REVIEW: Working Arrangements by Ellen Wolf
Dear Ms. Wolf:
When I first started this book, I wondered if was a reprint of a formerly published book because I felt like I had read it before. I double checked and no, it was a self published work and possibly your first one. Yet, I had read a story very similar to this called In Bed with the Boss by Susan Napier which is one of my favorite Napier books. The more that I read “Working Arrangements”, the more uncomfortable I began to feel. This wasn’t plagiarism. There was no overt copying of text but the story sequence that played out was incredibly familiar.
The hero in both books are owners of multi millionaire dollar tech companies. The heroine in both books is his personal admin. The heroine in both suffered the loss of a lover. In In Bed, the heroine lost her husband; In Working Arrangements, the heroine lost her fiance. In both books, the hero was good friends with the former lover.
The story opens in both books with the heroine admitting that she just got engaged the night before. In both books, she is afraid to reveal the truth because she knows her boss will not be happy with the results. It is apparent, from the setup in both books, that the hero has been waiting until the heroine has recovered from the death of her lover in order to make his move.
In both books, the heroine has only been dating a few months and she has been dating a man with whom the hero has had a past bad experience. In In Bed, the man owns a rival firm and Working Arrangements, the man is a journalist who wrote an untrue story that endangered their business.
There are passages throughout the book that ring with similarity:
In Bed with the Boss: “…You don’t talk to me about the women that you date!’
‘That’s because—’ He broke off, and his eyes narrowed on her pink face. ‘No, I don’t, but that doesn’t prevent you knowing about them, does it? You field my calls, open my mail and have access to my diary and hard drive, and what you don’t know I’m sure the grapevine provides—this place is a hotbed of internal gossip and the network bulletin board seems to keep well up to date with jokes about my social life. I bet you end up knowing the women in my life better than I do!’
Working Arrangements: It is hard to overlook when I am the one who goes through your bills from the florist and the jeweler, isn’t it?’ Hiding her vulnerability behind sarcasm seemed to work, she decided. She was furious with herself for this unfortunate slip of her tongue. ‘You are very generous to your women, Luke. That should certainly be applauded, I admit.’
Both accuse the heroine of being pregnant:
In Bed With the Boss: His brain was already fast-forwarding to other possibilities. He was piecing together her unease, her embarrassment and unaccustomed reluctance to get to the point. He blanched. ‘Are you pregnant?’
…That was going too far, even for Duncan. Kalera leapt to her feet, her slight body vibrating like a tuning fork as she matched his outrage. ‘For goodness’ sake, what rush? We haven’t even discussed a wedding date yet!’ she yelled. ‘We’ve only just got engaged. Of course I’m not pregnant. Do you know how insulting you are? Believe it or not Stephen wants to marry me; he’s not doing it out of duty or necessity or because he’s been trapped into retrieving my soiled honour. If you’d stop trying to cram words into my mouth you might have time to listen to what I have to say!’
Working Arrangements: ‘Are you pregnant, Laura?’ His face even more forbidding, he glared at her accusingly, his lips one firm line. ‘Is that what it is all about?’
‘Of course not!’ Her angry outburst surprised them both. Laura gritted her teeth with frustration as she lost her usually unshakable control. ‘How can you even think something like that, Luke?’
Both fiances were obsessive and jealous:
In Bed with the Boss: Duncan’s head turned at last, his expression a volatile mixture of bitterness, anger, resignation and contempt. ‘Yes, he had a reason—his own obsession! He always did have a controlling personality but it pushed him to want absolute control in his marriage. He was always demanding to know where Terri had been, expecting her to account for every moment of time she spent away from him, objecting to anything that took her attention away from him—job, friends—both male and female—shopping, family, hobbies…’
Working Arrangements: “There were clouds in paradise, mostly because Eric was obsessively jealous about her past, hating any man that had as much as held her hand. He threw so many scenes where he belittled her and her supposed lovers, she finally had enough and told him to take a break and examine his behavior which he took as a confirmation of his suspicions, following her everywhere and even hired a private detective to make sure he knew her every step.”
Here are some other, chapter by chapter comparisons:
In Bed with the Boss: Story opens at the office. Heroine hands in her resignation in anticipation of her new marriage arrangements to boss’ business rival. He accuses of her of being pregnant. Frustrated that she is now taking off her rings.
Working Arrangements: Story opens at the office. Heroine reluctantly reveals secret engagement to boss’ enemy. He accuses her of being pregnant. She had been wearing a “sign” on her forehead to keep away. Eric, the fiance, is planning a big engagement party. Laura reveals that she is not sleeping with Eric. (See also Ch 2 of In Bed with the Boss)
In Bed with the Boss: Stephen, the fiance, takes her out to a fancy restaurant. Is planning a big engagement party. Fiance is banned from the building. There is a scene that takes place in the restaurant between hero, heroine, and fiance.
Working Arrangements: Laura’s car breaks down. Luke and Laura go to her house for dinner. Have a passionate encounter. Eric calls and she feels guilty. Eric is banned from calling heroine at work. (See Ch 7 of In Bed with the Boss)
In Bed with the Boss: Kalera and Duncan are dancing and recalling the first dance they shared three years earlier when Kalera was married.
Working Arrangements: She tells Luke that she will be resigning and going to work for Eric. (See Ch 1 and 4 of In Bed with the Boss)
In Bed with the Boss: They mention, obliquely, a sexual encounter that occurred 18 months previously while Kalera was grieving and lonely. This sexual encounter was initiated by Kalera. Kalera admits she is not sleeping with Stephen. The story swings back to the restaurant where Kalera meets Stephen’s ex Terri.
Working Arrangements: Laura remembers the sexual encounter that she and Luke shared around Christmas approximately three years prior wherein she was the sexual aggressor.
In Bed with the Boss: The scene opens with Kalera back at work.She is thinking about the end of the evening and how Stephen railed about his break up, making her very uncomfortable. The rest of the chapter is spent watching Duncan and Kalera banter and then work. Assistant says that if it was anyone that Kalera was going to hook up with, everyone thought it would be Duncan.
Anna shovelled her make-up back into her shiny black bag. ‘Yeah, well…I think it’s too weird,’ she sighed. ‘I mean, I always thought that, if you got it on with anyone, for sure it would be the chief.’
Amazingly Anna seemed to understand her incoherent fumblings. ‘Oh, I know he was happy to, you know, like—worship you from afar with his respect and all that while he thought you were still hung up about losing Harry, but jeez, you must have noticed he behaves differently around you…He doesn’t flirt the way he does with other women, and he’s always sort of gentle—you know, as if he’s trying to slow himself down to your speed…’
Working Arrangements: The scene opens with Laura back at work. She thinks back to the dinner she had with Eric where the his ex showed. Ex confronts Laura in the bathroom. Several pages are given over contemplating the past and how the ex made heroine ponder some heretofore unknown flaws in the fiance. Ex is fashionable and gorgeous. It also swings back to a previous day in which the heroine visited friends. This is part of a storyline that is much different than In Bed With the Boss.
In Bed with the Boss: Scene opens at work with Kalera at her desk. Stephen is upset because he can’t get through on the phone. Kalera contemplates her life without Duncan, without her job and she feels uneasy. They interview possible replacements with Duncan liking all the hot ones and Kalera liking all the older, married, male, or lesbian candidates.Kalera cuts herself and Duncan comes over and sucks her finger. The assistant walks in on them.
Working Arrangements: Scene opens at work with Laura at her desk.An assistant wonders as to Laura’s engagement to someone else:
‘I am not so sure he is having so much fun nowadays, Laura… Sometimes I’m almost sorry to see him trying so hard to be on his best behavior all the time. As if he wants to prove to you he isn’t the crazy Casanova you wrote him off as from the moment you joined us at the office, Laura. Too bad you don’t ever notice. Everyone else does, though.’
They make out and the assistant walks in on them.
Luke admits he’s found a replacement for her. (See Ch 5 of In Bed with the Boss)
In Bed with the Boss: Kalera and Duncan are at her house after a long day of work. She agrees to cook for him, something simple. (This the scene from Ch. 1 in the other book) They are having an intimate moment when Stephen calls.
Working Arrangements: Laura is at work, training her hot new replacement Belinda.Laura is getting ready for her engagement party. An anonymous gift comes with a necklace. It’s modest and perfect. Laura thinks it is from her fiance, Eric. (See Ch 9 of In Bed with the Boss)
In Bed with the Boss: Kalera and Duncan go off to Kalera’s parents’ home after she finds her car disabled and must receive assistance from Duncan. She learns that her fiance ex has a son. Duncan tells her that it is her fiance’s but her fiance is convinced (wrongly) that it is Duncan’s.
Working Arrangements: The story opens with the very posh engagement party. It is filled with very fashionable people who have responded to the “perfectly designed invitations that Eric ordered to be delivered with his usual attention to detail.” Eric is upset that she wore such a simplistic necklace and that she thought it was from him. He wanted her to wear something else.Luke arrives at the party with Elaine. Eric challenges their entrance because you can’t come in without an invitation. Luke presents one that Laura had given him. Eric and Laura are dancing when Eric sees something going on with Elaine. He leaves Laura in the middle of the dance floor and chases after Elaine.
Luke comes and takes Elaine away. (See Ch 9 of In Bed with the Boss)
In Bed with the Boss: The scene opens at the very posh engagement party. The party is packed with everyone who has accepted “Stephen’s gilt-edged invitations” Kalera is upset that Duncan has hired a drop dead gorgeous admin by the name of Bettina. Kalera is wearing a dress that she received with an unsigned note. She believes it is from Stephen. Stephen denies it is from him and is aghast she would think he would send her such a loud dress. Duncan arrives at the party with Terri. Stephen challenges him and says they cannot enter without an invitation. Duncan produces one with Stephen calls a forgery. During the party, tension swirls around Terri and Stephen. They face off in the middle of the dance floor. Kalera heads over to smooth things over. Stephen barely notices Kalera and runs after Terri, leaving Kalera standing alone in the middle of the dance floor.
Duncan takes her away.
Working Arrangements: Laura goes to Luke’s house, where he has his own private beach, and they make love. (See Ch 10 of In Bed with the Boss)
In Bed with the Boss: Duncan takes Kalera and his team to a hideaway to finish an important and secret project. He takes her to the beach because he loves it there. They make love. He admits his feelings for her. HEA.
Working Arrangements: Laura finds out that her former fiance cheated on her and had a child. The child was given to the mom who recently died. Guardianship transferred to friends of Laura’s.Chapter Eleven resolves the feelings of uncertainty Laura has due to Luke’s complicity in hiding Joshua’s love child.
It’s hard for me to grade this book. On it’s own, it’s probably a C-. There are deviations in Working Arrangements but I enjoyed the choices that Napier made better. Napier has better facility with dialogue and she’s able to eek out strong emotion with a lot less internal monologuing. Napier’s characters are more vivid and she took greater chances by having the hero not only being good friends with the deceased husband and not diminishing the deceased husband in any fashion. In fact, in Napier’s book the hero feels that his honor which had been impugned long ago by the fiance was redeemed by being a true friend to the deceased husband. Working Arrangements also suffered from grammatical problems such as wrong word usage and pronoun misuse.
There was too much internal monologue. The decision to use only the female POV is challenging because the author has to convey the feelings of the hero fairly obviously while still maintaing a believable fiction of uncertainty of the heroine. Napier is so much better at this than Wolf. I settled on a D but frankly, I find this type of book troubling.
As an aside, I did send a facebook message to the author asking if she had read the Napier book in question but have not received a response. I would send an email but there is no email address or contact form on her website. Update: Ms. Wolf did reply that she has never read In Bed with the Boss by Susan Napier before.