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cover31437-mediumI’m just going to admit this right away: I was in over my head with this title. Looking at the title and the description of the book, I was expecting your run of the mill romance about once bitten, twice shy businesswoman, Julietta Conte, falling for suave businessman Sawyer Wells. I knew that somehow their business relationship wouldn’t be able to quell an undeniable attraction, they would do the romance novel thing of overcoming obstacles to be together, and everyone would live happily ever after. That’s the thing about romance novels: you know how they end; the reason you read is for the journey (and to fall in love with falling in love, if you know what I mean). At least, this is why I read. But Julietta and Sawyer took a decided turn from my staid picture of one of my favorite romance subgenres, the office romance, into something a little dark and dirty.

So before we get to actually reviewing the book, a warning. This is not your typical romance. This book contains elements of BDSM–you know, dominants and submissives, that type of thing. BDSM isn’t my thing. I’m not going to read 50 Shades of Grey with my book club (which is coming!). If you aren’t into this sort of thing, this may not be the book for you. I did finish reading the book, though, for reasons to be discussed in this review.

Julietta Conte is the last unmarried member of the Conte family: her two sisters and her brother are all married and happy. While she doesn’t have romantic love in her life, she has the love of her family and her love for the family business, La Dolce Famiglia Bakery. Even though she was unsuccessful in closing a big deal, she is heartened by the prospect of an even bigger deal: an exclusive partnership with a line of boutique hotels to be opened up by successful hotelier Sawyer Wells. From the first moment she sees Sawyer, Julietta is attracted to him. Aside from the fact that mixing business and pleasure isn’t something she has ever been interested in, she has a secret that she feels would turn Sawyer off completely.

Sawyer Wells is not willing to deny the strong attraction he feels for Julietta Conte. He is willing to break all of his rules to claim the Italian beauty. Her ice maiden exterior doesn’t fool him; he knows there’s a passionate woman just waiting to get out. Sawyer isn’t interested in forever; he has his own demons that he is battling and doesn’t want to get close to a woman. But will Julietta change his mind?

Using my romance novel review rubric, this is how The Marriage Merger fared:

  1. Main characters I care about. I loved Sawyer and Julietta, despite the bizarre BDSM element. This is why I kept reading. I genuinely liked Julietta’s pluck. She was determined to ensure the continued success and expansion of the family business. She loved her family and wanted to make her Mama happy Even though she has been unlucky and love and sees no possibility for her to fall in love and marry, she is determined to make the most of her life and the love she does have. Sawyer Wells was a complex character. He had pulled himself up from the gutter through hard work and determination. His hard upbringing causes him to have difficulty forming relationships outside of business, but deep down, he has the capacity to care, as evidenced by his relationship with Wolf, the street kid he takes under his week as his assistant. I loved the relationship between Sawyer and Wolf. Wolf’s character was a nice foil for both Julietta and Sawyer. The supporting characters in this book were strong overall. I loved Mama Conte, her warmth and her insight into the characters.
  2. A believable impediment to them being together. The biggest impediment to Julietta and Sawyer being together were their his and her matched set of baggage regarding relationships. While Julietta had some bad experiences with romantic relationships, Sawyer had bad experiences in his upbringing that taught him not to care for others. Their business relationship proved no real impediment, but their personal hang ups were enough.
  3. Unique ways of throwing the main characters together. Just when Julietta and Sawyer were about to back away from their mutual attraction, a major plot twist throws them together again. It came completely out of left field, and it was definitely unique. While it seemed a little far fetched, none of the plot points were unbelievable, and I was willing to stretch with the book on this point.
  4. A sweet reveal of their true feelings for one another. The reveal of Sawyer’s feelings for Julietta was a wonderful payoff. Even one of the characters in the book describes it as “Just like in the books I read and all those movies.” This was a gold star, “aww” worthy, swoon-inducing, romantic reveal. It’s the best one I’ve reviewed so far.
  5. Make me feel as if I haven’t missed out on the best part of the journey. I didn’t miss anything I needed to see. I can believe that things will go as they should for this couple, despite the little bumps and hiccups that life contains.

Overall, I liked the story. Aside from the weird sex scenes of light BDSM. I loved the characters, the plot, and the ending. The fact that the dom/sub things seem to overcome a major roadblock to their future happiness, that it seemed to be a necessary part of the story and not from the ether, made it easy to get over the fact it’s not my favorite thing. I do wish there would have been some advance warning that this book tipped into erotica and had these elements, though. It IS a romance novel at its core, so maybe those marketing the book didn’t feel the need to mention it? Obviously, I felt the need…a few times.

The Marriage Merger: *** 1/2/****; A- For great characterization, plot, and a movie moment, swoon-inducing declaration of love. Points deducted for strong sexual content.

XOXO (and happy reading!),

Erica

*I was given a free kindle version of this book to review. No compensation was provided for this review.