’ll move to the house near campus. Tomorrow. Conner (the infant) and I will take care of you while you become a doctor.’”
Don’t get too happy by the end. Here is what happens - she runs away from her university because she loves him and her son and wants to be with them, giving up on her dream. But he becomes the ‘bigger’ person by volunteering to move in closer. I’m genuinely confused now. Does the billionaire actually have a large heart? Or was this all a ploy to make him look like the hero in the end? I’d say the latter but either way, the book did not disappoint in disappointing me.
I made a list of books that’ll help you recover from the ordeal of this one.
A Walk To Remember
A beautiful take on love that inspired billions.
Sounds familiar? This book made an appearance in Mujhse Dosti Karoge!
A must read for women who are struggling with growing up.
Instagram sensation lang Leav's debut novel leaves quite the impression.
Men Without Women
Nobody writes melancholy better than Murakami.