Review – Bet You’ll Marry Me by Darlene Panzera

Cover for Bet You'll Marry Me by Darlene Panzera

Publisher: Avon Impulse
Publish Date: Out Now (December 4, 2012)
How I got this book: eARC from publisher

When tall, handsome out-of-towner Nick Chandler first lays eyes on Jenny O’Brien, she’s storming into the Bets & Burgers Café, wielding a broom, and threatening the safety of every man in sight. Hey, he figures, she’s got the right to be annoyed – the whole town seems to be laying bets on who Jenny will marry.

Nick’s annoyed as well. He didn’t think he’d have to propose to romance the land away from her, but to save his sister and his ill-fated business, he jumps into the fray and bets $10,000 that Jenny will marry him.

Now the only thing stopping him from seizing her land…may be his own heart.

*blurb from Goodreads

Well. Shoot. This just did not work for me. I thought the blurb had a bit of a fun element to it and I had read a short snippet of the broomstick-and-barroom scene prior to deciding to review this book and thought it had the potential to be humorous. But the story sorta took a different course than I was expecting and I found myself annoyed instead.

The local barkeep puts out a bet on who Jenny will marry because everyone is aware of her dire financial situation. It has become common knowledge that the bank has given her a deadline so now of course she’ll “have to marry to save Windy Meadows” and all the locals think it would be fun to place bets on when and who. First of all: really? Why does she have to get married as the only means of saving her ranch? This is a Contemporary Romance, right?

In general, I did not like the plot or the setup or any of the character’s motivations. There were just too many unbelievable elements to the story and I kept being pulled out of the story with all my eye-rolling. And I never really got passed the (hopefully unintentional) parallelism between Jenny’s worth as a woman being tied to her property…that a woman is property. Of course, nothing was so blatant in the narrative as to suggest that outright. But what else am I to take from the basic premise of the story where all the single men in town were vying for her hand because once they married her, in addition to winning the bet, they would “get” her land?

Nick Chandler is the CEO of NLC Industries. He’s been trying to buy Jenny O’Brien’s ranch because he wants the land. She’s not selling despite being in financial straights. He happens to be in town to try to persuade her personally when the local bar puts out the infamous bet. So he proceeds to make his own side bet with Jenny that she’ll marry him (and in so doing, he’ll get her land that way). So, already I don’t like Nick as he’s shown himself to be someone willing to play with someone else’s life with little regard to the consequences beyond his own agenda. He was calculating and purposefully withheld help in the early phases of the book, waiting until the situation got a bit more out of hand so that when he did step in and save her, it would make him look better. I think we’re supposed to have a soft-spot for Nick because of the situation his sister is in, but it fell flat with me.

Me thinks Jenny doth protest too much. She talked a good game but didn’t back it up. On one hand, she made a fuss about standing on her own. But then she sure seemed to look to others, especially Nick, to save her a lot. She was a bit of a MarySue in that regard. She seemed ineffectual and meek. She couldn’t tell her Uncle Harry not to hire someone even though she owned the ranch. And that became a common theme of not being able to assert herself. She constantly wondered “what on earth was she going to do” and getting mad at Nick for not doing anything to help her. She kept pulling out her boot knife calling it her “protection” but she never did anything with it. When Nick asks her for it, she willingly lets it go when he tells her she doesn’t need it as he’ll protect her now. Gah. Granted, she gets another one later, but that’s not the point. She too easily abjects herself.

The romance never really worked for me, either. The romance seemed contrived because well, for most of the story it was contrived at least from Nick’s perspective. Sure, we’re reading a Romance so it can be assumed that Nick goes from a selfish agenda to more altruistic love-based actions. But that switch never completely turned over for me. I just couldn’t quite forget that for most of the book, he was scheming and opportunistic and he didn’t really redeem himself in the end. What did these two people have in common? There was no basis for a relationship. They never dialogued except to perhaps bicker and oh, yeah, for her to continuously protest how much she’s not going to marry him. But what did they even know of each other? There just wasn’t an actual basis for the Romance and the bet was an artificial starting point especially with Nick basically manipulating her most of the time.

The story lacked depth and the disjointed plot points didn’t gel for me. Neither did having Big Bads as a source of pseudo-tension. And there were several Big Bads (each with their own agenda) which diluted the overall villainous feel reducing them to more of a caricature. The sub-plot with the casino owner felt like something stuck out in left-field rather than an actual character worked into the story. The whole pack trip was just ridiculous as all the local single men vying to get her to marry her went on it. Every thought Jenny had was about how this or that action would make the men “even more eager to lay their hands on her.” She spent the majority of the time being manhandled and irritated that Nick wasn’t saving her from it all.

A contrived plot, a manipulative male protagonist, an ineffectual female protagonist and Big Bads hanging out in the wings with random events thrown in to up the pseudo-tension all resulted in a lackluster story at best. But in the end, what really didn’t work for me was even the hint of a suggestion that a woman’s worth is somehow tied to the value of her property. I barely tolerate that idea when reading an historical but I won’t tolerate it in a contemporary.

I give Bet You’ll Marry Me a D.

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