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TBR Challenge: The Ultimate Betrayal by Michelle Reid

Sensuality rating: lightly steamy

Since I couldn’t start reading until Tuesday afternoon,  my pick for this month’s TBR challenge was deliberately as short as possible. It does fit the theme of a “hyped book” though, since I’ve heard it mentioned many times as someone’s favorite Harlequin or as a really different Harlequin.

It is indeed different in many ways, especially for the Presents line. The couple are already married and have three children — we don’t usually see so much domesticity in HPs, especially without any servants involved.  And the issue is a fairly common domestic one: Rachel has been busy with being a mother and less available; Daniel has been working late a lot and under a great deal of pressure. A nasty phone call from a so-called friend tips Rachel off that that’s not the only thing Daniel has been under.

Reid does a good job of making this the sort of angsty read Presents lovers adore, within that unusual framework.  The effect the news has on Rachel and the marriage is painful and believable. There’s a lot of fighting and bitterness. (And one very unusual aspect in a romance — although Rachel and Daniel continue to have sex, Rachel keeps freezing and being unable to have an orgasm.)  Rachel starts to believe that she’s too dependent and boring, and tries to explore some of the things she was interested in before she got pregnant and married at 17. And she tries a new look and flirts with another man.  In a different sort of book, that might all go somewhere and it’s rather disappointing that the story ends with Rachel and Daniel both content for her to continue as the Happy Homemaker without any outside interests.

I have mixed feelings about the way infidelity was handled in the story:


Daniel never actually had intercourse with the Other Woman, though not for lack of trying. He merely took her out to fancy places and let people think they were having a thing, while nobody knew he had a wife and children.  His explanation is he wanted to keep his work and home life separate, with Rachel safe and happy at home. Phooey. On the plus side, Rachel discovering this is not what reconciles them.

Daniel is unpleasant in many ways, making excuses for his actions and speaking nastily of the other woman, as well as forcing Rachel to have sex. (My “favorite” inner moment from Daniel: “He had not forced his body on her more than he could possibly help.” Oh thank you so much for the restraint you show when raping your wife.)  But I liked that Rachel calls him on most of these things, or at least notices them. And he does redeem himself somewhat by being a good father, and not actually bored by Rachel, despite what she thought.

Overall, this was certainly an absorbing read, and compelling enough to make me want to punch my poor innocent husband in the face while I was reading it.  But there was too much I disliked to rate it really highly; I give it 3 stars.  It’s no longer in print, but available for Kindle or used here or from B&N here.

Reviewed from personal copy, probably acquired at paperback swap.


  • This does sound very intriguing, because like you said, it sounds so unlike an HP. A SuperRomance? Sure. An HP? Yeah, not so much.

    Sort of unrelated, but Harlequin cover art always seems to throw me off when pinpointing publication date. I would have pegged this book as being 1980-something, but turns out it’s 1996!


  • @Wendy: Figuring out what era a Presents is from is always an interesting exercise. Except for the really old ones, the covers are generally the least useful clue.


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