22 January 2014

Review: Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee

Burning thoughts:
Him: I want my wife in my bed, and I'm willing to woo and seduce to get her there.
Her: You can never trust men and their motives. Their wants will always come first. 
Book cover photo: Wife by Wednesday by Catherine BybeeWife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee kicks off the Weekday Brides series – four books so far – and I must say, it's such a fun and easy though no less evocative romance read. The premise of the story has been used so many times in so many ways in Romanceland that it's gotten very old and very tired: a secret marriage of convenience made safe and foolproof by an airtight contract.  Still when I saw it on sale on Kindle and read the blurb, I couldn't resist the one-click buy. I'm a sucker that way.

What hooked me though is a lot of curiosity. What kind of spin is Ms. Bybee going to do using this age-old romance plot?

You know a marriage of convenience in a romance has a set trajectory. Boy and girl – regardless of how they meet – enter into a contract to marry (hopefully with eyes wide open), attraction sizzles, sometimes they bicker, hijinks follows, and then the couple end up truly married. So what's different with Wife by Wednesday?

A lot of fun - and sexy - things obviously, when you've got a writer who's willing to explore how far characters who're not shy about who they are, their motivations and what they want, would dare go.

First lines

Ms. Bybee plunges us immediately into the premise at Paragraph One: Blake Harrison, current Duke of Albany and a wealthy entrepreneur in his own right, belabors his pressing problem to his BFF.
"I need a wife, Carter, and I needed her yesterday." Riding in the back of a town car, end route to a Starbucks, of all places, Blake Harrison glanced at his watch for the tenth time that hour.
He needs to produce a wife - a real one - in a few days or he'll lose his inheritance. Here, we veer off the usual plot lines when we find out later that he doesn't actually need the multimillions he's set to get if not for two things. One, his cousin's going to get his title and his money. And two, his mother and sister's bottomless spending money's going to be majorly, hugely reduced. (Ha!)

Not a good thing. Definitely.

And it's that goal that leads our hero straight into our heroine's orbit.

First lines rating: 4.5

Main characters: Sam (aka Samantha) Elliot and Blake Harrison, Duke of Albany

It's a meet-cute between Blake and Samantha, mainly because of his misconceptions about her but also because she's his matchmaker, the person he's hoping to hire to get him a wife.

At first sight, his male curiosity is piqued. As soon as she opens her mouth though, he's a goner.
The woman seemed harmless enough. That was until she opened her mouth and spoke directly to him. "You're late."
   Two words. It took two words, in a voice so low it dripped like sin and put phone sex operators to shame, to render Blake speechless.
I like how Ms. Bybee put her hero off-balance in this meet-cute. Blake, being the forceful businessman that he is, tends to be arrogant and a tad entitled. He expects people to pander to him mainly because of the influence and money he can wield for or against anyone that got near.

Sam, on the other hand, had been dealing with men of power and prestige from the cradle so her no-nonsense, don't-mess-with-me-buster kind of straight talking rapidly places them on equal footing. And she won't accept less than honesty from anyone, especially clients like Blake.

It's this honesty that marks their relationship from the get-go. And it is this same honesty that brings a fresh new twist to the old trope at the heart of this story, propelling both Sam and Blake forward into a romance that neither was looking for.

Sam on Blake (when he told Sam she didn't have to worry about meeting his recently-exed-lovers):
“Shallow and a tiny bit naïve.”
A good thing, too, because the rest of the elements of the story is typical stock in any romance story with the same premise.

Blake is the kind of hero that I can get behind. He's astute, and there's none of that brooding, unapproachable alpha male stuff that makes for some intense heroes. Sure, he's got issues - mainly with a father he hated  enough to go live 'across the pond', far from his mother and sister whom he loved, but it's not enough to make him a difficult foil to our heroine.

If you think about it, Blake could be sunshine and roses to Sam's wounded heroine who's got a huge baggage of man issues on her shoulders. Starting with a father who cheated on people to get wealthy and a first love who used her to indict said father.
Sam wasn't naïve enough to believe that women weren't capable of illegal acts, but she had a hard time with trust and men. There weren't many in her life who hadn't let her down. In truth, she couldn't think of any.
For all that, Sam's not afraid to come clean about her past. She admits to it readily enough when Blake asks for confirmation.

Reading this romance, Blake turned out to be my kind of hero, the kind of man that takes time to get to know the woman he's attracted to...the man who sees the dragons, gives them the finger, and teaches the damsel in distress (so to speak) to do the same.

I so love a man who's irreverent that way. (Of course, he also slays some dragons—one bitchy ex, as a matter of fact, but that's because it's a dragon from his past to begin with.)

Characters rating: 3.5

Romance arc

The first time our would-be husband and wife meets is an absolute delight. Here, you have a self-made man aware of his influence and importance...meeting a woman who easily pricks his confidence with just a couple of words and her unerring honesty.

Sam literally rocked Blake's world from the start and despite the fact that she was his matchmaker, he found that she's the right fit for the job of wife-for-a-year.

A personal responsibility compels Sam to agree to the arrangement, a fact that Blake exploits to get what he wanted. It helps that Sam doesn't deny the sexual chemistry between them. For the first few chapters, it's this courtship dance, amidst trying to convince his father's lawyers of the realness of the marriage, that has us riveted.

What I like about their courtship is that it follows the normal trajectory of real-world dating, with the exception that they're already married and contemplating a sexual component to the original business contract. From a sterile arrangement to a steamy one, the development of their romance is organic, not forced.

Wife by Wednesday isn't boring though. Honesty is the “code word” in Sam and Blake's relationship, which – given the lies they tell his family – is oxymoronish given the context of their involvement. But they do strive not to hide things, even difficult truths, from each other.

It's a credit to Ms. Bybee's writing that she can make an ordinary story engaging. You get how they progress from strangers to business partners, through to tentative couple (though with the question of love still hanging between them). There's respect in plenty, and the affection between them starts from honest friendship.

Romance arc rating: 4.0

What worked, what didn't

The marriage of convenience trope, as I said, is a very old device in Romanceland. It brings with it a lot of dangers if you're to engage the reader's interest consistently from Page One to The End. Ms. Bybee's Wife by Wednesday barely dodged that trap by dint of the characters that peopled her romance story.

The development of the love story between Blake and Sam was fun to follow. It didn't hurt that the intimacies progressed naturally, as both protagonists got to know each other. (Despite the fact that the hero couldn't “keep it in his pants”, as Sam would say, heh.)

Two tiny things though:

One, Blake tended to be a cardboard hero towards the end, especially when dealing with an ex gone rogue. I get it that he's the ruthless businessman, and that he can get brutal when dealing with an enemy. The thing is, I would've wanted a novel way of resolving the Vengeful Viper issue instead of how the confrontation went down. As it is, Ms. Bybee fell back on old scenarios for the take down of the Ex.

Two, Ms. Bybee kept repeating the “women are emotional creatures” refrain. I mean, I know we are (ha!), but emphasizing it – when showing it already sufficed – could get tiring. I certainly got irritated. I wanted to shout, “Enough already! I get it, no need to hammer it into my head like I'm a ninny.”

Likert: 4.0

Favorite lines

Blake lifted his glass and waited until she joined him in a toast. “To a successful business relationship.”
   A shiver of uncertainty flitted over her hand as she reached for her wine. The way Blake said relationship didn't sit well.”
  “I thought you'd call me Blake.”
   First names and talk of relationships. This was not going well.

“So, what did you say to your...What do you call the women in your life? Lovers?”
   The title of lover started to feel too personal. “I haven't told them anything, yet.”
   She lifted her manicured eyebrows high. “I'd like to be a fly on the wall during those conversations. Oh, darling, by the way, I got married over the weekend.” Samantha laughed at her own joke.

Dammit, he shouldn't be lusting over his wife. A wife of convenience.

“I've never embarked on an affair with an end date in mind.”

"Kissing will be the easy part," he said over her opened lips. "Pulling back will prove much harder."

Book details

Title: Wife by Wednesday
Series: Weekday Brides #1
Author: Catherine Bybee
Genre: Contemporary romance, Romance series
Original Publication Date: 2013, March 19
Themes: Marriage of convenience, fairy tale romance, terms of the will, chicks who kick butt
Blake Harrison:
Rich, titled, and charming…and in need of a wife by Wednesday. Blake turns to Sam Elliot, who isn’t the businessman he expected. Instead, Blake is faced with Samantha Elliot, beautiful and feisty with a voice men call 1-900 numbers to hear.

Samantha Elliot:
Owner of matchmaking firm Alliance and not on the marital menu…that is, until Blake offers her ten million dollars for a one-year contract. And there’s nothing indecent about this proposal. The money will really help with her family’s medical bills. All Samantha will need to do is keep her attraction to her new husband to herself and avoid his bed.

But Blake’s toe-curling kisses and sexy charm prove too difficult for Sam to resist. It was a marriage contract that planned for everything…except falling in love.
Hooked on Romance post signature


  1. What a well thought out review. Thank you for reading and caring enough to place this on your blog.

  2. What a well thought out review. Thank you for reading and caring enough to place this on your blog.