Reviewed by Cressida McLaughlin
Hallie Bennett works in a shoe shop. It’s a soul-destroying job, but it’s helping her save up so she can finish her diploma in Asian antiquities. It’s also Valentine’s Day and she has no date. That is, until Nicholas Cooper walks into the shop with his mother Clea. Nick needs somebody to accompany him to Hong Kong where he has to complete a business deal - the only catch is that they have to pose as his wife. Having spent only a few minutes in the company of beautiful, sparky Hallie, Nick invites her to be his fake wife. Hallie has to think about it, but the prospect of a week’s all-expenses paid trip to Hong Kong with handsome Nick, not to mention the generous fee he is offering, makes it impossible to turn down.
In Hong Kong, Nick and Hallie are staying with John Tey, the businessman Nick is doing a deal with, his daughter Jasmine and their bodyguard Kai. The reason Nick needed to conjure up a wife soon becomes clear, though Hallie is not sure that Nick’s fears are founded. Jasmine is a young, innocent woman, constrained by her family’s circumstances. As the story progresses and Hallie and Jasmine form a friendship, Jasmine’s hopes and romantic dreams become clearer.
I had never read a Mills & Boon book before The Trouble with Valentine’s, and I was surprised at the pace of the story. Within a few pages – and a few moments of Nick meeting Hallie – he had invited her to Hong Kong. While on the business trip, they’re in the awkward position of having to pretend to be husband and wife in public, and honour the platonic nature of the business deal in private, while the attraction between them continues to grow. Hallie’s determination to help Jasmine, and an unexpected element of danger means that the plot moves at a dramatic pace.
I did enjoy elements of this book. Nick and Hallie have an immediate chemistry that made their scenes full of tension and humour. Nick is positively smouldering, and Hallie is beautiful and feisty, but with a vulnerability that makes her ideal heroine material. The story is told predominantly from Hallie, Nick and Jasmine’s points of view, and I enjoyed knowing what Nick was thinking, feeling and often suffering behind his all-male persona. Some aspects of Chinese culture are also explored, and added an unusual - and welcome - flavour to the book.
I did find some elements of the plot pretty unrealistic, and, while it was fun, this meant I wasn’t able to absorb myself in it completely. It’s certainly not lacking in romance, and I enjoyed the sparring between Nick and Hallie, but the overly-dramatic plot twists left me feeling a bit bewildered and disappointed. The Trouble with Valentine's is an escapist romp of a book, with swoonworthy characters and a good central love story, but it left me feeling slightly unfulfilled.