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REVIEW: Mistress for a Weekend by Susan Napier

Dear Ms. Napier:

Book CoverAs far as I know, this was the first Harlequin Presents I read, and honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I had an image of a big, blustery alpha male with a winsome, young heroine, a combination both central to and ubiquitous in both category and single title Romance. Fortunately, Mistress for a Weekend was not the love story of Goldilocks and the Big Bad Wolf I expected, but unfortunately, it did not really transcend its character types, either.

Eleanor “Nora” Lang is as uncomfortable in her long black evening gown as she is alone at the swanky birthday party of an old roommate. Having just that afternoon discovered her current roommate and her boyfriend of five years together in her apartment bathtub, Nora is distracted and furious, just reckless enough to approach the wealthy and “dangerous” Blake MacLeod. Typically bored, Blake has been watching the awkward and uncomfortable “sparrow,” reminding himself of how not his type she is but seemingly helpless against the interest her unpolished appearance engenders. So when Nora accidentally spills the diverse contents of her gargantuan purse at his feet, Blake gallantly helps her recover her belongings – everything from a screwdriver to an extra pair of shoes to a single condom. Intrigued by her freckles, her pert shyness, and the sheer expanse of her purse space, Blake invites the nervous Nora to dinner. But through a serendipitous combination of Nora’s awkwardness, a spilled glass of wine, and Blake’s negotiating skills, Nora ends up in Blake’s hotel suite and completely out of her depth. Suddenly those taunts her newly ex-boyfriend made about her tepid sexual appeal seem less frightening than Blake’s intense and aggressive sexuality.

A frenzied but unfinished encounter, followed by a quick and unannounced escape, lead Nora to believe that she’s free of Blake MacLeod. But because Blake believes that Nora has stolen a disk with confidential information related to an upcoming corporate takeover, he tracks her down, stealthily ensuring that she cannot leak any sensitive data until the next week’s merger. And thus, Nora moves into place to become the entitled “mistress for a weekend.”

Nora is “entitled” at two levels, that of the relationship and the actual title of the novel. But here, those levels really merge, because so much of the novel’s structural development is geared toward moving Blake and Nora into the position that the book’s title describes. First Blake is suspicious of Nora, believing her to have duped him with fake innocence into bringing her to his suite and letting his guard down long enough for her to steal the disk. After all, she works for a rival company and has an incredible knowledge of technology. Nora is completely discombobulated, from her boyfriend’s betrayal, by a night spent with a bottle of vodka in a cheap motel room, and then by Blake’s angry accusations. And just as Blake’s suspicions begin to ease, Nora’s distrust of his motives grows, setting up the perfect context for the kind of up close and personal emotional conflict that ultimately gives way to mutual revelations and the development of a different kind of emotional bond.

To a great degree, that deeper bond is forged because Nora and Blake find each other so much more than expected. Nora may be awkward, but she’s intelligent and talented, in the process of designing a special software program to assist the marine salvage work her beloved brother does. Blake may be dark and dangerous, but he’s also a competent cook and enjoys strong family ties. At the level of the story, the variety of revelations Blake and Nora share creates a strong and almost immediate intimacy between them. But as a reader, I could never share that sense of intimacy, because even those deeper character levels felt typed to me. Blake sees Nora’s courage and vulnerability as she explains how she became so terrified of heights, while Nora becomes softened to Blake when he talks about his myriad sisters and nieces. What made Blake and Nora special to each other was not enough for me to see their relationship transcend the more expansive stereotype of dark alpha hero and sassily feminine heroine. Nora is still the woman whose “vulnerable mouth quiver[s]” with anticipation and eagerness, and who “wrinkl[es] her dainty nose” at a whisky-stained skirt. Blake still needs to “curb his savage frustration” when he “ruthlessly worked the most important deal of his life.” And ultimately, their relationship reads to me as primarily the coincidence of characteristics rather than the meshing of authentic characters.

I found nothing in either Blake or Nora to dislike; they were both comprehensible and clearly drawn. I found nothing in Mistress for a Weekend to actively dislike, either. But for me, not disliking characters does not translate into liking or loving a book. What is it, exactly, that made a relatively innocent woman like Nora so endlessly fascinating to a complicated magnate like Blake? How can a week and a half convince Nora that Blake is the love of her life, especially when she spends so much time feeling overwhelmed by him, emotionally and physically? Innocence and experience may live happily ever after in the poetry of William Blake, but only because of the many layers his artistic vision reveals. Those layers were missing in my reading of Mistress for a Weekend, despite the good-natured storytelling. The writing was pleasant enough for me to try another one of your books, however, and now that I’ve had a tentative introduction to the Harlequin Presents line, I am not hesitant about picking up another Presents book. However, for this novel, I cannot give the book anything higher than a very average C.

~Janet

This book can be ordered from Amazon in paperback or eformat from Books on Board.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

17 Comments

  1. Ann Bruce
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 13:13:55

    I think you bought this on my recommendation, so I don’t know if I should apologize.

    This one isn’t one of her best books, but she’s still one of my favourite HP authors. I’m at work, however, so I can’t glance at my bookshelf and give you a better recommendation from SN.

    If you’re looking for something more typical from HP, Robyn Donald does a lot of foreign royalty, alpha heroes who occasionally tempt me to smack them upside the head, and heroines who shouldn’t be allowed on their own. She’s definitely a guilty pleasure.

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  2. Janine
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 13:45:17

    Hm, I have a couple of Presents titles that I’ve kept but I don’t know if they’d appeal to you. I could mail them to you if you want to try them.

    Have you received your copy of Charlotte Lamb’s Vampire Lover yet? Mine is here and I’m already reading it. I don’t know if I will review it, but I will be interested in your opinion and Jane’s when you two have your copies in hand and are reading them.

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  3. Ann Bruce
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 13:57:30

    Huh. When did Charlotte Lamb get on the paranormal train?

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  4. Janine
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 14:03:06

    It’s not a paranormal, at least, I don’t think it is. I think “vampire” is just a metaphor in this instance. Robin/Janet, Jane and I were all intrigued enough to purchase it when Sandra Schwab mentioned that it contained a scene in which the heroine hadcuffs the hero to a bed against his will and has her way with him.

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  5. Jill Monroe
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 14:19:17

    HPs were my first romance novels. My grandma used to give them to me on summer days when it was too hot to send us outside (she believed children should be in the outdoors at all times). Then we’d discuss the books, pass them back and forth, etc. I couldn’t get enough of them, especially being out in the middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma.

    When the new month would come in, I’d spread them out on the floor and decide which one I’d read first based on the exotic country mentioned on the back cover blurb. My reading tastes have changed, but I always check out the Presents – Penny Jordan and Carole Mortimer are autobuys from my teenage years, and I’ve added Lucy Monroe, Julia James and Trish Morey.

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  6. Gennita Low
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 19:00:01

    Napier has a fondness of freckled heroines who are kind of awkward socially. I can’t remember the one where the hero was obsessed and turned on with the freckles, describing them in ways that made me think of mottled skin!

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  7. Janet
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 00:22:08

    Ann: Don’t feel bad; I was actually glad to read my first Presents and not run away screaming from the bullying hero and the supine heroine. As I said, I would read Napier again, and although I forgot to mention it in my review, I really liked the NZ setting. Any more recommendations from Napier would be very welcome.

    As for guilty pleasures, it’s always a thin line between love and hate with those books, isn’t it?

    Janine: I’m still waiting on my copy of the Lamb book, but I hope to receive it this week.

    Jill: I haven’t read any books by Penny Jordan but I hear her name a lot. Is she the author who wondered aloud why readers enjoy assertive heroines? As I said to Ann, any recommendations for your favorite Presents would be welcome, as long as the heroes aren’t too chauvinistic.

    Gennita: LOL, because Blake is totally into Nora’s freckles, and IIRC, at one point he wonders how they will taste. My favorite rake/innocent books are the old Laura London Regencies, especially Love’s A Stage. OMG how I love that book, especially the way the hero (David Landry) renames the heroine “Prudence Sweetsteeple” upon meeting her. Oh, how I miss the Curtises! At least Nora wasn’t a virgin in this book, though, and I got a kick out of the fact that her ex was obviously a Bad Lover. Although I am a leetle tired of those heroines who get all nice and loosened up under the expert hands of the hero. Fortunately, Napier didn’t play that card toooo heavily, because it would have been easy to do, IMO.

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  8. Kirsten
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 10:11:01

    Hi Robin:

    I’ve never talked to you about my favorite Susan Napier’s because they are all in Chicago and thus inaccessible. Try “The Lonely Season.”

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  9. Maddie
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 11:00:28

    I too like Charlotte Lamb, try Dark Dominion, it’s about a Lawyer who marries an actress the book take place after the marriage where he becomes so jealous he slowly but surely shuts all of her friends, work, from her life. How they work out their problems, I think one of her best books.

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  10. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 12:09:18

    I was actually glad to read my first Presents and not run away screaming from the bullying hero and the supine heroine.

    I wonder where you got that impression of HP? The heroes can be bullying at times but in the books I’ve read, I would not describe the heroines as supine. When I was reading HP’s (late eighties and early nineties, mostly) I remember liking the fact that there was usually a lot of conflict in the books. What I didn’t like so much was that it was so often based on a misunderstanding.

    Jill: I haven't read any books by Penny Jordan but I hear her name a lot. Is she the author who wondered aloud why readers enjoy assertive heroines? As I said to Ann, any recommendations for your favorite Presents would be welcome, as long as the heroes aren't too chauvinistic.

    It’s not a Presents title but Penny Jordan had a single title book called Silver that I remember liking about ten years ago. I haven’t read it recently, so I don’t know how it would appeal to my tastes today. As I recall, the hero was blind and the heroine had had to undergo a lot of plastic sugery, which turned her from an ugly duckling into a swan. She wanted revenge on the man who had killed her father and hired the hero to teach her about sex and seduction so she could then use those skills on the villain. The hero and the heroine didn’t like each other all that much at first, which made for some hot sex scenes.

    I also enjoyed some of Jordan’s Presents books, but I don’t remember the titles of the ones I liked.

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  11. Gennita Low
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 18:57:06

    Janet,

    Do not read Napier’s Mistress Of The Groom. It’s written like it’s a screwball comedy but I still recall screaming and banging the book many times on the table and on the wall as I continued reading about the stupid heroine.

    You will not believe this heroine. I wish I could tell you about what she did to injure her hands. It was beyond stupid.

    A dozen years ago, before I was pubbed, I posted a snarky review of this book because I couldn’t believe the things the hero said to the heroine. It was a popular Prodigy board, with many famous pubbed authors present. I still cringe at how I was complaining about this book to my favorite authors, including Anne Stuart, eeek.

    I still enjoy Napier, even today, but this book…well, it was unforgettable, to say the least ;-). And yes, I’m still addicted to Presents!

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  12. Janet
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 23:36:23

    LOL, Kirsten, you delurk at the funniest moments. Will buy that Napier, asap.

    Maddie: thanks so much for the recommendation; it sound deliciously creepy.

    Janine: I got that impression from the Presents blog, actually. I wish I could find the author comment that I referred to earlier. It was kind of the clincher, I think. Although I’m glad to know it wasn’t an accurate (or at least wholly accurate) perception.

    Gennita: Thanks for the anti-recommendation; it sounds AWFUL (although I can relate to the experience, lol). And what DID the heroine do to injure her hands? Although I’m sorry you feel bad about what you said on that board, I so hate the ‘nice girl” posture in the genre, I get kind of a warm tingle at your story. And your subsequent success in being published (as opposed to those ‘you’ll never work in this town’ threats we hear sometimes).

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  13. Gennita Low
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 10:02:33

    Janet,
    Ah well, those were the days before “snarky” was a word popularized by Net posters ;-). I was writing about books that had TSTL heroines (and it was the Prodigy forum boards that popularized that word, not AAR) on the TSTL thread and it never crossed my mind that I might be meeting any of these authors in person, LOL. Silly me.

    I can give you details about this book since it’s the story and I’m not snarking ;-). IIRC, this particular heroine first broke her pinky finger smacking the hero. The hero destroyed her business as revenge and in order to save her business, he offered her a deal: go to sleep with some old bald businessman and he would call it even. She AGREED! And then in the next scene she was being pawed by the business dude in a hotel room before the “hero” showed up to announce that he just found out that the heroine had an STD. That didn’t stop these two from engaging in dangerous horizontal activity in the bedroom afterwards. The heroine really hurt her hand (having WMS with glove in hand can do that to ya) and took a holiday somewhere. She was baking, IIRC, when the hero showed up again and she was so startled she grabbed the pans in the oven and BURNED BOTH HER HANDS BADLY. With both hands bandaged now, she now needs the hero to, of course, take care of her in ways you can imagine ;-). And that’s just some of the details to whet your appetite. Heh. Go on. I triple-dog dare ya.

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  14. Maddie
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 10:23:58

    I read that book, Gennita and found it funny when she threw that punch, thought is was a good book.

    The thing with Napier is that she stopped writting a couple of years ago after the death of her father, I think he was ill for a while.

    The next book she but out after her his death was not that great.

    Their a quite and fast read and a staple for me Harl. Presents books. But if you want a series book with more meat to them try the Harl. Super Romance Lines.

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  15. Janet
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 13:16:35

    And that's just some of the details to whet your appetite. Heh. Go on. I triple-dog dare ya.

    Gennita and Maddie: You know I want to read that book now, lol! I burned my hands in the same way as the heroine, you see, right around my first birthday (IIRC it involved the oven and my birthday cake). So already I feel an affinity.

    I just got my copy of Lamb’s Vampire Lover yesterday, so I’m really anxious to read that one. Since I’m so damn slow getting my reviews written, I may write up a quick one of that book if it gives me something interesting to chew on.

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  16. Janine
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 13:46:15

    Ooh, I just finished Vampire Lover and can’t wait to hear your thoughts on that book. I don’t know if I’ll review it, because my thoughts about it aren’t organized enough for a review yet. Maybe they’ll organize themselves in the next couple of days and maybe they won’t.

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  17. UU
    May 06, 2011 @ 10:12:35

    Read Susan Mallery’s Holly and mistletoe.U won’t regret it.

    ReplyReply

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