Outstanding, romantic hero in a fun, amnesia plot
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: April 1, 2020
Pages: 224 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Presents; Original edition
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Milly Taylor first met her 24-year-old half-sister, Brooke Jackson, when Milly was 18 and just released from foster care. She’d always known she was illegitimate. Her mother had been a model who’d had a long-running affair with Milly’s father, a wealthy wine importer. He’d never paid any attention to Milly and had died from a heart attack when she was only nine. Her mother had died two years after her father, and Milly had been remanded to foster care for seven, long years. She had never imagined the possibility of being sought out by her father’s legitimate daughter, and was overjoyed to have a chance to bond with her sister. Lonely, alienated Milly was greatly moved by the fact that she and beautiful, vivacious Brooke were each other’s only living relatives, Brooke’s mother being deceased as well. Their close blood tie impressed Milly far more than the extreme contrasts between their social positions in life. Milly lived in abject poverty, and her prospects were poor, while Brooke was a jet-setting, trust-fund baby, who was constantly followed by the paparazzi.
In spite of the hard knocks that life had dealt her, Milly had retained a sweet, compassionate nature and was eager to be of service to her sister. And right from the start, spoiled, narcissistic Brooke made it perfectly plain that she had a shocking need for Milly to fill. She wanted Milly to be able to, at a moment’s notice, act as Brooke’s body double, taking over for her at boring, socialite events she was committed to but could not opt out of, and also to throw the paparazzi off the scent when she wanted to be left alone. Brooke considered this switch-up completely feasible, because they both resembled their mutual father to such a remarkable degree that they could have been twins, except for two things: Millie was an inch shorter and quite a bit curvier than skinny Brooke, and Milly had a large bump on her nose. The curves could be toned down by Milly going on a diet, Brooke proclaimed, but the nose problem required a much more drastic intervention. Brooke insisted that Milly get plastic surgery at Brooke’s expense in order to make her nose look just like Brooke’s. At first Milly refused her sister’s outrageous request, but Brooke threw a huge tantrum, then cut off all contact with Milly for six, nail-biting weeks. And when Brooke finally contacted her again and renewed her demand, out of a desperate desire to stay connected to her sister at any cost, Milly surrendered.
At the start of the story, this unhealthy, one-sided, stand-in arrangement has been going on for a full five years, but mild-mannered Milly is finally ready to take a stand and call it quits, ending her ongoing impersonations of her sister. It has finally gotten through her hopelessly naïve head that Brooke is cold to the bone, and nothing Milly can do will ever win the love of a sister who has no regard for anyone but herself. However, in spite of herself, Milly’s overabundance of empathy causes her to get sucked once more into Brooke’s latest sob story. Brooke informs Milly she is going through a terrible divorce from her husband, a rich, stuffy banker. She claims he has unjustly accused her of having an affair, which is his grounds for their divorce. She complains that she desperately wants to get away from all the stress the divorce has caused and enjoy a relaxing little holiday to lick her wounds—which she can only do if Milly helps her keep the nosy paparazzi away. She needs Milly, while acting the part of Brooke, to ostentatiously make her way to a ritzy hotel that Brooke will pay for, and hide out in a hotel room for a few weeks while the real Brooke, masquerading as Milly, borrows her sister’s passport and identity to go abroad incognito. Milly has grave reservations about handing over her passport but, as usual, Brooke’s domineering personality bulldozes over Milly’s much more compliant one. While speeding to the airport together in a limousine in order for Brooke to catch her flight, Brooke insists that Milly switch outfits with her, including handing Milly her wedding and engagement rings to put on, and she takes possession of Milly’s passport. Suddenly, there is a tremendous crash, and Milly’s last conscious thought is that they are in an accident, and Brooke has forgotten to put back on her seat belt after changing her clothes.
That same day, Lorenzo Tassini, a gorgeous, billionaire banker in his early 30s, is feeling enormous relief that his disastrous, two-year marriage to Brooke, his unfaithful, greedy, nightmare of a wife, is finally about to be over. Just that morning she has signed the legal documents for an uncontested divorce, there being no need to drag things out since Lorenzo had an ironclad pre-nup and has made her a massively generous settlement. Then, out of the blue, he is contacted by the police about a fatal accident. The driver, one of his own staff, is dead, as is a female passenger, and his wife is at the hospital, seriously injured. He’d already begun thinking of himself as no longer her husband but, technically, legally, he still is. Worse, he knows himself to be her only relative. If she is hurt, it is his responsibility, as a human being of basic decency, to make sure her medical needs are met.
At the hospital, a policeman informs Lorenzo that the name of the dead female passenger is Milly Taylor. Lorenzo has never heard of her before, and soon puts her out of his mind as he turns his attention to Brooke. The doctors inform him that Brooke has a serious head injury, needs surgery, and might not survive. She also has facial injuries, and knowing that her beauty means everything to Brooke, Lorenzo engages brilliant plastic surgeons to repair the damage. After brain surgery, his wife is left in a vegetative state, and the doctors inform him that even if she recovers, after such a serious injury, her personality may be changed in some ways, and she will have a very long, slow recovery process. Lorenzo is determined to, in the short term, put the divorce on hold until Brooke is fully well and able to safely live on her own.
That supposedly short-term situation drags out into 15 grueling months of Lorenzo’s estranged wife lying inert in a coma. When she, at long last, finally wakes up, she is suffering from amnesia, and her personality is completely different. No longer self-centered and abrasive, she is instead sweet-natured and soft-spoken. How can this possibly be? Lorenzo is shocked that, of all the unimaginable eventualities, he actually likes and even admires this new version of Brooke. But how long will these positive changes last? He must not allow himself to get attached to his wife, because she might very well revert to the old, nasty Brooke if, or when, she recovers her memory.
As far as I know, this is only the second amnesia plot that LG has ever written, and in the other one, The Banker’s Convenient Wife, it is the hero who has amnesia, and not the heroine. Amnesia is an evergreen trope in every genre of popular storytelling, not just the romance genre, and it can be a whole lot of fun if it is well done. Which it definitely is here, primarily because of the terrific romantic hero.
Lorenzo is an absolute gem of a male protagonist. He is compassionate, loyal, and honorable in the extreme and, of course, tremendously gorgeous and sexy. The mystery of the personality-transplanted wife is not, of course, a terribly difficult one to solve, and I don’t think it is meant to be, since just before the accident we are given a bullhorn of a hint in the form of Milly’s commenting on the seat-belt situation, as well as her wearing her sister’s rings. Speaking of the latter, I chuckled with pleasure at this little homage to the adorable romantic-comedy movie, Mrs. Winterbourne.
Overall, this was a really fast, fun read for me from one of my favorite romance authors. I have read very book that LG has ever written, and this novel is a departure for her in that, in spite of the death that begins the book, and the soapy amnesia plotline, it is not very melodramatic at all compared to many of her other books. I think this is so because Lorenzo is not her typical, brusque, alpha hero, and there is no evil Other Woman, or evil, conniving mother of the heroine acting as antagonists. Those plot devices are quite common in the Harlequin Presents line, and LG does them well, but I actually like this story much better. The main plot antagonist is not an actual person, but rather the amnesia itself.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Amnesia Plot: 3