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REVIEW: Entry Level Mistress by Sabrina Darby

Dear Ms. Darby:

Reading Entry Level Mistress was like going out on a date with a fun guy, the sort you start thinking, “Hmmm… He seems pretty cool. I think I’d like to see him again.” And then, blam, over dessert, he says, “Let me pay for dinner. I wanna get lucky.”

I would have walked out on said date. I did, though utterly annoyed, finish Entry Level Mistress. I then had to wait a week or two to calm down before writing this review.

Let me explain why.

Entry Level Mistress by Sabrina DarbyEntry Level Mistress is a self-pubbed work. It tells the familiar tale of gorgeous 21-year-old Emily Anderson and  31-year-old billionaire alpha male Daniel Hartman. Emily and Daniel have a long history together although, when the book begins, they haven’t seen each other in over a decade. Emily blames Daniel for sending her father to jail and Daniel blames Emily’s father for ruining his parents’ marriage. Now, Emily is newly graduated from college and set on revenge. She gets herself hired at mega-corporation Hartman Enterprises and plots Daniel’s–he’s the CEO–downfall.

Emily’s worked there for less than a week when Daniel sees her. She’s not sure he remembers her, but whether he does or not, he makes a play for her immediately.

I pushed my rolling chair back from the desk and stood, carefully not looking in his general direction. But I felt when his attention was on me again, or maybe that was my imagination. I crossed the few yards to the kitchen, wondered if not looking was too obvious, and spared a glance to my left. His hand was resting on the metal rim of another cubicle and his head was tilted down, but his gaze met mine.

Shock flooded my body. I struggled for control, forcing myself to play it cool. Then as if he were just another hot guy at art school or the barista at the local coffee house, I slanted him a smile and looked away, quickly hiding from the intense awareness. Three steps. Kitchen. Deep, deep sigh. What the hell was I doing? I pulled a paper cup out from the cupboard and started to fill it with water.

The light in the room dimmed infinitesimally. His polished black shoes were in my line of sight, as were the perfect hems of his tailored trousers. He was clearly a man who cared about his clothing.

“Emily Anderson, right?”

So he knew my name. Despite the relative ubiquity of Anderson as a last name, surely then, he knew that I was the daughter of his father’s old partner.

I straightened. Turned. Sent him that slanted smile. Up close he was nearly devastating. But he wasn’t smiling back. Maybe that intense expression meant something other than the desire I had read. Maybe I only knew how to read college boys, not mega-wealthy businessmen.

“That’s right,” I said lightly. Took a sip of water while watching him. “Newest employee at Hartmann Enterprises … Mr. Hartmann.”

His lips quirked. I almost held my breath, expecting that brief movement to stretch into his patented smirk, the one that had stared out at me from GQ. For goodness’ sake, he was a celebrity, or at least dated celebrities. And I was talking to him.

“Well, newest employee. I’m on my way out to lunch. Join me.”

And it’s lunch, then dinner, then charged sexual banter, and then, after the second date in which his chauffeur picks her up in a Bentley and delivers her to Daniel’s Charles Street brownstone, it’s blow-your-mind sex. After many earthshaking orgasms, Emily refuses to spend the night because she has to be at work, for Daniel, in the morning.

She does indeed head into work and before lunch, Daniel’s texted her to meet him on the 30th floor where he takes her up against the wall. After that knock-your-socks-off interchange, Emily asks him what their deal is going to be.

“Is this going to be a habit?” I asked.

He kissed an inch further up my bare thigh. Was he buying time? Trying to formulate just the right response? I had questions I wanted to ask him. Bold, honest questions that would cut to the quick of our past and our present. But I held my tongue, terrified at the idea. What if he said something that made it impossible for me to stay?

“Yes,” he said softly, his lips moving against my skin.

He stood and leaned closer, slowly stroking my neck. I leaned into his hand.

“And if I text you? Will you come running?”

Again, he hesitated, studying my face, running a thumb along the line of my jaw. What did he see in my expression? His was like a mask.

“I doubt it,” he said finally.

“And?” I prodded.

“You’re coming home with me tonight.”

My stomach clenched at his tone, tight with desire. Yes, I wanted that, but could I continue to let him have his way so easily? Get away with his arrogant admissions? I lifted my chin, raised an eyebrow.

“So this, it’s going to happen your way, everything? You text. I run. You pick me up, drop me off … ”

“I like the way that sounds,” he agreed, a small smirk on his lips, as if he knew there was no way in hell I or any other woman would go for that.


Emily becomes Daniel’s mistress/girlfriend/hookup. She keeps her job, but everyone she works with knows she screwing the boss. This book would have been a disaster for me if Emily cared about her job but she doesn’t.

Emily is a gifted sculptor who has already had two shows in galleries in Jamaica Plains. Come the fall, she’s headed to a prestigious fellowship at Barrows Farm artist’s colony. Her feeling is she does what she’s supposed to at work–earning that small paycheck fairly–so boning the boss isn’t unethical. As she and Daniel spend time together, in and out of bed, Emily (the novel’s narrator) muses on what sort of relationship they have and why. Is it for revenge? For the sex? Are they helping or hurting each other’s ability to move beyond the past?

I was entertained by the first 80% of this novel. When I saw the promo on the cover–A young artist. A ruthless billionaire. A passionate revenge.–I was sure I’d hate it and that it would be indistinctively dull. Instead, I liked it and it felt fairly fresh. Emily’s narration is smart, sassy, and plausibly filled with doubt about her choices. Daniel isn’t an alphahole; he too questions what he’s doing, whether he’s being fair to Emily, whether he’s behaving unforgivably to his other employees. They are a fun couple to read.

Ms. Darby does an excellent job of infusing her prose with palpable sexual tension. I like the way sex is described in this book: it’s hot, not crude, and offers just enough detail. Here, Emily and Daniel are in bed for the first time.

He wasn’t the first guy to go down on me. Despite what my eighth grade human development teacher warned our all-girls class about, boys these days know they need to at least make an attempt, even if most of those attempts are sloppy, aborted efforts. But this was way past try; this was a skilled manipulation of my body and I reveled in it. With each lick, each caress, he found the places that pleased me most and discovered the rhythm that turned pleasant into astonishing. I threw my head back on the bed and gave in to the rising tide, focused on that build, on the swirling colors of it, on—

I bucked against his mouth and hands uncontrollably, felt him move, hold onto my hips even as I shook and trembled. And then he was sliding over me, inside me, and I gasped at the sharp fullness of my highly sensitized body.

I was willing to accept the moral iffiness of their work/sex/power issues because both of them are clear about what they are doing, who has the power (mostly, but not all, Daniel), and how dangerous their relationship is to both of their well-beings. I was enjoying myself. And then, it happened.

(The rest of this review spells out the ending of the novel so I’ve hidden it.)

[spoiler]Emily and Daniel have, for the first time, unprotected sex after which Daniel for reasons that have nothing to do with the sex, breaks up with Emily. They part and then as Emily gets ready to go to her fellowship, she realizes she’s pregnant. This made me crazy. Why? Why throw in a baby plot here? The story didn’t need it and I disliked the way it took over the novel.

Weeks go by. Emily doesn’t tell Daniel. And she’s fairly sure she’s keeping the baby. She gives abortion a passing thought.

If anyone had asked me how I felt about terminating a pregnancy just a few months ago, when I was in college, I would have said it’s a viable option if the situation would ruin the mother’s life. Except, I’m the one who ruined everything. Not this … nascent life, which was causing small changes in my body that made denial, at least to myself, impossible anymore. I wasn’t a child and helpless. Yes, there would be sacrifices but …

Now, it’s not I think every woman who get pregnant in novels set in contemporary Massachusetts (a state with comparatively liberal abortion laws) should consider abortion. But there’s no way that Emily, as written by Ms. Darby, wouldn’t give it some serious thought. She’s 21, professionally successful, and–in what the reader sees of her–not religious. She’s comfortable with and very aware of her sexual self. She’s ruminated on the impact her relationship with Daniel might have on her career. I found her “I’m pregnant and that’s it” mentality almost impossible to square with the Emily in the rest of the novel.

Worse, when Emily is three months pregnant, Daniel finds out about the baby from her father and immediately comes to her side. He touches her stomach, tells her he loves her and wants to be there for her. After some unbelievable “No, I won’t be with you just for our baby” talk, Emily realizes Daniel is the life for her. Not just the man, the life.

This kiss, this love, was no game.
And I was twenty-one, pregnant with his child, just beginning to discover my own purpose in life.
“Make me the happiest man,” he murmured against my lips. He sounded happy, lighter, the way I felt inside….”

Later she says with awe in her voice, “Emily Hartman.” And the ending seems like that really is it for her. Here again, I don’t mind when a happy ending is marriage and babies. What I mind is when that ending feels wrong. I felt as if I’d been reading one novel and then, boom, there’s a baby and everything yields to its natal sway.

Maybe it’s because I have kids Emily’s age, maybe it’s because I, who am a wife and mother, think I’d be miserable if those two things were all that defined me. All I can tell you is I hated the ending of this book with a passion.[/spoiler]

I don’t know how to grade this book because it’s possible the loathing I have for this book’s resolution is my problem. I enjoyed the first 80%. I’m giving it a C because I’m sure had I had a different response to the ending, I’d have given it a B-.

Still somewhat irate,


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I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.


  1. Sarah
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 09:01:57

    Wow, based on the characters’ names, this could be a plot of the TV show Revenge.

  2. bam
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 09:05:50

    I think that’s one of my biggest issues with YA/NA: the HEA at such a young age. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t even fathom settling down wIth a husband and a family at that age, but gurl, you’re 21/18/23/24, there’s a whole world out there for you to explore! Learn how to be a woman first! You know?

    @sarah oh my gee, you’re totally right. I bet it started out as a Revenge fanfic!

  3. Mom on the Run
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 10:20:27

    The older my kids get, the harder it is to buy into stories like these, but that’s just me. I have 24 & 26 yr old single daughters and neither one of them wants to make me a Memaw (thank goodness), much less get married, even though they are both in serious relationships. Of course that would make a pretty boring and long NA romance novel, so I guess that’s where you have to put on your “it’s a book” hat to enjoy it. Kind of like catagory romances set in Atlanta. If you live here, they’re just unbelievable because if there are hot billionaires and socialites and paparazzi around, I’ve yet to hear about it.

  4. Donna Thorland
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 11:07:39

    Does the hero really live in a “brownstone” on Charles Street? Charles Street is all shops on the ground floor, and it’s the rare billionaire who wants to live above a shoe store or bakery. And the neighborhood Charles Street serves, Beacon Hill, is almost entirely brick in construction with a few rare wooden survivors and some occasional granite facades. I can only think of a handful of buildings on the hill clad in brownstone, and those are at the edges of the neighborhood, where it bleeds into the West End and the Back Bay–so the billionaire in the Charles Street brownstone is tough for me to picture.

  5. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 11:11:04

    Friend of Author Alert


    @sarah oh my gee, you’re totally right. I bet it started out as a Revenge fanfic!

    It’s not.

  6. Dabney
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 11:20:54

    @Donna Thorland: The point is made that it’s not a typical billionaire residence. It is above a shop. This is his “real” home; he has a billionaire’s apartment for show elsewhere.

  7. mari
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 11:21:41

    As someone who got married at 23 and still is married many years later (never mind how many!), I can tell you it can work, if both parties grow with each other and into the marriage. I have friends who waited until later in life to get married…if anything, they seem to have had a more difficult time with it. *shrugs* Now my daughter getting married at that age is a different story entirely! ;)

    I suppose I have a special affinity for NA, because its nice to see romances that reflect my previous reality, and something in the culture that promotes marriage at a young age, I see as a major plus.

    I really don’t understand why this character wouldn’t even consider an abortion….it would be one thing if her character arc showed her growing up and becoming a responsible adult, marriage and a child would be part of that, but a bolt from the blue like that makes no sense.

    I don’t understand why contemporary authors don’t have their characters consider abortion, or even get one. Maybe its just a bridge too far for many readers, no matter their personal beliefs.

  8. Dabney
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 11:24:24

    @mari: I’m not so bothered by her marital youth as I am by the sense that marriage and the baby become her.

    The abortion thing makes me crazy. If you’re going to stick an unplanned pregnancy in your contemp, you can’t pretend that option doesn’t exist.

  9. Patricia Eimer
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 11:29:49

    I think this one is a solid pass. If it reads enough like fanfic (even if it’s not) that people think it is fanfic– I’m better off saving my pennies and just reading fanfic.

  10. Charlotte Russell
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 12:02:25

    It may not be fanfic, but I too immediately thought of the TV show Revenge when I saw the names Emily and Daniel and the word revenge all thrown together. Plus the similarity of the father thrown in jail by the hero (or hero’s family).

    Anyway, I’m not really into the NA books, so this one isn’t for me.

  11. Isobel Carr
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 12:04:43

    @mari: Have had this discussion on Twitter until I’m blue in the face. I just can’t grasp women choosing to have a baby (often in circumstances that have major negative impacts on their life) in 21stC America unless they are deeply religious or have some other major reason for not having an abortion (and if so, I want to see said reason or religion play out in other aspects of the book and be expressed in other ways too).

  12. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 12:35:23

    @Isobel… Wait, what? A woman has to justify why she WON’T have an abortion?

  13. mari
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 12:44:51

    @Isobel Carr

    I think it us quite frankly, cowardly for authors to default to baby, rather than abortion, in contemporary romance. The response to such a statement is: “oh, well it would make her dislikable and turn off readers.” I say, it depends on the skill of the writer. Of course you can make a character who had an abortion or considers one sympathetic! But to not even try irritates me. If it is true to the character’s life, circumstances and philosophy, then abortion, has got to be considered, in a serious way. And if the character has a change of heart and has the baby, it has to be believable. Otherwise, I call bullshit.

    Of couse this whole accidental pregnancy thing in c ontemps is annoying too. So unnesescary, INMHO.

  14. Elizabeth McCoy
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 12:55:45

    @Isobel Sometimes people are pro-choice, and they choose a kid. I’m pro-choice. But when I had my first pregnancy scare (at 18, in college, living with my now-spouse), he asked what I wanted to do, and I said, “I’d want to keep it.” (And he said okay, and there was hugging, and the pregnancy test the next day said “Nope!” Moral: get your thyroid tested; irregular ones can be a symptom of hypothyroidism and I would have liked to have avoided some 10 years of that.)

    I agree that it’s probably going to be thought of. I certainly thought of it. But I quickly rejected that one because, well, I wouldn’t have wanted to. I was with a partner I cared about (still do; still married, over 20 years later), we had financial security, and it would have been hard, but I could have coped. (Though, knowing what I know now about how badly pregnancy affected me… *yarp*yarp*yarp* Well, I would probably have wound up dropping out of college till the kid was old enough for preschool.)

    Between personal beliefs not connected to religion, hormonal reactions, and feelings about the circumstances of the potential kid… There are plenty of reasons to choose to continue an unintended pregnancy.

    That said — while we’re in spoiler territory — sounds like it’s a shame the ending didn’t include her sculpting work. “[Married name], award winning sculptor. I like it.” Although, frankly, I kept my maiden name. That’s actually the weirder “automatic decision” presumption, to me. :)

  15. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 13:02:54


    I think it us quite frankly, cowardly for authors to default to baby, rather than abortion, in contemporary romance.

    So the default should be to have an abortion?

  16. Dabney
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 13:18:19

    @Elizabeth McCoy: Elizabeth, I think your choice is one that many women have made and it’s worked out for them. I have two close friends who had exactly your situation and opted to abort and went on to have more children later in life with their partners. My point about the lack of abortion in this book is that I had a hard time seeing this character make the traditional choices she did with as little thought as she did.

    @Moriah Jovan: No. The default should be one that makes sense for a character and the context the author has created. In this book, the default seemed to me to be unlikely.

    I will say that to me, given the prevalence of abortion in this country (somewhere inbetween 20-30% of pregnancies end in abortion), it feels odd that abortion doesn’t show up more in contemporaries.

  17. Melissa
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 13:20:41

    @Moriah Jovan: I don’t think anyone is saying that the default should be abortion. I think people are saying that contemporary heroines who choose to have babies with barely a thought for any alternative course of action are rather thick on the ground– like dukes in historicals.

  18. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 13:47:48

    @Darby I can see your point with relation to the book. However…


    See, here’s my problem with this. If the author has included a baby in the story it’s for a reason. If a baby happens in spite of contraception having been used in the story, the baby is there for a reason. Did the plot point work well or not? Only the reader can say.

    But at some point, particularly since only two people in this thread seem to have actually read the book (Dabney and I), this discussion became about real women, not fictional women, and the choices they make.

  19. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 13:55:40

    In other words, the easy way, in contemporary romance, to avoid the issue of contraception/abortion/babies (if that’s what you want to do) is to not write books that include babies.

  20. Dabney
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 14:04:24

    @Moriah Jovan: No. Sarah Mayberry’s book Suddenly You is a great example of a contemporary romance where the heroine has a baby and it works well. (See my review here:

  21. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 14:31:56

    @Dabney: I’m not quite sure what you’re saying “no” to.

    A pregnancy doesn’t just drop into a manuscript, leaving the author scrambling to find a way to deal with it.

  22. MaryK
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 15:57:59

    @mari: Re accidental pregnancy in contemporaries – there was a news article this week about a Canadian drug company that accidentally included two weeks of placebo pills in their birth control pills.

  23. hapax
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 16:08:49

    A pregnancy doesn’t just drop into a manuscript, leaving the author scrambling to find a way to deal with it

    Of course not.

    But a character doesn’t just “drop into” a manuscript, either, (at least not into a good one), allowing the author to metamorph into any sort of person at the whim of the plot devices.

    And an unintended pregnancy — like being discovering a winning lottery ticket, like inheriting an estate in England from a previously unknown relative, like walking in on your boyfriend in bed with both his secretaries, like being kidnapped by a drug kingpin by mistake — is one of those potentially life-changing events that reveals the essence of a character.

    Except unlike those latter four examples, it is also a life changing event that many (if not most) of the readers have experienced (at least the possibility thereof), and therefore have a good notion of how real people think and weigh their choices under those circumstances.

    I haven’t read the book being reviewed, but I have read far too many (and not just romances) in which an unexpected pregnancy transformed a female character completely in a way that seemed un-foreshadowed and frankly unbelievable.

    It’s not this one particular instance of the trope that commenters like me are upset about. It’s the frequency and consistency of it.

  24. Linda Winfree
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 16:16:47

    RE: placebos in birth control packs — this is how I ended up with 2 children. The recall notice came in the mail the day after the positive pregnancy test.

  25. ducky
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 16:47:39

    Another of these NA books that sounds like fan fic. And my problem in general with the whole NA genre is that that I do not believe people that immature and young can have convincing HEAs. And why is abortion not even an option at that age, such a cop-out by the writer.
    And I am so sick of these gazillionair heroes. Paired with these very young women they are not only cliche and played out but also gross.


  26. MaryK
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 17:43:57

    @Linda Winfree: I’m dying of curiosity. Were they twins or did this happen to you twice?

  27. Dabney
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 17:48:53

    @ducky: I find I am inherently pleasantly disposed to non-gazillionaire heroes. In the past year, I’ve only given top marks to one super wealthy contemporary hero–the musician in Dee Ernst’s A Different Kind of Forever.

  28. Mary
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 18:09:12

    Sigh…I am starting to become tired of the marriage+babies=solution and no more career for you woman ending in romance novels.
    I totally understand wanting to make that decision-my momma stopped working after my sister and I were born to raise us and be there for us as a stay-at home mom, and she never regretted that decision. And she was a super smart chemist working for the government!
    And I definitely think that part of being a feminist (which is what I consider myself) is accepting and being supportive of women who want to be housewives. Like, that’s a respectable decision and I don’t think women should be shamed for wanting to do that OR for wanting a career.
    It’s just in books like this (from what I got from the review-if I’m totally wrong about this I’m sorry!) where the character is built up as someone who wants to do something else (be a sculptor here, yes?) and then in the end is like…actually nope changed my mind! That bothers me. Especially since she’s 21. I’m 20. I can’t imagine wanting to do that. Again, respect to those who do but still…I don’t know. I think I’ve just read too many. Maybe that’s the problem. Too many 20-somethings marrying gazillionaires and never worrying about anything ever again and having 3 also gorgeous well-balanced children.

  29. Mom on the Run
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 18:13:27

    @dabney That was an awesome review and I loved that book. It was on sale last week for 1.99– not sure if it still is. I bought the book because of your review and have recommended to many friends. I think we have similar taste in books so I appreciate your reviews.

  30. Linda Winfree
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 18:48:58

    Sorry, Mary, I wasn’t clear. We finally had a son after years of trying. Discussed his being an only child, etc., so I went on the pill. Two years later, I found out I was pregnant with son #2. I was surprised to say the least. Literally the next day I get a notice that a lot of the pills had gone out with all placebos (no color difference in the regular and placebo pills.). So I have a 15 year old and an 18 year old.

  31. ducky
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 22:08:28


    Yes, the romance genre needs more regular guys as heroes.

    IRL none of the millionairs I know are at all attractive and nice.

  32. victoria paige
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 23:10:08

    I read this book this morning as I was curious despite the rating. The sex scenes were steamy, and like this review said, it was not crude. I did find something missing with the dialogue and that’s when I would do an F*bomb search. :)
    This evening, I read another book which I saw as top pick at RTbookreviews, Office Affair by Jess Dee. It is was an erotica but here’s your regular non-billionaire guy—the sex scenes sizzled and I think it had a great story.

  33. KarenH
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 01:17:12

    I think it’s long past time for a romance with the typical alphahole gettin’ it on with our barely legal ingenue, leaving her over something stupid, and then showing up months later all, “Oh, kitten, I realize you’re just so innocent and we made love without protection, and I’m here to acknowledge the baby you’re carrying and make an honest woman of you!!!” only for her to size him up with a sideways glance and then pop his balloon with a wry, “Dude, it’s the 21st century. I’m on Mirena. I was on a cruise last week and put on a little weight. Chill.”

  34. Persnickety
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 02:11:11

    Oh accidental baby from one time without contraception just irks me now. I know it happens, but as someone who has been trying for way too long, that window of opportunity is so small. And perhaps not an abortion call, but a consideration of the morning after pill would have been more realistic.
    And thank you for the spoiler on that- I can’t finish books that. Spring the accidental baby at the end ( aside from the reality of whether they hit that timing right), it’s too upsetting for a recreational read.

  35. cead
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 07:16:12

    @Persnickety: That’s a good point. Why didn’t they consider the morning-after-pill? In every contemporary I’ve ever read, the reaction after unintended unprotected sex were either was either “It’s okay, I’m on the pill” or she gets pregnant. I had a condom break a year ago. My boyfriend and I made the trip to Planned Parenthood (in a city neither of us lived in) at first light. There was never any question that this is what we were going to do. Why do I never see this in contemporaries? It’s often more realistic than the heroine happening to be on the pill (given the typical backgrounds of typical heroines), and it doesn’t need to be dealt with on-page.

  36. Anne
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 07:23:28

    I haven’t read the book, but I wanted to chime in and say the ending you described really would have frustrated me. I think a surprise baby is a huge issue and would require a large part of the story to resolve, not just the last chapter.

    However, I think we see a lot of that (dealing with a huge issue in a couple of paragraphs or just ignoring it altogether) in contemporary romance. To me it’s still quite a fantasy read most of the time. Sure, condoms are mentioned now, and that’s good, but I don’t see a lot of the conversations like I had in real life. I talked with the men I slept with about unplanned pregnancy, so we knew where we stood before it happened. “We’re having sex. I don’t want to have a baby now and that’s why we’ll use protection, but if something happens and I do get pregnant, here’s how I will handle it… what do you think about that?” Maybe my version of real isn’t very common, but it’s a big step away from what I read in most stories.

    I love romance, and contemporary is a favorite genre of mine, but I read it as more of a fantasy.

  37. Dabney
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 07:38:46

    @ducky: Well, I actually do know some millionaires–what does it take to be a gazillionaire?–who are nice and even hot but they are all over 45, married, and trying to spend more time with their kids. The guys in books–young players who somehow made millions before they were 30 and have time to bang babes aplenty–those guys, I’ve never met!

  38. Dabney
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 07:42:44

    @Anne: I would love to read a book with that speech in it. Honestly, it would make my day.

  39. ducky
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 10:53:56


    Oh, this book I would love to read!

    Also, the person who coined “alphahole” deserves a cookie.

  40. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 21:09:52

    Another Friend of Author alert:

    I’m not sure why the baby at the end was a surprise. Did you not read the first few sentences that opened the book and blatantly foreshadowed a baby plot?

    End Friend of Author, begin contemporary self-employed independent woman who is, yes, a mother and does pursue a career separate from housecleaning:

    I also find it sad that feminism, or whatever word you want to use to defend this mindset that women have to be logical and modern and liberal in their reproductive decisions, and can no longer be emotional about them, has brought so many people to a point of declaring it unrealistic to choose parenthood over a career.

  41. connie333
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 00:43:17

    I have actually read this book and for the most part enjoyed it.
    But like Dabney I was disappointed with the ending. Emily is pretty savvy about most things so why wouldn’t she at least consider the morning after pill? She’s not shown as being religious and finds out that she’s pregnant pretty quickly so the abortion quandry seemed really skipped over. Nothing about the way she’s portrayed suggests that she wants to settle down and have a baby (at least to me).
    Maybe I’m just fed up with so many romances that seem to end with “and then they had a baby and their dysfunctional relationship was suddenly perfect”.

  42. Aisha
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 02:49:06

    @Emily Ryan-Davis: I don’t think that’s what people are saying here. I think what is being expressed is the fact that many of us (including the characters in this book) are fortunate enough to live in a place where we have the right to choose, and as (@Elizabeth McCoy: pointed out, one of those choices, and it is a perfectly valid one, is to continue with a pregnancy. BUT given that it is a ‘choice’, and a life-changing one at that, readers may want some indication that the choice was one that emerged out of some meaningful reflection, especially when it appears to contradict the previous depiction of the character.

  43. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 07:42:19

    @Aisha: Thanks for your perspective. I think this is a matter that will just have two fundamentally different points of view. When I was 24 and unexpectedly pregnant in a dysfunctional relationship, my thoughts were of the “how am I going to take care of this baby” variety, not the “how am I going to deal with this pregnancy” variety. It’s a small re-direction in words but an enormous one in reality. I’m not a religious person or an excessively maternal person and I wholeheartedly support reproductive rights for all women (except 9 year olds having access to a morning after pill at CVS, but that’s a different mess) and I don’t expect or even want women (even fictional ones) to immediately start thinking about their termination options.

    In any event, having read MISTRESS, I do disagree Emily’s decision was out of character. More than that, an issue like an unexpected pregnancy can be character-defining. Reader interpretation obviously varies.

    General fan fic comment: I don’t watch TV that isn’t Sesame Street so I’ve never seen this show commenters refer to. Emily and Daniel aren’t uncommon names, revenge is not an uncommon plot, and it’s not a crime to be unaware of what’s playing on prime time.

  44. Rei
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 11:49:50

    @Emily Ryan-Davis: @Emily Ryan-Davis:

    I suppose I can see where you’re coming from; not everybody wants to read about abortion or even discussion of it in their romances, and, you know, whatever works for you. What gets me, personally, is that there are thousands upon thousands of books that won’t touch ways of dealing with a pregnancy beyond having the baby and hoping for the best. I don’t think I’ve read a single one in which the heroine seriously considered an abortion, or giving the baby up for adoption – much less one in which it actually happened.

    My point is, people who want to read the kinds of books you’re describing have plenty of options; people who want to read the kinds of books described elsewhere in the thread have basically none. Whichever kind of book you’d prefer to be reading, I think we can all agree that something’s off about that.

    [edited for grammar. My brain’s on wrong today.]

  45. CG
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 15:13:06

    What Rei said.

  46. leslie
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 20:33:08

    @Rei: Thank you. Well said.

  47. Dabney
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 20:38:24

    I just watched the 2005 movie Coach Carter in which a young girl, a senior in high school, opts to have an abortion. Her story is a small part of the plot and the choice she makes is presented with tact and care. My daughter and I were struck by how rare such scenes are in film. It’s not just romancelandia that shies away from telling that story.

  48. Rei
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 01:23:33

    @Dabney: That’s very true; it’s a common gripe of mine regarding a lot of media. Glee had an adoption storyline, and that…well, was handled with all the grace characteristic of Glee, but I was kind of inclined to forgive it just because it was there.

  49. Dabney
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 06:14:48

    @Rei: The best coverage of abortion I’ve ever seen is on the show Friday Night Lights. Here again, it really stands out because it is so unusual.

  50. Not so Anonymous
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 07:05:35

    >_> I don’t like all these “friends of the author” who feel the need to defend their friend. Let the book stand on its own merit. You don’t need to be chiming in defending why Ms Darby needed to put a baby into the book to make it work. Also, jaysus, people need to put the surprise baby in the grave, or so to speak. Did that (along with the Saudi Arabia sheiks) go out the way of the dinosaurs back in the early 90s?

    With that said, I’m in my 27 year old, happily married, and don’t consider myself to be a feminist. However, this book made me feel kind of like a dirty Jezebel because she’s only 21 and kept her child while I’m 27 and had an abortion EVEN WHILE MARRIED. I’m not saying everyone who decided to have a child at such a young age is religious or whatever, but seriously, in this day and age, if you were my age and pregnant, why wouldn’t abortion occur to you? I chose to abort around the 10 week mark because I did not want to have a child at the time (I was 25 and rather selfish with my time) and we could not afford to have a child.

    @Persnickety: It is possible. The one time we had unprotected sex and I got preggo from that.

  51. CG
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 08:45:16

    @Not so Anonymous:

    I’m in my 27 year old…and don’t consider myself to be a feminist.

    This makes me so sad. Can I ask why you don’t consider yourself a feminist?

  52. azteclady
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 18:45:53

    @CG: Could be because to many, feminist must be strident, shrill, loud, over-sensitive, irrational, hysterical, demanding, frigid, (insert something else negative and derogatory here)?

    I wish more people understood that feminists only want equal treatment, not “special” treatment.


  53. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 21:02:14


    I have a book that features a heroine who gave a teen pregnancy up for adoption. Her lack of desire to be a parent carries through the whole book, so the adoption background was pretty prominent. Given your desire for/openness to that level of realism, it might surprise you to know readers left vicious reviews about that heroine.

  54. YR
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 21:46:14

    I consider myself a feminist. Uncompromisingly pro-choice. Not religious whatsoever (grew up in Catholic school, but after graduating HS I told my parents I wasn’t Catholic any longer and never stepped foot inside a church after that). By the age of 6 I was telling my parents what I was going to be when I grew up, never faltered on that career choice and as a teenager, planned my life around what I wanted to be.

    Yet when I found myself pregnant at 19, the thought of abortion didn’t even cross my mind. That option was not one I considered or thought about at all. To me, there was no other alternative thinking. My thoughts were, I’m pregnant, I’m having this child, now I need to plan my life with this curve ball I’ve suddenly been thrown. Although I wasn’t a stay-at-home mom (and doubt I ever will be, I’d be dead-bored at home), the career path I saw myself taking since I was 6 years old was no longer an option for me.

    So it doesn’t sound unrealistic to me that a heroine wouldn’t seriously consider an abortion. Or spend a significant amount of time thinking about it. After all, I didn’t, why would I expect someone else to seriously consider it?

    But with that said, I would like to see more books with an unplanned pregnancy plot have serious discussions/thoughts about ALL their options. Whichever way they choose, at least it’s talked about and it isn’t the taboo subject matter any longer.

    Thank you for the review. Although I doubt I would read the book, I found the review and discussions on it very interesting.

  55. Rei
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 02:55:44

    @Emily Ryan-Davis: Actually, that’s interesting – could you tell me what the book was called? There does seem to be a certain desire among some of the readership to maintain the status quo, so that doesn’t necessarily surprise me; it’d be interesting to see how a book with that plotline deals with it, though.

  56. Rei
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 03:05:07


    So it doesn’t sound unrealistic to me that a heroine wouldn’t seriously consider an abortion. Or spend a significant amount of time thinking about it. After all, I didn’t, why would I expect someone else to seriously consider it?

    I suppose it’s that line of thinking which is confusing me the most here. I mean, there are lots of things I wouldn’t consider that still make *sense*, depending on the kind of person you are, so I appreciate them in fiction because fiction is about lots of different kinds of people. I mean, a lot of things that I would do wouldn’t actually make sense for another person to consider, because they’re not me. If I can follow the decision-making process I can usually be satisfied with the decision.

  57. Lori
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 08:59:04

    Okay, here’s what I’m missing: Emily wants to get revenge on Daniel so she figures the best way to do it is to sleep with him and give in to his sexual demands? Why does that sound like a man in the background is whispering, “yeah, that’s it. Now really get revenge and give him a blow job.”

    I’d run over his dog. Might be more effective than sex.

  58. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 14:32:26


    The book is no longer available for sale for a few reasons (not my inability to handle unfavorable reviews). If you drop me an email at emily.ryandavis (at) I’ll email you with the file format of your choice.

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    May 12, 2013 @ 12:02:27

    […] reviewed this for Dear Author. She liked 80% of the book but really had a problem with a late plot twist and the […]

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