Three Susan Napier Harlequin Presents: Win, Pass, Fail

A while ago, @Jane_l tweeted that New Zealand based Harlequin Presents author Susan Napier’s back list was available in e version for cheap, so I bought a couple, and it turns out I had already had one in my TBR. Here are three mini-reviews.

All three books had very unusual and complex plots, which kept my interest because they never crossed the line into rank implausibility. And each one had an unusual sexual trajectory, with the sex taking place between the hero and heroine prior to or at the very start of the action in each book. Finally, each book has what I have come to conclude is a Napier signature … a totally bizarre event.

1. FAIL


The Revenge Affair (1999) is my exact least favorite kind of romance. Regan is a good girl whose husband took her for granted, cheated on her, and then went and died. She decides to secretly take the place of her “professional companion” cousin one Saturday night in order to get revenge on her husband’s ghost. She wants to prove to herself, as well as to her dead ex, that she is sexy.

Of course, the john in question is our hero, “Adam” and they share a night of rapturous lovemaking. This was actually pretty interesting: Adam was way late, so Regan kind of wandered around his luxury penthouse, Goldilocks style, making herself a drink, trying out the stereo, and figuring out what she’s supposed to do. Come morning, Regan sneaks out before “Adam” awakes, expecting never to see him again.

They cross paths again a few months later, when Regan is asked to help a distant relative with her wedding. The groom? You guessed it! But instead of feeling embarrassed that he paid for sex the night before he got engaged — or at all — our hero is sure she is up to something. He lashes out at Regan every chance he gets, getting irrationally jealous, calling her a “conniving little whore” … you know the drill. To top it off, he says patronizing and hypocritical things like, “It’s dangerous to make assumptions when you don’t have all the facts”. Pot, meet kettle.

Bizarro Napier Moment: Regan runs away from the hero and hides in a tree while he wanders around on the ground below calling her name. If only she had pitched a rock at him from that height…

2. PASS

Price of Passion (2008) (which I believe you can read free here) [Amazon tells me I downloaded this one back in December. It is no longer available for Kindle to US customers.] is another very unusual story: Kate works for the publisher who publishes bestselling suspense writer Drake Daniels’s books. Drake is known as a party boy when he is on his book tours, and totally reclusive when he is writing. Kate and Drake have been having and on again/off again, no strings attached affair for two years, but now Kate thinks she may be pregnant (I was surprised by this, but that’s because I hadn’t read the subtitle of the book: “Pregnant Mistresses”) so she figures out that Drake’s top secret writing hideaway is in the sleepy New Zealand beach community of Oyster Beach and rents the house next door to his.

See what I mean about Napier writing complex and unusual plots?

Kate is in love with Drake, but has always completely deferred to his “no emotions involved” approach to their affair, and to his long absences due to his work and travel schedules. Now that she is pregnant, she has to … I’m not sure actually. She doesn’t want to use her pregnancy to force him to do anything, like admit he loves her. She doesn’t intend to ask him for money. Heck, she doesn’t even want to tell him about it at all. So the whole stunt of ditching her job and renting the summer house seemed rather unmotivated and murky to me.

Good sexual tension, as Drake can’t figure out why Kate is suddenly refusing to serve as his booty call. And I enjoyed the growth of their relationship — Kate becomes less of a dishrag and Drake less of an asshole — although I’m not sure the relationship ever really passed my egalitarian sniff test, even at the end.

Bizarro Napier Moment: The heroine backs over the hero’s 3 legged dog in her car.

(The setting of Oyster Bay New Zealand and the profession of suspense writer hopefully allow this to qualify as my July TBR Challenge read, a challenge I’ve been very remiss about!)

Book Binge has a full review here.

3. WIN



In Bed with the Boss (1998)  (a bargain in the $2.50 Kindle version) was truly fun, sexy, and romantic. You had the same kind of hero, on the surface, as the hero in The Revenge Affair, but he was so over the top he was comical, and so obviously in love with the heroine, it made all his bluster ok.  Kalera has been Duncan’s secretary for three years, and in the opening chapter tells him she is resigning to marry his archrival. Kalera’s beloved husband, a man portrayed as a wonderful partner to Kalera and a friend of Duncan, had died about two years prior, and in her grief, Kalera had a one night stand with Duncan. Of course, they put it behind them immediately. although she is still attracted to Duncan, Kalera feels her new fiance will be a more suitable partner. He doesn’t make her crazy or mad with lust, he;s solid, and he loves her.

Duncan, who has been waiting for Kalera’s period of mourning to end, is flabbergasted that his archrival has scooped her up, and uses every devious hero trick in the book, including making excuses to get her to stay late at work and crashing her dinners out with her fiance, to get Kalera to change her mind. Of course, it’s a Presents, so Duncan is contractually barred from saying, “Kalera, when we slept together, it rocked my world. Out of respect, I followed your wishes and stayed away, but I have wanted you ever since. There hasn’t been anyone else. I love you. Please give me a chance.”

Instead, he does all the things that seem proof to Kalera that he is absolutely the wrong guy for her — warns her off her controlling fiance (he doubts her judgment!!), crashes her engagement party (It’s all about him all the time!!), and tries to mack on her occasionally (He doesn’t think she means what she says!! He doesn’t respect her boundaries!!).

Amazingly, the fiance — an interesting, if not consistently drawn, character —  is going through a bitter divorce and Napier manages to give us a kind of secondary romance where they are concerned.

Bizarro Napier Moment: It is not easy to choose, but I will pick the scene when Duncan shows up at the restaurant where Kalera and her fiance are dining in the outfit described below, plants himself at their table, rubs up against the heroine, and then takes her out onto the dance floor and practically ravishes her in front of her steaming mad fiance:

“He was dressed from head to toe in black, his sculpted silk velvet jacket cropped like a matador’s, the wide lapels and cuffs stiff with flamboyant gold embroidery.”  Duncan is wearing “soft black ankle boots”, and he also sports, not just any earring, but “an elongated jet and chased gold teardrop” which bespeaks his “wickedly frivolous elegance”, much like that of “an Elizabethan fop.”

Jane of Dear Author has a full review here.

I think I need to take a break from Presents, but I scored a couple more Napier’s in my supermarket book bin, and I do plan to read them. She definitely does interesting and unusual things within a pretty tightly controlled subgenre.

EDITED TO ADD THIS PHOTO of BRIAN ORSER. IDEA COURTESY OF VICTORIA JANSSEN:

Carmen on Ice

13 responses

  1. I love In Bed with the Boss but I do like the others quite a bit too. If you think Napier’s clothes descriptions are outlandish in this book, heh, try Deal of a Lifetime (one of my faves) In Deal, the hero wears a windbreaker, unzipped with no shirt under it, and the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. I kept thinking “calling Don Johnson”.

    Fortune’s Mistress is another favorite but the ending. OY! I really could have used another chapter of grovel in the end.

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  2. NIce reviews. I liked THE PRICE OF PASSION although I agree – the explanation for her renting the house next to the hero’s doesn’t seem to make much sense other than wanting to mess with him. I must read IN BED WITH THE BOSS. Hah, the clothes!

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  3. Susan Napier was always on my must-buy list for HQ Presents in the 90s/early 00s. I enjoyed ‘In Bed With The Boss’ and loved how crazy-in-love Duncan was but ‘The Price Of Passion’ really stumped me.

    Correct me if I am wrong, when Kate first shows up at Drake’s hidaway doesn’t she act as if she never met him before? Didn’t she knock on his door and asked to borrow a cup of sugar? Yet we learn that they have a history. It just got too confusing for me, I DNF.

    Of Napier’s oldies, ‘Mistress of the Groom,’ ‘The Cruellest Lie’ & ‘Honeymoon Baby’ are my favorite.

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  4. @Scorpio – I thought that was a deliberate mislead by the author. & the Heroine was messing with the hero. She was pregnant by the hero and wanted to see whether he loved her, whether he would be a father to her child, or whether she was going to have to go it alone.

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  5. @Scorpio M.: It was odd, I think, the way it unfolded. At first I thought she was a journalist trying to score the big get with the famous author. Then I was shocked to realize not only did they know each other, but had been sleeping together for 2 years. then I was shocked again to find out that she was pregnant.

    @Jane: Yes, I agree it was a deliberate mislead. But I still don’t know why she would want to mess with him. It just seemed odd. but the book got better and better with each chapter.

    I think part of my hesitation is that the heroine really just has one goal: a loving relationship with the hero. She doesn’t so much care about her career, have friends, or anything else. Perhaps that makes her a realistically fitting partner for a mad genius writer.

    Thanks for mentioning your other faves. Am making notes.

    @janicu: Yes you do!

    @Victoria Janssen: Orser photo added.

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  6. LOL! Love that last picture. :-) I read HP off and on, but I have to admit that the few times I’ve read Napier I’ve always ended up cracking up when I get to the bizarro moment of the book, even with books I really liked. I didn’t put it in my review b/c it’s a spoiler, but IIRC, Accidental Mistress has a pretty noteworthy one, though maybe not quite up there with shirtless windbreaker man. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think you’re on to something. It does seems to be a signature.

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  7. Yikes! How does Kate backing into the poor dog advance the story? Also, is it okay that I laughed when I read that? Or should I repent for my sins by donating to a humane society.

    I bought In Bed With the Boss based on a rec by Janet W. I have been looking to explore more of Napier’s backlist. Your blog and the comments have bee most helpful!

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  8. @Victoria Janssen: Priceless. Thank you!

    @Lynn Spencer: Oh I have a copy of Accidental Mistress. Can;t wait to find out what the bizarro moment is!

    @Vi: You were supposed to laugh. Fear not! I hope you like IBWTB.

    I’m off for the weekend. Back with a post Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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  9. Yes to all of this – particularly that she does interesting things with a very tight genre. I’ve hated some of her books and really enjoyed others. Features which crop up a bit:

    – heroines who are taller than the heroes
    – heroes with glasses
    – virgin heroes (I’ve read at least 3 with various reasons given for their lack of experience)
    – heroes with bare chests who feel slightly embarassed about their lack of hair (!)

    And the bizarro moments – YES! Not to mention really toe-curling ones. The two I remember particularly vividly are:

    1. Mistress of the Groom (which you must must read Dionne Galace’s hilarious review of) in which the hero rubs the heroine’s ahem, ladyparts, with some banknotes. Yuck

    2. (Can’t remember the title) in which the 40-something hero fondles the 20-something heroine in front of his 20-something son because he thinks his son is a rival (he’s not).

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  10. Thank you Jane & Jessica, maybe I’ll give TPOP another try. It is on my Kindle.

    @Tumperkin – LOL, the second one you named is ‘The Cruellest Lie’ and one of my Napier faves. What I love about Napier is her audacity. Her plots can be a bit out there and her men are usually uber-Alpha but when she’s good, it’s a great read.

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  11. By God, you convinced me to not only buy a Kindle book for the first time ever, but buy an HP new for the first time ever! I feel so slutty now.

    FYI, the link for In Bed With the Boss is wrong – and it’s currently only $2.25$

    Like

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