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REVIEW: Accidental Mistress by Susan Napier

Dear Ms. Napier:

I’ve slowly been converted to being an HP fan. Being an HP fan means that you are in for a lot of drama and a lot of bruising kisses. The real measure of success for me, in an HP, is how strong the heroine is. Because the men are fairly interchangeable: strong, brooding, goodlooking, and successful. Many jump to conclusions at the slightest drop of a garter. If a heroine can stand up to the hero, I generally find the HP to be satisfying. If not, the HP formula fails.

 Accidental Mistress by Susan NapierEmily Quest, an antique ceramics restorer, crashes a party in order to engage in a felonious act. In order to get away with her mission, she tarts herself up and acts quite bold which is contrary to her real nature. While at the party, a stern and brooding man confronts her, she acts out in an effort to not get caught doing something she is not supposed to be doing and ultimately gets away.

Fast forward, Emily is burned out of her home and is offered refuge in a patron of hers. Peter is an elderly man who has lost his wife who was a collector and often used Quest’s services to restore pieces in her collection.

Emily doesn’t want to take Peter up on his offer, but her situation forces her hand. Upon arrival at Peter’s estate, she finds that a special suite of rooms have been made up for her as well as an entire studio. Needless to say, it appears that Peter is going to great lengths to make Emily comfortable so when his nephew shows up, he jumps to the immediate conclusion that Emily is a no good gold digger. It doesn’t help that the nephew is the stern and brooding man that she taunted at the party or that she is very attracted to him.

Is this an implausible romance? Oh yes. Ethan West has a low opinion of Emily. She is a fraud, possibly a thief, possibly a gold digger, but he is physically stirred by her.

Is it full of melodrama? Absolutely. Ethan takes turns insulting Emily and clutching her to him. Emily is always in situations that are rife with immoral suggestibility.

Yet, I admit I still enjoyed it. Napier has a large vocabulary and she isn’t afraid to wield it.

Oh, God, it was him. This wasn’t just her over-stressed brain playing morbid tricks on her; there was no mistaking that stony visage and coruscating look.

“You mean you didn’t know that you knew me,’ Ethan pointed out with infuriating pedantry.
“I didn’t know you at all,’ she reiterated.
“Not in the biblical sense, anyway,’ he said. “Although not for want of trying.’

This is very standard HP fare (which is why I read them) and I measure these by the asshole to doormat heroine ratio. The grade for the book is inversely proporational to the ratio. In this book, while Ethan is quite the asshole, Emily isn’t the standard doormat heroine so the ratio is lower meaning that the grade is higher. C+

Best regards


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ann Bruce
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 15:38:47

    Yikes! How did I miss this release? Susan Napier is like crack to me, so I’ll be picking up a copy despite the C+.

    Is it full of melodrama? Absolutely.

    Perversely, this only makes me want it more. God knows why, because I can’t stand melodrama in single titles. Now, if you added cheap emotional manipulation, I’d be in HP heaven.

  2. jmc
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 15:43:50

    Love that, the asshole:doormat ratio. :)

    Recently read India Grey’s debut HP, which was full of flimsy plotting and category cliches, so much so that at least 30 pages are dog-earred. And yet I still enjoyed it. It fit the format very well, which sounds like faint praise but really isn’t IMO.

    Objectively, the behavior and melodrama of HPs are not what I like, or maybe just not what I think I like. If you gave me a survey to fill out, secret babies, sheikhs, over-testosteroned bazillionaires, and wilting virgin mistresses would be at the top of my list of pet peeves. And yet I still read at least one HP each month. It’s my crack, I guess.

  3. Jane
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 15:50:26

    Ann – this will be perfect for you because it is all about the cheap emotional manipulation. Isn’t that why we read them?

    JMC – I totally understand what you are saying because really, cheap emotional manipulation and melodrama is apparently very hard to do well.

  4. Charlene Teglia
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 16:06:24

    Oh, this sounds fun! HP, love the melodrama.

  5. Kirsten
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 16:59:11

    You guys are hilarious. Susan Napier is my crack, too, supplanting the late Charlotte Lamb and Ann Mather.

    Check out The Lonely Season, which features a mute…MUTE…(or formerly mute) heroin!

  6. RStewie
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 17:02:01

    OOh! Big Words! I love an author that isn’t afraid of her readership’s intellect! I might have to give this a shot…I wish this would post, though, so I can leave work!

  7. Wendy
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 18:48:45

    Now that’s what I like to see – an HP reviewer who GETS them. Reviewers who try to judge them like any other book just come up short.

    “Perversely, this only makes me want it more. God knows why, because I can't stand melodrama in single titles. Now, if you added cheap emotional manipulation, I'd be in HP heaven.”

    I hear ya!

  8. Maddie
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 20:07:52

    Hey Jane check out her book The Secrets Within, it’s not really a romance book but it was for me a good read, and get your tissue box ready!!!

    Hey I would love for you to do a review on this book.

  9. clara bow
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 20:32:37

    I love the film GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 so I’ll probably like this story, too.

  10. Maddie
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 21:27:09

    Sorry I ment to say Emma Darcy is the author of The Secret Within, that’s what happens when you try to do two things at once post something and watch Christine at the same time.

  11. Gennita Low
    Apr 19, 2008 @ 08:04:43

    Nothing like Napiers. I have to hunt for this one too. Was the heroine freckled? ;-)

  12. Kirsten
    Apr 19, 2008 @ 10:40:51

    In The Lonely Season? No, she was of polynesian blend

  13. Elly Soar
    Apr 19, 2008 @ 12:41:54

    lol – the vocabulary was one of the things that hooked me on HPs – I swear reading HP must’ve raised my SAT score a few hundred points, and it’s still helping today with the freerice site! Susan Napier is the best – I second The Lonely Season rec too – if you can resist that book maybe HPs aren’t right for you.

  14. Rosario
    Apr 20, 2008 @ 04:23:31

    Susan Napier’s the only HP author I really follow. She has some excellent backlist titles. I loved Another Time most of all, I think. Other good ones: Secret Admirer, The Mistress Deception (these two will probably surprise you), Counterfeit Secretary and Reckless Contact.

  15. Stacy ~
    Apr 20, 2008 @ 09:21:01

    I admit to liking Napier’s and Sara Craven’s HP’s quite a bit, for the very reasons you mentioned. They’re like the proverbial bag of potato chips. What can I say, I don’t need fine chocolate everytime.

  16. tyr
    Apr 20, 2008 @ 15:41:32

    The Lonely Season is great! Go for Sweet As My Revenge and The High Valley too.

    No Reprieve and Reckless Conduct are a bit sad though.

  17. REVIEW: Price of Passion by Susan Napier | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 04:01:02

    […] Jane said in a recent review that she measures HP books “by the asshole to doormat heroine ratio. The grade for the book is inversely proportional to the ratio.” In Price of Passion, Kate was not a doormat and Drake was not an asshole. In fact, much of the pleasure in reading the book emerged from having my expectations subtly altered much in the same way Kate’s are. It is clever the way I was encouraged to think as Kate does that Drake is the typical careless seducer; it worked to engage me in the story and to challenge my own perceptions of this particular category line. Because I am still learning to appreciate these books where the hero is so much bigger and often louder than life, I especially appreciated the little subversions here and there. How, for example the “other woman” trope is reconsidered here, and how, again, I had to learn that lesson along with Kate. Then there is the prose, which is certainly dramatic, but sometimes surprisingly elegant, too. Someone had lit a bonfire at the far end of the beach and through the big picture windows she could see the fiery sparks leaping up into the sky, reaching out for the cool sprawl of stars that were just beginning to prick through as dusk teetered on the edge of night. […]

  18. Susan
    Apr 24, 2008 @ 13:02:26

    I was just rereading Lynne Graham this week. Awesome Asshole to spirited poor heroine factor.
    Shades of Twilight: Linda Howard — excellent Sexy asshole to repressed doormat. Beyond belief! But very good reread for me.

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