Mini-Review: Andrea Laurence’s THE CEO’S UNEXPECTED CHILD

CEO's_Unexpected_ChildHmm, Miss Bates had a somewhat bizarro thought after reading Andrea Laurence’s The CEO’s Unexpected Child: can it be that a not-very-good book can’t be discussed without spoilers? Because awfulness lies in the plot dominating, in a bad plot dominating? It struck Miss Bates that she can always discuss a good rom without spoilers. Would love to hear your thoughts on this, dear readers.

Onto to Laurence’s Desire and sifting through Miss Bates’s thoughts. Laurence’s CEO-mystery-mommy-plot-moppet smorgasbord is one of those roms which could’ve been great. The premise is wild (and possibly therein lies some of Miss Bates’s sour-puss face): what happens when an Italian’s CEO’s stored sperm is mixed up and ends up impregnating an IVF-ed woman instead of her husband’s? What happens when said husband dies in a car crash and pregnant lady finds out he was NOT the man she thought him? What happens when ten months later, studly-CEO discovers the fertility clinic’s error and sues new mommy to six-month-old-daughter for shared custody? That, folks, in a nutshell, is Laurence’s premise. When it opens, Luca Moretti, mega-millions CEO of Moretti Family Kitchen, and Claire Douglas confront each other, with their lawyers, across a negotiating table, trying to work out how Luca will play a significant role in his daughter’s, Eva’s, life.

All the while thinking studly-lusty thoughts about Claire, Luca proposes a compromise. He, Claire, and little Eva will take a month-long vacation together in Martha’s Vineyard to get to know each other. Luca will prove to Claire that he can be a good, responsible father. They will iron out their legal differences and present a new consensus plan to their lawyers. And so, Claire agrees to spend a month with a strange man and her daughter in a stranger’s home. Ho-kay, thought Miss Bates. But she stuck with The CEO’s Unexpected Child because there was something compelling about Laurence’s crazypants premise. She thought Claire’s slightly awkward, introverted character was sympathetic. And she thought Luca displayed enough nuance in his alpha-ness to make him interesting. A heroine who lost her confidence, who experienced fertility problems and a hero whose confidence was equally felled [spoiler aheadby testicular cancer, who looks Italian-studly, but feels his manhood is compromised, this might be good stuff. Miss Bates really wanted those great-potential bits in Laurence’s romance to blossom and be something great … 

They didn’t, weren’t. Au contraire, The CEO’s Unexpected Child lapsed into the most egregious of romance’s clichés. There are badly-behaving exes: a cheating, but thankfully dead, rat-bastard for Claire and a pregnant ex-girlfriend who tried to pass off her kid as Luca’s when Luca knew, thanks to his illness, he can’t have children. But, folks, talk about cliché-orama (only early hints in the rom when Miss Bates still had high hopes) as Claire and Luca have preternatural connections, not even mystical, soaring angels feels, but actual molecular bonds. Miss Bates calls this “what the body knows when the mind is too dull to”:

Watching Luca on the couch with Eva, she saw nothing but sharp contrast between him and Jeff [Claire’s deceased husband] … it was a difference on the inside at a biological, maybe even cellular, level. She’d spent almost no time with Luca at all, but she reacted to him like no other man before.

It was as if his body knew they had a child together and was ready to start on another one as soon as possible.

Um, Miss Bates has never enjoyed woo-woo connections in rom: souls calling to each other and all that (she didn’t like this even in her beloved Jane Eyre). But she never realized how much she could come to dislike the biological connection between hero and heroine, the call of the cell/sperm.

If the first third of The CEO’s Unexpected Child showed promise, the second third ruined it with the characters’, especially Luka’s, mental gymnastics. While Luca and Claire’s cells yearn for each other, their pesky minds come up with those silly contorted arguments contemporary romance suffers from, all the groundless reasons why they can’t be together. Who can uphold logic and reason when the call of the cell is at work. Yes, dear readers, Luca and Claire do the beast with two backs … and then, cliché-orama takes a front seat with a jumbo portion of popcorn and settles in. [Spoilers ahead.] The love-making is mind-blowing, many things get blown, including an expired condom. Miracles happen. And the man who said this to Claire,

“I was always raised to believe that a woman is meant to be treasured. She is a gift, an angel sent into your life from the heavens. To treat her as anything less is an abomination.”

turns into the biggest a-hole below the 49th parallel. Like really mean, cruel stuff, accusatory nasty is thrown at Claire. All is forgiven, however, (this is, a romance) and Luca, Claire, baby Eva, and their many progeny (Claire and Luca’s fertility problems poof, disappear) live HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER.

Miss Bates really wanted to like Laurence’s The CEO’s Unexpected Child, but her “as-if-o-metre” never left the room. With her long-suffering reader-associate, Miss Austen, Miss Bates says that The CEO’s Unexpected Child had “a high claim to forbearance,” Emma.

Andrea Laurence’s The CEO’s Unexpected Child is published by Harlequin Books. It was released on March 8th and is available at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.

12 thoughts on “Mini-Review: Andrea Laurence’s THE CEO’S UNEXPECTED CHILD

  1. It’s been done before… And the 2 men were brothers, with the same name (yeah right!)… The Marine’s Baby by Rogenna Brewer.

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  2. On the reviewing question: I think it’s almost impossible to review something one dislikes without spoilers, because what offends/insults/nauseates us is quite individual. What one person finds unforgivable, another barely sees; ergo, we are more likely to expand on what bothers us a lot more than on what we like–unless it’s a gushing book. Then, look out.

    On the review: I have noticed that I find it very difficult lately to read straight contemporary, because I just can’t suspend my disbelief enough to buy into whatever conflict is thought up to keep the characters apart. Yes, people are sill, and often won’t talk to each other like adults, but c’mon, enough is enough; fiction should make some sense.

    The premise may be outrageous, but it’s the journey from the setup to the end that should be coherent and smart enough to keep my interest–and my disbelief suspended.

    Finally: more and more I am offended by the magical cure to infertility issues; too many people go through hell in real life with this, and why on earth can’t other type of families not be ‘good enough’ for so much of romance? /rant

    (my apologies, my dear Miss Bates, I don’t think I’m fit for human consumption right now, but I do believe that this book would have caused a lot of raging and scaring the cats chez aztec)

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    • No apologies necessary! Your comment is spot-on. I think the “mental gymnastics,” as I mentioned in my review, are ridiculous. I’d rather read a contemporary that doesn’t keep the protags apart, but creates some other tension, or conflict. And I agree with you about fertility issues: they’re painfully all-consuming. I’d like to see all manner of families portrayed. I do like Janice Kay Johnson for that so much. On a personal note, NOTHING was more validating to me than reading the end of Crusie’s Bet Me. The heavy heroine gets the gorgeous guy and they decide, not by circumstance, by their free will and shaping of their relationship, NOT to have children. Wow, you can fault Crusie for many things, but NOT for that HEA-ending!

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  3. Good gravy. That is some plot finangling! o_O
    I tend to loathe the soul-mate-wolf-howl that permeates SO many roms – but I have never seen biological attraction: fated on a cellular level – that is…so dang UN-SCIENCY! How do you make CELLS, mystical? That’s like the worst oxymoron ever.

    Re reviews — I like spoilers (I may be the only person in the world) and it probably stems from Bambi — NO ONE ever told me what was going to happen and I cried for like 4 days straight.

    Since then? Spoilers Ahoy. I NEED to know it will end well. Plus, reading is often a solitary experience, when I encounter the same passage or section that someone else has talked about in a review, it creates an additional connection. I like seeing whether I feel the same way as the reviewer… and really, how can you possibly have the catharsis of a GOOD rant, if you can’t spoil? Totally not the same.
    😉

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    • Sadly, I had a similar experience with Bambi: wish someone had spoiled that one for me. 😦

      I’m pleasantly surprised how much readers don’t mind a spoiler, or spoilers … I’m going to strew them into my reviews when I need to to make the book’s discussion better. I do love me some vindication! I’d also venture to say that rom-readers are the most spoiler-tolerant of readers. They really really don’t mind spoilers. Huh. Also, yay!! XD

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  4. Oh. My. “. . .the call of the cell/sperm.” :-/ Suggested subtitle for this book: “The Call of the Womb.” That’s almost as dreadful as the one I read with the “crawling sperm.” Those little sperm were just so damned determined to make a baby, they sprouted itty bitty legs to help them get to the goal, set to the soundtrack of Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love.” O_o It’ll be a long time before that image fades from my memory.

    Did you know there’s a list of IVF mixup romances at GR? I had no idea there were that many books with this trope, but one – Lock, Stock, and Secret Baby – really stood out as “avoid at all costs.” Take a group of genetically engineered “super babies”, add one adult super baby brilliant scientist heroine who is impregnated while under sedation (thereby creating a pregnant virgin!), and another “super baby” warrior type hero to protect her from a psychotic scientist who plans to eliminate the heroine after she gives birth to a “second gen” super baby, and just watch my short legs make tracks in the other direction a la The Bionic Woman. I realize there’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief required for some of these crazy-train plots to work, but sometimes they ask a little too much. Especially when it feels like I’m being asked to blithely accept little porcine creatures sporting wings waving at me as they fly by my window.

    I’m reading an HP now with the prerequisite billionaire who has whisked the heroine off to a month’s holiday in Antigua on his private jet. But I’m stuck on something inconsequential and rather stupid. His luxurious private jet has not one but two “floating staircases”, one that leads to a private lounge, and yet another leading up to the “master suite.” But wait, there’s more! There’s also a gym and steam room on board. It sounds more like a luxury yacht than a plane. It’s the idea of not one but two floating staircases on a plane along with all that heavy gym equipment that brought “Wow” down to “Whoa, no way!” for me here. I need to forget it, but I’ve gone back and read that one section four times now trying to envision how this might work.

    Spoilers in reviews don’t bother me at all. A review with spoilers explaining why the book didn’t work is as helpful to me as a review with spoilers explaining why a particular scene/character worked well or stood out. Though my list is short, there are elements in books I’m not particularly fond of. I’d much rather know ahead of time if one or more of these elements is lurking around waiting to pop up and and send me screaming into the night. Knowing what’s coming helps me to focus on the setup, the reasons for a particular scenario, concentrate on the plot and characters, and work through or anticipate a particular scene or passage.

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    • Ho-boy … multi-legged rushing sperm, cellular/molecular mating-calls. Really, I don’t read any PNR because I hate the imprinted-mate thing (once read/skimmed a Feehan and haven’t recovered since), but to find it in a contemporary category, too much. The whole IVF thing is a viable premise for a rom, I think, especially as women and men deal with the issue more frequently than we know. I think that Mayberry’s A Natural Father, if you haven’t read it, does this soooooo much better. I do admit I’m a bit taken aback at the plethora of IVF and weirdness roms out there, from your GR list description. CEO’s Unexpected Child was, unfortunately, a dud; it didn’t have to be, but it was.

      I’m fascinated by the narrative bits that take readers out of a narrative. And there are sundry things that can for me too. One grammar, etc. error and it takes me pages to recover. Also, when things don’t make sense: logic counts! Like your staircases. The other thing that drives me nuts is when writers say things about certain professions that don’t make sense. Like making your heroine a marine biologist (a nod to Seinfeld from Miss B.) and then writing nonsensical things about what a marine biologist does. Research IS your friend.

      The spoilers-are-okay consensus is most heartening to me: I love discussing a novel with the bits I want to discuss … this is most freeing. 🙂

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  5. O.M.G.

    So I should thank you for taking one for the team because had I read this book I would have been reduced to Hulk-like rage. Wendy Mad! Wendy Smash! I’m not sure what I find more offensive. The Biology Is Supreme stuff (which is a major, MAJOR peeve of mine and still crops up in the genre all too frequently…) or the magically cured infertility. I want to throat punch someone now and all I did was read your review – not the actual book 😉

    Incidentally, I just read my first Laurence – A Beauty Uncovered which has a boss/secretary, virgin hero AND a Beauty and the Beast trope. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out – a lot. The plot was a crazy-sauce hot mess.

    And I’m going to agree with AztecLady. When it comes to the clunkers it’s hard to write spoiler-free reviews. It just is. Because by that point I need to vent my spleen over what I just read.

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    • LOL! Your response is funnier than my review! XD

      I agree totally that cells yearning and recognizing each other crops up way too often in the genre. Which is why I like a nice juicy “I hate you” rom: I have to admit Nicole Helm’s lovely llama romance really stood out for that this year. Well done, Nicole! And the *grits teeth* magical baby-spring is really really annoying. In this case, an opportunity for two people to find understanding and acceptance and show rom can portray all manner of couples and their state of fecundity, or not, as the case may be, was rescinded for a cheap woo-woo and sentimental conclusion. “It was badly done, indeed, Emma.”

      I’m giving up on keeping my reviews spoiler-free: can’t, not if I want to say what I want to say. So, reader beware. 😉

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