The Spanish Groom by Lynne Graham has all the elements of a sensational Harlequin, with a Cinderella-like heroine and a wealthy, alpha-male businessman hero who’s really a big softie.
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #2037
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠
The Spanish Groom is a 1999 Harlequin Presents by Lynne Graham that closes out the decade/century/millennium with a new kind of hero. The plot takes the common marriage of convenience trope and puts a sweet spin on it with two great main characters who have you rooting for them from the moment they meet-cute.
At first, César Valverde seems like the typical cold, enigmatic, impossibly sexy, jet-setting, wealthy playboy that has long reigned supreme in HPlandia. In reality, he’s what the kids call a “cinnamon roll” hero, whose cold exterior masks a sweet and mushy center. Any woman would be delighted to have this super-supportive hunk by her side because he’s her greatest champion.
César is secretly besotted with Dixie from the time he spots her getting a midnight snack in her t-shirt and undies and realizes she’s not fat at all, as her clothes make her look that way. No, she’s thicc and juicy, like one of his teenage fantasies come to life. Daisy has no clue about this, going on about her feelings for “what’s his name” (the other men in Graham’s books are never memorable, especially when compared to Mr. Sex-on-Legs hero).
Dixie Robinson is one of the best heroines to emerge from Lynne Graham’s stable of eccentric, “secretly-beautiful-but-unaware” orphan protagonists. They typically pine after one guy (who’s not fit to shine her shoes) only to meet a 6′ 2″ (at minimum) Italian/Greek/Spanish hundred-millionaire or billionaire who falls madly for her.
After their first night in the sack, the hero thinks his heroine is the best sex ever (even if she’s an inexperienced, purely reactive lover who lets the hero do all the work)!
Daisy is clumsy and voluptuous (but since she wears unflattering clothes, people presume she’s fat). She’s a sweet Pollyanna who loves animals, the elderly, and babies. The traits that make her different than the typical Lynne Graham heroine are she’s not bafflingly stupid or gullible, she’s a rare brunette (90% of Graham’s leading ladies are blonde or red-haired), and she has a bigger backbone than most.
Dixie and César: Two Dissimilar Peas in a Pod
César and Dixie are polar opposites. César is a successful merchant banker businessman with no time for frivolities. Dixie is a free-spirited 20-year-old who has been taking care of her dying stepmother for several years. Thus, she lacks business savvy as she had no formal schooling after age 16.
Dixie came to the rescue of César’s elderly godfather, Jasper, when teenage hooligans roughed him up. As a result, the old man takes a liking to the effervescent Dixie. He convinces César to give her a job at his bank.
Dixie reveals to Jasper that she’s massively in debt. Her globe-trotting, shopaholic stepsister–a model–left Dixie holding the bag as they were both named on the loans. César soon offers her a temporary engagement to please Jasper, who is in declining health.
Jasper is delighted to see his two favorite people together. César and Dixie’s fake engagement turns into a marriage of convenience to make Jasper happy.
Dixie’s stepsister, Petra, is the epitome of a scheming HP “other-woman-who makes trouble.” She abandoned Dixie to care for her ailing mother alone. Petra and her mother were both tall and slender, which made Dixie insecure about her massive curves. So Dixie always dresses in oversized clothing to hide her zaftig figure.
A Marriage of Inconvenience
César declares that Dixie needs a makeover, as he is a lofty businessman, and any wife needs to match his sterling image.
But after that (previously mentioned) glimpse of Dixe in her revealing night clothes, he is fascinated by her… attributes. Dixie’s bright and gentle nature, which differs from César’s personality, is intimidating. He struggles to hide his feelings with little success.
They draw closer, and passion has its day—or night—although they try to pretend it never happened. But César can’t help but fall in love with Dixie, craving her affection and attention.
As the story progresses, Dixie falls in love with César—naturally. When she finds out she’s pregnant, she’s elated yet feels anguish because she thinks he doesn’t love her.
And Cesar is gaga for Dixie but thinks she’s in love with her old flame, whom she mentions much too often, to César’s displeasure.
When Dixie’s sister Petra arrives from a trip to the Continent, she looks at César and tries to do her “evil-other-woman” best to separate the couple. However, in a refreshing change of pace, our hero César will have none of it, tossing her out on her skinny rear.
Adding to the mix are Dixie’s pets, a fierce dog named Spike, who is terrified of men, and a goldfish she calls César in honor of our hero.
Will these silly kids ever try communication and finally reveal their secret love for one another? It’s a Harlequin, so what do you think? 😘
César has a devasting appeal as a hero, partly because he’s so grumpy around Dixie. At first, he’s a bit cold to her, not really into the whole marriage of convenience thing.
Then after one night of glorious, unforgettable passion, he all but wears his heart on his sleeve as he pines after his wife. It’s evident to the reader that he is head-over-heels gaga for her. This makes him very different from the usual stoic Harlequin Presents heroes who only slowly reveal their true feelings (usually near the last quarter of the book–if that).
César also scowls and grumbles whenever Daisy mentions the other guy, and this insecurity makes him very lovable.
César Valverde is a fascinating and devilishly handsome hero, certainly a favorite. His fascination with Dixie’s gentle and bright nature and hidden beauty is so cute, and it is clear how he completely and madly fell in love with her. The journey of their love story was beautiful, and I found myself swooning at how wonderful César was.
Dixie is a charming and funny heroine who shines throughout the book. She is a good-hearted person who strives to think the best of everyone she meets. Her naiveté and ignorance of César’s feelings made her adorable, and I could relate to her clumsiness.
I loved The Spanish Groom. Lynne Graham managed to take the usual HP stereotypes and turn them into something fresh and remarkable.
While passionate sex is a factor in Dixie and César’s relationship, the scenes don’t quite reach the super sensual levels of Graham’s later books or Miranda Lee’s sizzling reads. I’d label this one as warm.
As César might say “Hace calor.” Or, more likely: “Fa caldo.”
I have a minor quibble with the title, The Spanish Groom. The More-Italian-Than-Spanish Groom would have been more fitting. César was raised by his Italian mother and spoke Italian whenever he got emotional. But I don’t think Lynne Graham had anything to do with the naming of the book. Harlequin/Mills & Boon’s editors usually come up with these brilliant titles.
Final Analysis of The Spanish Groom
The Spanish Groom is a must-read for any fan of the genre. It is hands down one of the best HP outings and sets a high standard for what an HP could be in the modern era.
Graham created a romance that is both funny and entertaining, and the chemistry between César and Dixie is undeniable. The book shows that love knows no bounds, making it an incredibly satisfying read.
Please don’t take it from me. If you go to Goodreads and check the Harlequin forums and best-of lists, The Spanish Groom is consistently at or near the top rankings. Among HP fans, this book is considered a standout in the line. The book’s well-written characters, unique twist on the traditional Harlequin formula, and touching love story can’t fail to delight readers.
Lynne Graham was at a high point in her career when she wrote The Spanish Groom, where she could do no wrong. She managed to turn classic tropes into something fresh, unique, and delightfully unforgettable.
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(Cover points don’t count for this one.)
It started with a ring…
César Valverde was the man with everything. But his beloved godfather was in poor health, and César knew that it would please Jasper if he got married, preferably to Dixie Robinson… Well, perhaps a temporary engagement would be enough to make Jasper happy.
And ended in marriage…
Beneath Dixie’s baggy sweaters César discovered a beautiful, sensual woman. Within a week his bachelor days were over; Dixie had become his wife for real, and, unbeknown to him, the mother of his child!The Spanish Groom by Lynne Graham