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Except My Love by Mary Burchell

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This is a lovely and well-written book, but it is not a lovely romance. Rich businessman Oliver Leyne marries his secretary Erica in a “marriage of convenience” since he’s decided she’ll do as a companion to ease his loneliness. Despite the supposedly celibate arrangement he gets her (unknowingly) pregnant, and treats her so nastily she leaves and has the baby in secret.

Oliver is a pathetic, whingey, selfish, self-pitying, moody, misogynistic man who can’t get over some awful woman (“Dreda”) who was revulsed by his hand injury. Nor can he get over his hand injury.

Erica is a desperately desperate, subservient, pathetic limp haddock of a heroine. There is simply nothing to admire about her. At the end she even admits to loving Oliver – who has treated her like shit throughout – more than her glorious little baby.

The reconciliation is not convincing. There is no real evidence that Oliver does or has ever loved Erica. He was still madly in love with Dreda even after he consummated his marriage. When he discovers that Erica didn’t tell him about a letter Dreda sent (that he accidentally used to light a cigarette, not realising it was a letter) he says:

“Do you mean to tell me you let me burn it? That you’ve known all this time that I destroyed the letter I’d been waiting for for years?” He held her so that she had to look at him, had to meet his cold, furious eyes.

Awful? Try the next bit:

“I could kill you—with the greatest of pleasure.”
“Oliver!” She shrank back as far as his grasp would let her.
“Only you’re not worth doing time for.” And he almost pushed her away from him.

Even after well over a year of separation, Erica is still pathetically hung up on Oliver, even naming her son (albeit nicknamed “Bunny”) after him.

Really, she’s the kind of wet doormat who deserves to be trodden on. And she will be. 100% certainty that Oliver will be cheating on her with Dreda in future.

The only person to admire in this book is the utterly wonderful best-friend-Carol, who supports Erica unquestioningly and loathes Oliver from start to finish. She definitely deserves happiness and will find it, with the kind and charming Colin.

So all in all, the only romance in this that one can really enjoy is the subplot between Carol and Colin.