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REVIEW: Public Scandal, Private Mistress by Susan Napier

Dear Ms. Napier:

This was a bit of a surprise to me given how explicit it is. It read more like a Blaze at times than a Harlequin Presents. I also thought that it had a bit of a different HP feel. I wonder what those who don’t like HPs would feel when reading this one. The heroine, Veronica Bell, a New Zealander, was in Paris for Bastille Day before she heads to the South of France to fill in for her flighty sister. While staying at a rental flat in Paris, Veronica would, from time to time see this very gorgeous Frenchman. She decides, on her last day that she wants to finds someone to spend Bastille Night with. Gathering her courage, she goes to the cafe where she often sees him reading his newspaper and proceeds to pick him up. I can’t actually remember the last time I read about a woman propositioning a man and in such a straight forward way. He makes her work for it too. I have to admit I think that this scene set my expectations of the book in a very positive way.

Veronica and her stranger Frenchman have a one night fling and then she leaves him in the early morning hours and sets off for her fill in job for New Zealand food author, Melanie Reed, down near Avignon. Karen, Veronica’s flighty sister is Melanie’s personal assistant, but got a call to do a modeling shoot in the Bahamas. Veronica agrees to do the personal assistant duties until Karen gets back. It works well for Veronica because she’s setting up a business as a corporate gift buyer and it will give her an opportunity to scour the countryside for unique gifts that she can sell through her new business.

Lucien Ryder is Melanie’s stepson and Veronica is in for a big shock when she makes it down to the vineyard thinking she left her one night stand behind. Lucien is none too pleased that Veronica left without word and thinks that she’s some reprehensible tabloid journalist who lured him into her bed to get a big story of him. Veronica senses immediately that she could fall for him, bu that she wouldn’t walk away from a prolonged affair without being hurt:

He talked very persuasively of passion and exploration, but there was no mention of any desire for emotional intimacy in his suggested affair. While he might be able to retain the necessary detachment, Veronica was less sanguine about her chances of walking away with her heart intact. A few hours in his company had already caused her as much turmoil as pleasure, filling her with conflicting doubts and yearnings. She was afraid that with continued exposure she could very easily fall under the spell of his forceful, charismatic personality and end up with a guaranteed heartbreak when he vanished back to his rarefied world.

There is one scene with Lucien’s point of view but it was brief and since we didn’t revisit his thoughts again, I thought it quite out of place. The conflict in the latter part of the story relies heavily on standard mis-communication issues but given the brevity of the story, those issues were resolved without undue angst. There are a ton of coincidences in the book, but they all make sense. Napier has a plausible explanation for everything including why Veronica would see Lucien near her Paris rental and why she would also see him at the Reed home in the South of France. Eye rolling was kept at a minimum.

As I alluded to at the beginning of the review, there is a heightend sexuality to this story, an explicitness that I ordinarily don’t read in HPs. I felt that Veronica read like a modern heroine and that Lucien’s assholeness was a defense mechanism, employed first because he was hurt that Veronica had left him and then because he thought she as a tabloid journalist, and then because she kept refusing him. It was an enjoyable and quick read. I would think that people who haven’t read an HP before might like this one. (Of course I could be totally off on this because I tend to like the high drama HPs). B

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Harlequin 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. Keishon
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 13:26:57

    I have this one, J. Good to know that it’s good. I own quite a few HP’s, in fact, but my heart is not in romance right now.

  2. ME
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 15:59:38

    Hey Jane. this book is most likely hotter because they’re actually Modern Heat or Mod X I think they’re called in the UK. They’re under the presents umbrella but have a younger feel and yeah, the sex is hot! I enjoy them a lot more than a presents

  3. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 15:59:43

    It was first published in the Modern Heat line, which is really quite different from the Modern line (which is what Harlequin Presents are sold as in the UK). For some reason the Modern Heats have sometimes been sold in the US as Presents without the difference of line being noted prominently. At other times they’ve been sold as Presents Collection, I think.

  4. jmc
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 18:10:29

    Napier is one of my autobuys, although she hasn’t written much lately. And I liked this book a lot, but the Big Misunderstanding at the end had me rolling my eyes a bit. Oh, the melodrama!

    I read this one and two October HPs (Robyn Donald and Helen Bianchin), and the heightened sexuality was very noticeable in this one and Bianchin’s. Not just in terms of length and detail, but also language. The clitoris and vaginal muscles were mentioned without euphemisms. When did HPs start okaying that? Although I guess if these are Modern Heat and just wearing an HP label for the US, the shift/change makes sense.

  5. Jane
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 18:15:43

    @Keishon – I will be interested in hearing what you think about it.

    @ME and @Laura Vivanco – thanks for the details. That makes sense. It was surprisingly modern and sexual for an HP.

    @jmc – I thought you had to give Napier big props for making all those coincidences totally believable. I thought that was a pretty good piece of plotting. Yes, the ending with the Big Mis was a bit of an eye roller but because it was resolved fairly quickly it wasn’t a huge irritant.

    Like you, I thought that the language (nipple sucking!) was very explicit. I had to remind myself I was reading an HP through much of the book.

  6. Ann Bruce
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 18:28:02

    Actually, a few of Susan Napier’s older titles could crossover into the Blaze line. Of course, maybe she did kick up the heat for the Modern Heat line. Since she’s an autobuy for me, I’ll find out shortly.

  7. Gennita Low
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 18:45:11

    Oooh good, a Napier is out! I’ve missed her. Off I go to get me the latest! I always find Napier’s style right at the edge of a Blaze in the Presents situations. And a Bianchin for Oct! I’m in Presents heaven ;-).

  8. Sami
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 20:44:52

    I’ve been reading Napier’s books since way back when, and to my mind they always were a little different than the standard HP. Her heroines are always strong and independent, not faux strong and independent that quickly turns to mushy-mushy-sacrifice-myself-for-him by the end, like some (not all!) of the HP books. I’m pretty sure it was a Napier book of 10+ years ago that featured a virgin hero and a more sexually experienced woman who picks him up at a holiday resort. Wish I could remember what that was called.

  9. Brenna
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 21:47:13

    Love Susan Napier and she’s an auto buy for me. She’s one of the remaining Mills&Boon author that I still buy, the other one being Michelle Reid. They are what I call my guilty pleasures. I have her complete backlist and I’m glad that she’s back after taking a break from writing for a year or two I think. Her characters are always interesting, not the typical stereotype we always read. Now I’ve just got to buy the ebook version of this book.

  10. Jane
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 22:20:56

    @Brenna – sadly there are so few Napier books in ebook format!

  11. Elly Soar
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 22:49:36

    @Sami – Luke wasn’t totally a virgin, he had had sex like once many, many years before, but that was “A Lesson in Seduction”. “Secret Admirer” did have an actual virgin hero though. Susan Napier’s an autobuy for me too, but not a guilty pleasure – Cherry Adair fills that notch for me.

  12. Helen Burgess
    Oct 26, 2008 @ 12:26:29

    I think I am getting the hang of HP’s. The title could be said to represent the contents but generally in a very misleading way. Before coming to this site, the only interest I had in these books was to laugh at the titles. I have tried a couple now recommended on this site and felt brave enough to pick up “Millionaires Inexperienced Love Slave” the other day, in the certain knowledge that it would not be anything to do with love slaves,(certainly not in the BDSM way). It was a sweet story about a widow recovering from her husband’s death and moving on. She was the millionaire incidentally.

  13. Ann Bruce
    Oct 26, 2008 @ 21:42:13

    Helen – They’re both millionaires in Miranda Lee’s book.

  14. MaryK
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 16:46:49

    I liked this book a lot, but the title stinks. She’s not his mistress – they’re lovers! Based on past usage of “mistress” in HP titles, it implies something completely different and assumes some kind of arrangement where the hero supports the heroine. IMO, the HP titles have gotten even more over the top lately. They’ve been cheesy for a while, but now they aren’t even accurate. It’s gotten to where I won’t even pick one up unless I’ve read the author before.

    Anyway . . .

    I really like Susan Napier. Does anybody know if she’s written anything else? Her voice is kind of unique in HP, and I would’ve thought she’d have written a single title or two.

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