The tango is an Argentinean dance of possession and passion...and that's exactly how aristocrat Rafael Romero intends his convenient marriage to teacher Isobel will be. First he will take her as his bride. Then he'll lead her to the marriage bed, where he'll make her his. Isobel may have no choice but to give her hand to Rafael in matrimony, yet she intends to stay as free as a bird. But her new husband will keep her caged once he discovers he's wed a virgin....
This isn't the first book I've read by Abby Green. Previous reads include "Ruthless Greek Boss, Secretary Mistress", which I mostly enjoyed; "Ruthlessly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded", which kinda annoyed me; "The Mediterranean Billionaire's Blackmail Bargain", which was cheesy and barely readable; and "The Kouros Marriage Revenge", which I kinda liked. "Bride in a Gilded Cage" gave me some gilded rage. I just did not like this book.
The story opens with the hero, billionaire Argentinian Don Rafael Ortega Romero, confronting the heroine Isobel Miller at her 18th birthday party. With deep olive skin, hair as black as midnight, and two "green and gold" "pools of dark sin" for eyeballs, Raff is a pretty classy guy, eh beds many womens and doesn't afraid of anything. Due to retarded rich-people circumstances, he and Isobel have been betrothed to each other. Upon their marriage, Isobel will get back her family's estancia and net her greedy-ass folks a tidy sum. Rafael will get the business perk of fronting himself as a stable family man because they hates single dudes in Argentina. He'll also get to use Isobel's English-tainted half-Argentinean aristocratic pedigree to breed more Romero-assholes for the debatable enjoyment of future generations. Whatev.
In truth, neither really wants this marriage and I don't either. Isobel feels trapped by both the "medieval" notion of arranged marriages and apparently oppressive Argentinian society, yearning to learn dance-shit in Europe. Rafael had originally wanted to marry another woman and isn't jazzed about being tethered against his will. He is magnanimous enough to deem that since Isobel gives him a woody anyway, she'll do, pig. After a punishing kiss, Rafael announces they'll marry when she's twenty-one and goes off to pork his latest conquest:
"...I can assure you that the woman in my car will be perfectly happy once she’s in my bed and underneath me. She doesn’t care about marriage any more than I do. She’s already been twice divorced.’"He even made it clear to Isobel that once they marry, he'll "make full use of" her. Ew, what a toad. Meanwhile, Isobel returns to Europea, sticks her head in sand, and literally spends the next three years hoping it'll all go away. Despite her proclaiming that she's a firebrand and won't just meekly agree to marry him, that she hates him and despises him, and even that she'd rather die, Isobel really does nothing with her time but dance, dance, dance and spend each day that goes by thinking about Rafael and getting hot from that kiss. Huh?
Which leads to my problem with "Bride in a Gilded Cage": I don't like either one of these bozos. Both of them spend the first chapter being so over-dramatic (mainly her) or disgusting (mainly him) that nobody's likeable. I consider Rafael a no-brainer but what about Isobel did I instantly loathe first? The way she prickishly infers Argentina as "barbaric" and inferior to Europe? Or that her idea of standing up to him consists of whining in his face and simultaneously being turned on by him? I don't know what about an arrogant slimeball walking in and killing my dreams—on my birthday no less—could possibly make my panties moist. Not mention Isobel's so fidgety she may as well have Parkinson's. Isobel flinches, she quivers, her chest constricts with fear. Panic grips her, her hand shakes, the color drains from her face, her future crumbles in front of her... all in the span of a few pages. And it doesn't stop. I understood she's very young but, damn, it got on my nerves, especially admist Rafael making himself as yucky as possible.
In Chapter Two, we immediately fast-forward three years later and Rafael still can't get over the kiss he "shared" with Isobel—um, no buddy, you took that one for yourself—and how Isobel stood up to him. Whining and sniveling impresses him. Hoo-wee. In fact, he's changed his mind about not wanting the marriage and is so goddamn excited about his future wife that not one woman made it into his bed in the last six months.
Is that really supposed to fucking impress anybody? Now, I'm not picking on Abby Green. She is not the only author to use this, but I have to call it out just the same: that shit's not even romantic. Not even. Within the other two and a half years who the hell knows how much head, anal, and what-have-you this constantly hard jerk-off got with countless numbers of Argentinian society-hos. Yeah, we were supposed to be sold on that line in the first chapter about "two consenting adults coming together to enjoy one another…without lies" but this chap undermines that message when he acts like a louse talking all vulgar to and stealing a sloppy kiss from an unwilling teen ruthlessly bartered by her own family. Seriously, I hate this fucking guy.
So, back in Chapter Two, Rafael's all excited and shit and looks at a picture of Isobel running hand-in-hand with another man in Paris. But it's okay, cause that guy's GAY. You see, if he were straight, it wouldn't be okay because all the straight men are potential sexins for Isobel. ALL OF THEM. But this guy is GAY and likes to dance, so he's perfectly SAFE. That still doesn't stop "the surge of hot anger" in Raff's horny old belly. UGH. Have you torn your hair out yet? If no, wait, there's more.
So he's looking at the picture and all practically "Whoa, she's less fat now. Rock on." It is around this time Abby Green tells us Isobel's hair is now "very short", but that sure as hell has never stopped the cover artist from putting something completely different on the front of the fucking book. Raff's all "Boo hoo, she's so purty now! I am regret. There's no way she's still a virgin." This is because all women are sluts.
More so, Rafael is impressed that Isobel has used her "extensive and expensive British education" to not "carve out a high profile career" but instead barely scrape by living in a hovel and teaching jerks in France to tango in a tiny studio. I mean, I'd call that wasteful and retarded myself but what do I know? So paragraphs after he just knows she's no longer a virgin because why would she be, he admits to himself that three years ago Isobel "blasted apart any misconception he had about her character". In fact, it seems she blasted it so far apart that Rafael's been spending these last three years making new ones. UGH. Have I said that word already? UGH.
At this point I did continue reading on for God knows what reason. The following shit happens: Raff crashed Isobel's tango class. He dances great. Isobel's all turned on. He's all "we gonna get married" and she gets hysterical and shocked despite getting a THREE YEAR WARNING THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. She protests and he bullies and she caves in. "All avenues of escape were cut off." Well, yeah. When you sit on your ass for three years DOING NOTHING ABOUT IT, that shit can happen.
To continue: The couple return to Buenos Aires. They get married and do a tongue kiss in church. Spots dance before her eyes yet again (they keep doing that, those damn spots!) because she didn't really want to tongue kiss, oh, damn this reaction Rafael causes within her! Stupid, sexy Rafael! They argue about Rafael buying her new clothes. Her chest tightens, her belly quivers. We meet Rafael's half-brother: grey-eyed, industrialist, Greek playboy billionaire Rico Christofides. Rico no doubt has a book or will have a book of his own. Way to sloppily work that in, Green.
At one point later in the book, Isobel talks to a man about acquiring a property to use as a studio to teach disabled children and poor folks to dance. Oh, what a sweet girl! Wants to help teh disabled keeds! And people and Rafael think she's a slut because she was photographed or something talking to this man. And she's all "Boo hoo, my cage is so small." There is so much headdesk here I can't go on. Who even cares anymore?
At the end, Isobel has her own dance studio and two kids. Rafael now knows what loves is because Isobel wanted to show him. Or something like that. There, I saved you some monies. Oh, BTW look what I found! It's Rico's book: "In Christofides' Keeping":
Gypsy Butler spent one explosive night with a charismatic stranger, but when she discovered that he was exactly the kind of man she despises most, and that she was pregnant with his child, she prayed she’d never see him again. But fate is not kind, and when Gypsy bumps into Rico Christofides the explosive passion between them is as strong as ever. He wants her. What will he do though when he discovers the secret daughter she’s been keeping from him?
What an odd title! Where's he keeping her, chained in his basement? Also, that dude on the cover looks d-bag-ish. Abby Green has an excerpt at her website and Gypsy is Rico's waitress during his date with someone else. The excerpt more or less reads decently. ♫ Oh ho, I know what book I'm torturing myself with next year. ♫
No acorns for "Bride in a Gilded Cage" because the protags are balls. Go read any of the other books I've mentioned here. ANY of them. All of them are better than this one.