Some people watch re-runs of Sex and the City, some people indulge in chocolate comas… one of my guilty pleasures happens to be a Jennifer Probst book, and especially her Marriage to a Billionaire series. Each one of the instalments so far has been like a little piece of heaven for this HEA addict, and this last instalment of a truly beloved series did not disappoint. The Marriage Merger has all the trademark qualities of this author’s writing style – undeniable chemistry between characters, a sense of belonging drawing them together, strong family values at the core of their happily-ever-after, sizzling sex scenes, and deeply emotional connections between the characters and with the characters – all packaged nicely into a story that transports you into a world where the senses lead the way, where people fall in love and stay in love, where the heart can never be denied, and where family comes first and foremost.
In this final book of the series, we finally get to meet the eldest Conte daughter as we watch her find her happily-ever-after. Julietta has always been the responsible one in the family. While her siblings followed their hearts, she was driven by a sense of responsibility and loyalty towards her family and the family business, La Dolce Famiglia. Her ambition and stubborn determination to leave her mark in an industry where being a woman is her only downfall, Julietta has dedicated her life to making her family proud of her and to continuing a legacy started by her late father. She carefully controls all aspects of her life, leaving very little time to pursue personal interests. Her few attempts at finding what her siblings all have found – true love – have all ended in disaster, leaving her convinced of being frigid and incapable of feeling true passion. She blames herself for her body’s inability to keep the flame burning during the sexual act, and believes that no man would ever want a woman like that in his bed.
“No man had ever wanted her enough.”
Sawyer Wells is a successful self-made businessman, known for his ruthless business sense and his perennial bachelor status. His private life remains a mystery to even those closest to him, but his evident loyalty to those he cares for precedes him and only adds to the overall mystery of the man behind the impeccable business suit. When Sawyer approaches Julietta and makes her a once-in-a-lifetime business proposition, Julietta finds herself not only at a professional crossroad, but also at a personal one as well. Her attraction to him is unlike anything she has ever experienced before, raw and uncontrollable, and the object of her attraction appears to have the same primal reaction to her.
“He was a primitive wrapped up in civilization.”
Another proposition takes place, one of an indecent kind, and Julietta’s world tilts on its axis. For the first time in her life, a man succeeds in awakening her body and making her feel everything. Every touch burns her skin, every kiss curls her toes, every earth-shattering orgasm wrecks her and helps her find the passionate woman hiding inside her. But while Sawyer might be able to read Julietta’s body the way no man has even tried before, and he knows exactly what her body craves in order to let go of its mental restraints, he is also a man not interested in a romantic connection. He believes himself incapable of offering love to anyone, especially to a woman as deserving of love as Julietta.
“He ached to give her what she needed, but he’d been numb for so many years, he didn’t know how to feel any softer emotions, especially love.”
As always, however, there is no denying Cupid and what is meant to be eventually happens.
This book is in so many ways a bold departure from the previous books in the series. It follows a well-known winning formula, but it also delves deeper into the characters’ psyche, confronting them with slightly profounder personal issues as it tackles some more serious themes such as physical abuse in the form of flashbacks from their past. It also skims over certain sexual proclivities such as domination and submission, admittedly at a very mellow ‘vanilla’ level, but it adds a new flavour to the pot and let me tell you, it is delicious! I do believe some of the terminology could have been used with greater care, as having dominant tendencies in the bedroom does not make a person a Dom, but this ultimately did not matter – the gentle dominant/submissive dynamic between the characters succeeds in achieving the intended result believably and the reader enjoys every second of it. Every. Single. Mouth-watering. Second.
“I want to discover every hidden secret of your body and a thousand ways to make you scream my name… A reminder of the basic rules. Do everything I say. No talking unless I ask a question. And absolutely no thinking. I’ll do that for both of us tonight.”
I cannot tell you how bittersweet it was to read this book and know all along we would be leaving this world behind after this last instalment. I am hoping characters such as Wolfe get their own book one day as I am not quite ready to give up my little guilty pleasure just yet. Ms Probst knows how to make us escape reality, how to ignite our senses, how to make our hearts drop one minute and elate us with happiness then next. Pure escapism. Pure delight. Pure sizzle.
“You wrecked me, Julietta. You tore me apart piece by piece, and then put me back together.”