The Frenchman's Captive Wife (Harlequin Presents)

The Frenchman's Captive Wife (Harlequin Presents, #2594) - Chantelle Shaw Heroine files for divorce after leaving Hero a year before when she was pregnant with their son. Hero pressures her to stay with him in his French villa with their baby son or else lose her son to him. He refuses to divorce her but heroine argues that he'll be better off with his PA (who happens to be his deceased brother's wife) who she suspects he's been having an affair with since they got married. He denies her allegations of an affair and thinks she's just being a jealous and childish. And he continues to allow his PA almost unlimited access in their lives like before. Heroine gives him an ultimatum. Who is he going to choose?

I liked this Shaw book better than expected. Doormat heroine developed a backbone. Yes, she did seemingly lose her self-control when it came to sex with Hero but she got better in other areas of their unhealthy marriage. Heroine started out as very naïve and a pushover who silently suffered Hero's insensitivity to her needs. She ran away from him when she was pretty far along in pregnancy instead of confronting him about his r/s with his PA who's also his deceased brother's wife. But she grew up during her year away from Hero. She became more independent and self-confident. She visited him when their baby was 6 weeks old to let him see their son. She was able to go beyond her anger and hurt to do what's best for their baby and to give Hero a chance to be part of their son's life even though he treated her pregnancy with indifference. She also became more assertive about her wants and dislikes with Hero. She gave him an ultimatum re: choosing her or his PA after her attempts to show him that his PA's been trying to ruin their marriage and Hero was still siding with his PA.

Hero on the other hand acted like an arrogant and domineering alpha-hole for 2/3 of the book. He became verbally abusive towards heroine when he was mad at her. He closed-off on heroine when he felt threatened with his affection towards her. He acted cold and indifferent and couldn't figure out why she would be unhappy with him. This Hero was clueless. It was as if he expected her to read his mind and figure out for herself why he's acting like such a jerk to her without him explaining himself to her. He viewed her complaints about his PA as her being childish and jealous. And he couldn't understand why she would feel that way even though many of their time together would get interrupted by his PA's work demands and he never explained to her why he felt beholden to his PA. He acted so clueless and unsympathetic to heroine's needs about 2/3s of the book until he begin investigating outside sources that may confirm heroine's allegations about his PA's deceit and manipulations. If it wasn't for these 3rd-party confirmations, I think Hero would still side with his PA and see heroine as the manipulative and jealous liar. But since there were, Hero saw his mistakes and regretted not believing her. He also became more emotionally open to heroine and started telling about his secrets. I believed his confession that he never had an affair with his PA and any other woman during their marriage. He was too wrapped up in his fears of another suicide among his family that he treated her with special care when she would act depressed. His attempts to keep heroine safe from danger and unpleasantness completely backfired on him since his strategy was to keep her from knowing any of his negative past (i.e., mother's suicide, brother's death, his 1st wife's death). And he couldn't figure out why she'd be so unhappy that he wasn't sharing himself with her other than his body. Heroine's assertiveness spurred Hero and their unequal marriage to change. Hero started talking and opening up and became vulnerable to her when it finally clicked in his brain this was a better way of dealing with his issues. His cluelessness and aha-moment towards the end about sharing himself with heroine made them more equal emotionally and relationally. The change in Hero was believable and I see them having an HEA if heroine continued being assertive and independent and Hero open and considerate.