Review: Love in the Valley by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookloveinthevalley_susannapier
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Marlow Family, #1
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Hugh Walton
Heroine: Julia Fry
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1985
Started On: December 26, 2018
Finished On: December 27, 2018

Love in the Valley by Susan Napier, published in 1985 is a novel I picked up after encountering a list of lackluster reads and wanting something that would overtake all my emotions. Susan Napier is one of my favorite Harlequin authors that I love to read. Some of her titles have been absolutely riveting, while others have been tedious in a way that only authors who want to project “strong” heroines can make a book tiresome.

Love in the Valley is a book that fits neither category I suppose. It is a book that stands out in some ways and had me wishing that the author had explored the possibilities in her characters, especially the hero who was crafted so well in so many aspects.

Qualified Cordon Bleu chef Julia Fry meets top New Zealand lawyer Hugh Walton when she takes on the job of being the personal chef for the Marlows at their holiday home on the Coromandel Peninsula. Having never met Hugh before, Julia is stunned by the emotions that he invokes in her from the very first encounter itself, whereby she understands that when it comes to their temperaments, they are both different from each other as night and day.

Julia and Hugh’s “relationship” develops through a lot of mishaps that follows their encounters, with Hugh bringing the classic deflection tactic into play that serves as the much needed angst in the story. While Hugh turns out to be cold, distant, aloof, and controlled in the way he carries himself, the passion that I knew lurked beneath the surface remained untapped. But that aspect of his character remained largely unexplored. Of course, there was humor in the story, the kind of snarky-natured humor that Susan Napier is famous for in her stories.

Julia turned out to be an okay heroine for me. I didn’t hate nor did I love her. I guess partly because her character also seemed to lose focus along the way, to regain it towards the latter part of the story. Given Hugh’s past, I understood his nature, why he keeps to himself, and why he in most likelihood would never have gone after Julia in the end. But had the author taken on development of Hugh’s character differently, tapped into the deep hidden reservoir of passion in him, I bet this could have ended up being the kind of story that romance lovers like myself would have adored over and over.

Recommended for those who love Harlequin romances.

Final Verdict: Love in the Valley though enjoyable, is a story that had so much untapped potential.

Favorite Quotes

Julia put her hands on his shoulders, feeling the shifting strength, the smooth, slick wetness of curving muscle. His lips and teeth and tongue were excitingly active, tugging gently at the soft inner skin of her mouth, exciting her taste-buds, drawing her own small tongue into the depths of his dark mouth with gentle sucking motions that were incredibly erotic.  All sensation was centred on her face, but she was gradually becoming aware of his hand splayed on her spine, the hard stomach pressing against the ridge of her hip.

‘What are you going to do?’ she asked breathlessly, with conscious challenge, knowing already what he was going to do, and wanting him to do it.
‘Something I shouldn’t,’ he muttered, lowering her against his mouth, sending sparkling streaks of exhilaration through her body as his limber tongue invaded her mouth, punishing with pleasure. He held her easily, as if she weighed nothing, as he kissed her, tilting and turning her small body with his hands so that he could explore her mouth from different angles. Julia’s hands left the rigid tendons of his wrists and clutched at the solid warmth of his neck as she felt him move, carrying her backwards, hard thighs bumping between her dangling legs.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: True Enchanter by Susan Napier

Format: E-booktrueenchanter_susannapier
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Richard Marlow
Heroine: Joanna Carson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 10, 1987
Started On: October 26, 2018
Finished On: October 29, 2018

After the high of my previous read, The Sister Swap by Susan Napier, I decided that one more Susan Napier was in order to continue riding the high.

Story begins with Joanna Carson, aunt to one talented and quite young Rebecca, acting as a chaperone to her niece on a movie set, where Rebecca was as one of the lead roles. This is how Joanna starts to spend time, albeit reluctantly, with Richard Marlow, the director of the said movie, a man she believes to be too egoistic and arrogant for his own good. 

Richard had been a promising actor himself, who at the peak of his stardom, went out of the spotlight owing to a life changing accident, which saw him return as a movie director. 

True Enchanter, despite all elements that should have made it work, was a tough story to care about. I liked the hero a bit, and disliked the heroine intensely. In my opinion, she is one of those heroines whom you want to see as someone who was pushing the boundaries on the gender equality agenda, but somehow ends up being annoying about everything. But in all honesty, I just found her tiresome and thought to myself good riddance when I skipped bits and pieces to get to the ending. 

Susan Napier writes strong heroines, and pushes the accepted norms in her books. Feminism as an evolving concept has always been challenged by romance authors to different extents. But then there are the heroines who grate on your nerves because of their “strong ideals” and end up giving the story a bad vibe rather than being an empowering figure to the reader.

Recommended if you like heroines who come off too strong. 

Final Verdict: Tiresome in a way that had me skipping parts of the story to get to the ending. It is my faith in Napier’s abilities as a writer that made me even  try.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: The Sister Swap by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookthesisterswap_susannapier.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Hunter Lewis
Heroine: Anne Tremaine
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January, 1996
Started On: October 24, 2018
Finished On: October 26, 2018

After the recent rounds of lackluster reads from Susan Napier, The Sister Swap turned out to be a godsend in the way it sent my senses humming. This is the Susan Napier that I fell in love with when I first read her work, and this is the voice that I seek every time I pick up one of her titles to read.

Anne Tremaine has a big heart, which means that she always puts her family first. When her sister Kaitlin requests from Anne to swap places with her, Anne enters into a deceptive existence, seizing the opportunity, given her thirst for knowledge and want for a college education. With her nephew Ivan in tow, Anne foresees no dangers of her secret coming out, that is until she meets her neighbor aka Professor Hunter Lewis.

Hunter does not want distractions, which includes neighbors who play trashy music loudly enough to disturb his peace. A writer who requires his quiet, Hunter is further disconcerted by the fact that he literally cannot figure out Anne as a woman. Just when Hunter believes that he knows everything there is to her, she surprises him in a way that intrigues him. Hunter does not like it, not one bit at all, which is why his temper gets the best of him where Anne is concerned.

Anne cannot believe that she is stuck with a surly and churlish neighbor the likes of Hunter. But when circumstances bring them together time and yet again, Anne finds that she is rather fascinated by the conundrum that Hunter presents to her as a man. He excites her, arouses her, and irritates her in equal doses. There is no denying that for an innocent like Anne, Hunter at full throttle was definitely going to end up being a disaster. Hunter gets a dose of what its like to be confronted by a woman who is all that he wants, but his fear that stems from the past acts as a deterrent.

I so loved The Sister Swap and what it entailed. I cannot quite figure out why the book has received bad ratings. Because Susan Napier is at her most charming and hilarious form in this novel, presenting to readers two characters that cannot stand each other and at the same time want each other so very badly.

Hunter’s character was riveting. He is equal doses passionate and likes control in his life, especially given the circumstances upon which he had become a widower a couple of years back. He has no intention of letting the feels catch him once again, but for the love of him, he cannot stop the avalanche of need that seems to take over his body when it comes to Anne.

I loved watching Hunter unravel, piece by piece. I reveled in the fact that he could not help himself when it comes to Anne. I enjoyed watching him succumb, watching him lose that patience of his, that intellectual part of him being taken over by the passionate man he is deep inside, until he gives in, and oh so headily.

I loved Anne, for the warmth of her character, the spark of her intelligence, that wit and sarcastic humor that sets the pace between the two of them, and the love she shows to Hunter in abandon, even when he tries to steer clear of emotions that could bring him down.

The ending was equal parts hilarious and endearing. Anne certainly knows what she is doing when it comes to Hunter. I closed the book with a huge ass grin on my face, already envisioning a Hunter trying to keep up with his charming and sexy wife, who stirs him in every single way that matters, with a bunch of small Hunters and Annes’ in the mix, with more on the way. I could literally picture that, given the earthy nature of both characters. The way Hunter gets seduced by Anne’s long and plaited hair was one of the highlights of the story.

Loved, loved, loved! Recommend this wholeheartedly for the fun and sizzle!

Final Verdict: A super grumpy hero who is reluctant to fall in love, a heroine who holds a secret that she would take to her grave with or die trying; but when these two meet, there is no denying the sparks that fly.

Favorite Quotes

‘I’m sorry.’ His quiet sincerity took her off guard and she turned, just as he moved to pick up the tea-towel on the bench beyond her. Trapped against the cupboards, Anne could feel every inch of him from chest to knee…every impressive inch! ‘Anne?’ He picked up her plait, which had flopped on to the bench, winding it around his hand as she maintained her silent resistance, forcing her to look at him. ‘I’m sorry.’
She meant to say something flippant, something smart, something sophisticated. Instead she could only stand there, transfixed by the dark compassion in the heavy-lidded gaze, aware of simmering heat that had nothing whatsoever to do with the sultry, late-summer night.
And then he kissed her.

His fist tightened on her plait, pulling her head back, and she instinctively went up on tiptoe to meet his descending mouth. It was hard, hot, and faintly hostile. Instead of frightening her, his restrained aggression was fiercely exciting. He wasn’t asking for a response, he was demanding it, and Anne gave with greedy generosity. When he bit at her soft lips they parted instantly and he plunged inside, making a rough sound of triumph that vibrated on her tongue. He tasted deliciously warm and spicy, and as he sank recklessly deeper she pressed her palms flat against his chest to steady herself and was entranced by the straining tension in his body, the rapid, erratic pounding of his heart.

She pushed her hands eagerly up under his shirt to stroke his silky, hot, hair-roughened chest. She touched his flat, masculine nipples and was startled to feel them react sharply, hardening under her clumsy caress. Intoxicated by a rush of feverish curiosity, she pulled her mouth away from his and pushed the soft fabric up out of her way, revealing the thick muscles bunching and shifting with every convulsive breath.
‘Anne…’
She was too enraptured by her discovery to notice the husky note of warning in his voice as his hand stilled on her breast.
‘Why, you’re just like me,’ she murmured wonderingly, touching a finger lightly to one rigid nipple where it peeped out of its thick nest of hair and watching it stiffen further.
He shuddered and swore savagely under his breath and she looked up at his face, fascinated by the mixture of smouldering resentment and carnal desire that she saw there.

Anne lifted her knee, not even feeling the shoe slip off her foot and bounce into the gutter as she pressed the inside of her thigh against his lean flank, like a rider trying to sense the next move of a powerful, unruly stallion.
He made a thick, greedy sound and immediately slid his hand into the crook of her raised knee, tugging it higher on his hip so that he could settle more securely between her legs, trailing his hand up the back of her thigh to cup the curve of her buttock, its smooth roundness tautened by her wanton pose.

He opened his mouth against her and she went utterly weak, not even noticing the rough hand glide smoothly under her hanging blouse and unclip the plastic fastening at her back. As her breasts tumbled free he made a rough sound of greedy satisfaction and sank back down with her on to the firmly sprung couch, holding her across his lap and nuzzling the flimsy fabric aside with his mouth before lapping at the soft, shyly trembling peaks with long, lazy strokes, gliding them with his clever tongue until they were rigid and glistening. He admired his erotic creations with little crowns of biting kisses, then cupped her again in his strong fingers, guiding each stiff nipple in turn into the scalding moistness of his mouth, drawing them deeper as he suckled hotly, with a fierce, lusty enjoyment that drove her into a frenzy of delight.

Anne was lost in a world of languid bliss, unaware of the passage of time as Hunter teased her skirt slowly up her legs, deliberately taking his time in order to savour her uninhibitedly sensual response to each fleeting caress, his warm fingers stroking, delving, sliding, enticing, his mouth always moving, tasting, exploring her with a thoroughness that would have shocked her had she not been blinded by the shattering glory of her first physical experience of love.
She wasn’t aware of the skilful disrobing that accompanied his wildly erotic explorations until she opened her pleasure-dazed eyes and suddenly found herself nude in her lover’s arms, unbearably excited by the feel of his rough clothing against her singing skin, the slide of smooth cotton against her bare back as he shifted her to accommodate his needs. He had released her hair from its faded hoop of elastic and fanned it out to frame the lush, pearly curves of her body, winding his hands in its gleaming luxuriance, teasing it over her gloriously sensitised breasts, tantalising her with its feathery friction.
When she teased him throatily about his fetish and protested at the inequity of their dress, Hunter laughed smokily and touched her where she was most vulnerable, stroking her with excruciating delicacy until she melted with a drenching cry, praising her for the splendour of her response.
‘So soft, and hot and silky wet… Don’t lose the rhythm, darling, stay with me… that’s right… a little harder… a little faster… No, darling, don’t fight it…’

Am I the first man to do this to you, Anne?’
He withdrew once more, and again she couldn’t stop herself from panicking, digging her short, practical nails into his tight buttocks until he eased forward, this time a little faster and more roughly, beginning to establish a rhythm that was both exhilarating and frustrating.
‘Am I, Anne?’
This time as he pulled back Hunter deliberately hesitated and, as he expected, his answer arrived in a wild rush as she wound herself around him.
‘Yes, yes! Although if I’d known it was going to be this good I wouldn’t have waited so long!’ She slid her fingers through the hair on his chest and stroked the fine pelt, following the silky line down his belly to push into the thickening where his body joined with hers—Anne and Hunter, Hunter and Anne—if only it could go on forever.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Deal of a Lifetime by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookdealofalifetime_susannapier.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mills & Boon Romance
Hero: Frazer Conway
Heroine: Emmaline Rainer
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: 1991
Started On: September 22, 2018
Finished On: September 29, 2018

In Deal of a Lifetime, Susan Napier explores and navigates the world of a woman who wants to succeed in the business world. To not let herself get lost in what everyone else believes would bring her happiness; getting married and popping the 2.5 kids who would adore her till the end of times. Emmaline Rainer (Emma) has her work cut out for her when it comes to maneuvering the cutthroat world of ConCorp, the company she works at. Dealing with male chauvinism is something Emma has pretty much perfected, and alongside with her assistant Marc, Emma is ready to show the bosses that she is the woman for the executive position that is soon to be up for grabs.

Emma’s plan for making the perfect pitch gets derailed when a weekend away from the corporate headquarters is planned, especially one which includes an invite for the kids of contenders to join. Emma’s avoidance of kids comes from the fact that she looks like the motherly sort, which draws children to her, an image that she wants to dissuade at any cost.

It is by chance that Emma happens across Frazer Conway, the sibling who would be taking over the reins of the company soon. From the start, Emma’s senses are rubbed raw from the onslaught that Frazer delivers. He is everything she has avoided successfully thus far. But there is something about Frazer that calls out to everything that is feminine inside of her, which makes it extremely difficult to put up the front that usually works for her. Even her scathing sarcasm does not seem to work on discouraging Frazer, in fact, it seems to draw him closer to her.

Amidst a lot of back and forth between Emma and Frazer, the story continues, delivering the trademark Napier heat that she is famous for in her stories. However, Deal of a Lifetime fell short for me in many ways, mainly due to none other than Emma’s character.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for women’s rights, which I view as equal rights as that afforded to men and the opportunity to do compete in an even field. Almost 27 years has gone by since the publication of this novel, and we are still battling with the issue of male chauvinism and at worse, harassment in various forms coupled with the lack of equal opportunities to compete against men on an even setting. Part of it is related to biology, the other part related to circumstances and societal perceptions of what women are supposed to be.

I have noticed (from having read a lot of novels by Napier), that her works tend to focus on creating strong women who defy the time periods within which the stories were written. Of course, it is owing to women like Napier writes them that we have made the minute progress we have achieved even today when it comes to equality of the sexes.

Emma is the type of character cut from the same cloth, i.e. trademark Napier heroine. She is determined to make her way in the world. None of it had been easy, given that her big family had wanted her happily settled down by the time she was of age. Emma had wanted more, and that had been the sole reason behind her seeking a university education, to become a lawyer nonetheless, and that is where she had gotten burnt enough to be twice shy when it comes to men and their pursuit of her.

However, because Frazer is made from sterner stuff, he does not give up as easily. In Frazer, Emma finds that she has met her match in stubborn. Furthermore, knowing that he is a single father, a domesticated male makes him more dangerous to her ambitions. So push she does, to keep him away from her, but alas, along the way, her emotions do get involved from which there is no hiding.

While I liked the overall premise of the story and of course Frazer, I couldn’t bring myself to like Emma all that much. There was this edge to her that I at times nearly found annoying. I am all for standing your ground and not letting a man walk all over you. At the same time, I would also appreciate that same strength to make an appearance when the woman is in the wrong, and has wronged the male. But that is often a problem in Napier’s books, as it is usually the male who has to do the chasing, the groveling, and the winning. If we are to talk about equality, the female should also do her fair share of work, especially when it comes to making up for what she puts the male through.

Frazer deserves awards for how patient she is with Emma. A widowed hero who is a single father, wanting the woman who has practiced to perfection what it means to not give into societal demands by getting married and starting a family.

While the story did have its moments when it comes to debates on patriarchal societies and societal expectations, I just didn’t feel that Emma met the hero halfway or did enough on her part to convince the readers that for her as well, the feelings were of the same intensity and ferocity.

Loved the sexual tension and the thick and heady web of desire between Emma and Frazer. The lack of an epilogue was sorely felt. After putting readers through that much of a wrangler, this book definitely needed the epilogue. But Harlequin novels rarely deliver epilogues, but this should have had one in my opinion.

Final Verdict: The battle for equal rights versus the battle for love. It does not always have to be one or the other, and Frazer is determined a male if ever there was one, to show his woman that he is in for it all.

Favorite Quotes

He lifted a hand and ran a finger along the underside of her proud jaw. ‘What’s part of him is part of me. That promise makes me your friend, too, Emma. And I take the demands and responsibilities of friendship very seriously.’
The pressure of the slightly callused pad of his fingertip tilted her face up and his mouth came down, warmly covering hers.
He tasted different. No alcohol this time, diluting the flavour of him, just pure essence of male. One arm went around her, supporting her against the hard length of his body while his mouth thoroughly explored her shocked lack of resistance.

She felt his hunger in the strong fingers cupping her back, the thud of his heart vibrating against her breasts, the restless surge of his hard thigh against the constricting narrowness of the skirt that prevented him from tucking himself between her legs. He lifted his mouth and she dragged in a ragged breath, finding no will to object, and then he was kissing her again, harder, deeper, more intensely than before, taking her acquiescence for granted.

She stared fixedly at his face as his fingers curled into the soft jersey and he slowly eased the top of her dress down, pushing it into folds around her narrow waist, holding it there. She watched, fascinated, the tanned, handsome face harden, his breath hissing through his teeth as he looked at what he had uncovered. A tinge of
dark blood anointed his slanting cheekbones, his pupils expanding like black storm-clouds in the hot blue sky.
‘Is this new, too?’ he asked softly, no trace of honey in his voice now, only rough, jagged edges that snagged at her senses as he touched the lacy side of her daring bra.
‘I… yesss…’ If only he would touch her properly, instead of tormenting her with his tantalising eyes.
‘Did you wear it for me?’
Her head fell back on her shoulders, baring the truth.
‘Yes!’

He lifted his mouth and groaned at the sight of her, naked to the waist, aflame with a passion that fuelled his, her wide mouth lush and full and moist for his pleasure, an erotic dream in itself. Then he was lifting her, pushing her back on to one of the wider lower helves, moving in between her thighs, pressing hot and tight and close, whispering of forbidden delights as he urged her to feel what she did to him, no longer the slow, sensuous lover but all blind, driving masculinity taking everything he could get and wanting still more…
His mouth on her breasts was their undoing. Emma gave a small, whispery scream as he bit into the swollen ripeness to suckle with a strong, rhythmic, hungry impatience that wrenched at her womb.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookthecounterfeitsecretary_susannapier.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: James Everett
Heroine: Ria Masson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October, 1986
Started On: July 29, 2018
Finished On: July 30, 2018

The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier delivers a story that makes you laugh one minute and fan yourself from the heat between the protagonists the next.

Widowed with twin boys, Ria Masson is finally in a place where she can think about a second marriage and moving forward. Her job at Everett Communications is perfect for her home situation, and her boss James Everett, while demands a lot from his employees, had made it clear the boundaries that would exist between them as employer and employee from the get go.

Even then, the thought of spending the rest of her life with Louis, the man she is dating does not seem like much of an exciting prospect. Furthermore, Ria has her sons to consider, while at the same time, she craves for excitement of the kind that only a lover who is considerate and fiery at the same time could bring.

Ria has never seen James in any other way than the boss whose temper she handles as if he were a little boy throwing a tantrum. Three years into their working relationship, everything changes on the night of her thirtieth birthday, when Louis takes her out to dinner, and a bit of dare devilment on Ria’s part brings her into close contact with none other than James himself. A stolen kiss makes Ria believe that in all probability, her safe haven of a job would be in jeopardy, only to realize later on that James does not seem to have arrived at the conclusion that it had been his secretary who had lured him the previous night like a siren to a drunken sailor.

However, once James does realize the truth, there is no holding him back from his pursuit of Ria, to fully explore what is between them. Ria proves to be a formidable adversary, keeping certain truths to herself and trying to prevent herself from giving into something that could only end in devastation in her opinion.

Life, however, has other plans in store for them, and it is a moment of near tragedy that unleashes the passion that exists between Ria and James. Even then, Ria is a woman on the retreat, believing that for her and James, there would be no future beyond that of what takes place in the bedroom.

I loved the overall story, but sometimes had a hard time with Ria because she certainly does hurt James in a way that I thought, if it had come from James, readers would have demanded that he grovel for forgiveness. Even with all the reasons on Ria’s side, I do not believe that it calls for the callous disregard she showed to James at that point. Everything does get resolved in the end, but I certainly wanted to see Ria ask for forgiveness from the man who loves her to pieces.

Recommended for fans of Susan Napier and angst-ridden Harlequin romances.

Final Verdict: The Counterfeit Secretary delivers a tale of the kind Harlequin romances are synonymous with; tons of angst, heat, & emotion.

Favorite Quotes

His mouth lifted briefly, long enough for him to mutter, ‘You kiss like an angel, no wonder Tony looked so dazed.’
Then his mouth enveloped hers again, barely giving her time to draw breath, his teeth biting sensually into her lower lip. Ria shivered, dissolving as she felt the warm fingers of his hand slide indiscreetly under the low curve of silk at her back. His middle finger brushed a tiny, whispering rotation on the sensitive skin where the cleft of her buttocks divided the smooth line of her back. It sent a shooting fire up the length of her spine to where his other hand massaged the hollow at the base of her skull.

Ria shivered with dangerous delight. She could feel her breasts swelling tightly against the lace of her bra and experienced an aching desire for his touch. As if he sensed her innermost needs, his hands shifted to grip her above the waist, his thumbs digging into the sides of her swollen breasts. But instead of fondling her, he anchored her firmly and began to move his torso, twisting it slowly from side to side so that the hard wall of muscle that was his chest rubbed teasingly back and forth, intensifying her arousal. It was as though he was massaging her entire body with his. Ria had never felt such an excruciatingly sensuous frustration, the urge to bite and kick and fight and make him take her.

‘James–‘
‘Ria–‘ He’ mocked her uncertain sigh. She was wearing her hair loose these days and he
marveled anew at how the sheer redness of it reacted so vibrantly with the passionate redness of her mouth, tempting him to lose himself in both. The freckles that were such intriguing indicators of her moods seemed to glow and he wondered with a sudden , pulsing curiosity whether they extended over the rest of her body, imagined kissing his way along the tiny, delicious, honeyed trails, wherever they might lead, imagined hearing her say James’ in that husky voice, but as a plea not a protest.

He bit her ear, his tongue teasing the lobe, questing for pleasure points. She gasped as he found one, heat streaking downwards as she, sagged against him, her breasts vibrating deliciously to the quiet groan that rumbled in his chest. ‘You like that, don’t you?’ he murmured, stringing kisses along her jawbone to her other ear which he nibbled contentedly. ‘You like me to do this to your ears, it makes you soft and weak inside, it makes you want what I want: He kissed her mouth, smothering her reply. ‘Do you know what I’d like to do right now? I’d like to take you home with me and spend the rest of the day’ making love. I want to hold you in my arms and feel your skin on mine. I want the heavenly scent of you in my nose and in my mouth, I want to hear the sounds that you make as we make love. Do you scream, Ria? Do you cry out your joy or are you all quiet sighs?’ His tongue slid along hers, hot and velvety, his hands stroking the taut arch of her back, his hips creating a gentle pressure between her thighs. ‘I want to see you, Angel Mouth. I want to watch our bodies join and break apart, I want to feel the sharp sting of your mouth on me, the silky heat of your hands. I want to ‘taste you, touch you, please you, rock you into sweet, sweet oblivion with me .. .’

Biting, kissing, sucking, stroking, he travelled over her body, peeling off her nightdress and his own pyjamas, meshing their bodies together with teasing movements of long, hair-roughened limbs. As his hands skimmed her breasts, Ria gasped frantically, aching for his intimate touch. But he circled – the taut mounds, avoiding the stiff centres until Ria was moaning with need. When he did it was like a sword plunged to the core of her womanhood. She cried out when his fingers splayed under her breasts, readying them for his mouth.’

His tongue moistly lashed her until she tore his head away and launched feverishly into
her own explorations.
No, Ria, not like that…’ He kissed her hotly, lifting her up so that her thighs fell over his, holding her hips and lowering her on to him. ‘This way, angel…’ He moaned softly as her thighs fell either side of his and he felt her trembling softness above him. ‘Come, Ria,’ he enticed thickly, ‘take what you want.’

He gloried in the explosive lack of control that arched her body. Ria threw her head back,
shuddering as James manipulated their pleasure, feeling his hands move languidly on her swollen breasts as his hips rotated beneath hers. Then the whirlwind dashed away her heady sense of power, sucking everything inwards for an instant then shattering outwards. Ria fell, sprawling across the hard, masculine body, hot salty tears of release falling from wide, wondering eyes.

‘You see,’ he murmured into her relaxed, passion washed face when it was over. There was a masculine possessiveness about him that she felt too deliciously languid to deny. ‘Whatever the reason we came together last night, this morning proves that we should give it a chance. It feels so good, Ria, to make love to you, so natural.’ He closed her mouth with a gentle finger as she opened it to protest. ‘I know it’s a difficult time for you, so I’m not going to press it. Deep down, you know you trust me, or your subconscious wouldn’t have let you give yourself to me the way you did. Trust me enough to look after you while Michel’s ill. Stay here… you and Paul and Jamie. Lean on me, use me, whatever you need, Ria just don’t shut me out. I need to be needed, too, you know.’

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Fortune’s Mistress by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookfortunesmistress
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Hero: Nicholas Fortune
Heroine: Maggie
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April, 1990
Started On: July 27, 2018
Finished On: July 28, 2018

Susan Napier is one of my go-to authors when it comes to the Harlequin line of romances. Having discovered her books somewhere in 2013, I have delighted in the depth of her characterization and emotion she brings in the scant number of pages that usually makes up a Harlequin romance.

Fortune’s Mistress happened to be my next pick by Susan Napier to sample, and while I enjoyed certain aspects of the story, I realized that there were bits and pieces to it that didn’t quite work for me. The heroine Maggie is married to her best friend Finn when the tale begins. Their marriage is not unusual if you consider most marriages of conveniences. Given how their marriage started, the reasons behind it, an open marriage where they were both free to come and go as they please, while respecting certain boundaries worked for them. That is until Finn announced that he was in love, which meant that their brief sojourn through marriage had to come to an end.

Maggie is more apprehensive about who Finn had fallen in love with than the fact that he had. Although Maggie cannot deny that she feels completely alone for the first time in her life at the thought of the changes that are to come, she cannot help but feel a bit cautious because the love of Finn’s life turns out to be none other than the coveted daughter of Nicholas Fortune.

Known as a ruthless corporate raider who was rumored to have been a boxer at one time, was now considered amongst the societal elites of New Zealand. Maggie, always in her encounters with Nicholas had barely skimmed the surface, preferring to avoid him altogether, without delving too deeply into the reasons as to why she does what she does.

Needless to say, a lot of misunderstandings happen before everything is put to right. It’s not like “my husband is in love with your daughter” is the kind of statement you blurt out with a man as closed off as Nicholas Fortune. Nicholas’s take on Maggie and Finn’s marriage, though he doesn’t have the full facts to form a comprehensive picture, is spot on when it comes to discerning Maggie’s thoughts and deeper feelings, which unnerves her in a way that leaves her altogether not too comfortable. Maggie likes her life the way it is, uncomplicated, even if people might surmise her to be a spoilt rich socialite.

What I found tiresome were the countless conversations that took place between Maggie and Nicholas, without anything really happening. Maggie and Finn’s marriage, having never being consummated, had proper grounds for an annulment. But the fact that there was a family history as to why they had gotten hitched in the first place, prevents them from making a go for it. I wanted more for Nicholas and Maggie than witty dialogue and exchange of sarcastic quips. I wanted the passion between them to materialize and take a hold of my senses. I wanted Nicholas and Maggie together, and it just happened too late for my tastes.

Sometimes, it so happens that an author makes conversation such a huge part of the novel that the rest is left behind. Slow burn is all well and good. But when slow burn becomes an excruciating burn, no reader wishes to go through that and feel like they have been cheated out of the climax that should have been coming. Pun intended.

Recommended for fans of books that are steeped in witty banter and fans of Susan Napier.

Final Verdict: Even though Fortune’s Mistress is not Napier’s finest, her ability to keep the reader engaged is a testament to her talent that lives on through her stories.

Favorite Quotes

She decided that flippancy was the only defense. ‘Are you trying to appeal to my sense of decency?’ she mocked in turn, and she was relieved to see that trace of compassion vanish like smoke from the grey-blue eyes.
‘Do you have any?’ he grated.
‘What do you think?’ she asked archly.
‘I think .. .’ Whatever he had been going to say, he changed his mind. His voice dipped roughly.

‘I think you’ve been spoilt to hell and back, and it’s a bloody waste.’
There was real anger in the growl, and a regret that whipped under Maggie’s defences. Her eyes widened and they stared at each other for a moment; she saw the hungry male curiosity stir and the regret took on a far more personal flavor.

When their mouths touched there was an explosion of heat, a sweet eruption that quaked through Maggie and left her weak and shaking. No other man had kissed her, touched her. .. only Nick. His mouth was bold and intoxicating, like rich red wine that lingered on the palate. His tongue moved in her mouth, tasting the tart sweetness of her surrender, curling around her tongue and enticing it into an uninhibited exploration of its own, drawing her skillfully into his possession so that he might suckle her with a slow, erotic rhythm that shocked her un-tutored senses. He didn’t touch her with anything but his mouth, and Maggie didn’t dare unfold her fists clenched at her side for fear that if she touched him she would never let him go … But for the pleasure he gave her they might have been naked on a bed, locked in each other’s arms.
When the kiss broke, something in Maggie did, too.

Purchase Links: Amazon

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Review: Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier

Format: E-bookrecklessconduct
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Marcus Fox
Heroine: Harriet Smith
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: November, 1996
Started On: October 07, 2017
Finished On: October 13, 2017

Never have I laughed so hard and so much while reading a romance novel in recent times as I did when I was reading Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier. I would always be forever grateful for having found Susan Napier’s books because they are aboslute gems in the world of Harlequin romances.

Reckless Conduct is a novel that is to be lauded for so many reasons. It has got that oh-so-good-i-am-going-to-die-of-laughter variety of humor going for it. There is a deliciously controlled hero who made every single sense of mine stand on high alert. Then there is the heroine, whose makeover and clumsy antics, plus the way she seems to always find herself in one tantalizing position after another with the hero became one I reveled in. The sense of want and desire that is continuous thread throughout the book was one that I found heady and enjoyable on so many levels.

Harriet Smith, the heroine is someone who has continually being considered as staid, boring, and conventional. However, all of that changes when Harriet decides to have the makeover of a lifetime which turns her from the wallflower so to speak to the stunningly beautiful and curvaceous woman that turns heads as she makes her way to the office on the morning following the makeover.

Marcus Fox is the chairman of the board of Trident Finance where Harriet works. When Marcus enlists Harriet’s expertise on a personal matter, Harriet is forced into close proximity with a man who makes her want to throw caution to the wind, who brings back that edge of spontaneity to her character which had died a painful death under the hands of her ex-fiance’. It also makes her want to flee because she is reluctant to get into something that could spell long term heartbreak for her. That sense of awakening in a heroine as reluctant as Harriet was one of the best aspects of this book.

If you are a fan of Harlequin romances, this is a must read. Susan Napier is brilliant in her execution of romance novels. Her books have foresight and depth to them that few Harlequin authors bring to the table. Her stories are less than conventional and for me that is one reason why I absolutely adore them and indulge in one every now and then.

Definitely recommended. If not for the laughs, for the sheer experience of Marcus Fox in all his glory. Loved the last chapter. Made me want to bawl my eyes out, and smile from ear to ear at the same time.

Final Verdict: Susan Napier wows her readers with unconventional stories that stand out for their sensuality and strong leads. Reckless Conduct is classic Napier in this sense and I cannot recommend it well enough.

Favorite Quotes

‘Not only is Fleet indiscriminate, but he has no respect for the woman’s privacy when he notches up a victory. He’s an inveterate boaster about his conquests. He’s even been known to bet on the outcome of a date. All he’s interested in is having a good time, and he expects the women he goes out with to have the same free-and-easy morals—’
‘Good!’ she snapped, using the element of surprise to grasp his solid wrist and push it sharply away from the control buttons so that the doors sprang open.
‘Good?’ Marcus Fox stayed rooted to the spot as she stepped out onto the thick grey carpet of the executive-suite foyer. ‘What do you mean—good?’
Harriet turned to look at him and was deeply gratified by his censorious expression. At last she had surprised a genuine reaction out of him!
‘I mean good, he sounds like a really hot date,’ she said with a reckless toss of her head.”
“A hot date?’ He repeated the words slowly, as if they were in an alien tongue.
‘Yeah, you know—one where there’s a lot of action.’
‘Action?’ The doors were closing on him and he darted out between them with a startling burst of agility for such a powerfully built man.
‘Fun.’
His black brows lowered even further as he towered over her. ‘You’re going out with Michael Fleet for fun?’ he rumbled.
‘Well, I’m certainly not going out with him in order to have a perfectly miserable time,’ she said sweetly.
He dismissed her dripping sarcasm with an impatient wave. ‘Miss Smith, I wonder if you’ve quite grasped the import of my remarks?’
‘Of course I have,’ she said in exasperation. ‘You’re warning me that by tomorrow I’ll just be another notch on the matchwood that passes for Michael’s bedpost.’
‘Miss Smith!’
‘Mr Fox!”

She sat down with relief, only to find that her narrow skirt shrank alarmingly up her slender thighs. She pretended not to notice. She hadn’t taken into account things like bending and twisting and sitting when she had been burning up the boutiques during the long weekend. She had just stood in front of the mirror and ruthlessly bought whatever the shop assistant had recommended.
Harriet folded her hands in her diminished lap and tried to remember everything she had ever read about miniskirt etiquette. Did one cross one’s legs or slant them primly parallel to the side? The idea of being prim decided her. She slid one knee rashly over the top of the other. The skirt retreated another crucial few centimetres.
Marcus Fox’s steepled fingers collapsed and his voice was slightly hoarse as he began ominously, ‘Miss Smith, I am about to break one of my cardinal rules about not allowing personal problems to intrude on matters of business.’

He rose abruptly from his chair and, against the tinted window, he was suddenly a dark, shadowy figure sweeping across her dazzled vision. Harriet’s heart pulsed erratically in her ears and, even knowing that the width of the desk was between them, she instinctively shied away from his dominance, a slender heel catching against the chair-leg behind her as she did so, half wrenching her shoe from her foot and throwing her off balance.
She stumbled forward several steps, banging her hip as she ricocheted off the sharp corner of his desk. One windmilling hand clipped the eyepiece of the telescope and it teetered on its extended tripod. Harriet whipped around to clasp and steady it, letting out a small cry of pain as a bolt on one of the legs jammed into her knee.
“What on earth—?’ Marcus Fox was there immediately, untangling her from the apparatus and setting them both upright.
‘I’m sorry,’ she gasped, hopping on one leg as she tried to refit her shoe.
He let go of the telescope to support her by her shoulders, half lifting her with easy strength to perch on the edge of his desk while she fumbled. ‘Little fool,’ he said gruffly. ‘What are you wearing heels like that for around the office? You’re an accident waiting to happen.’
‘To stop people like you calling me little,’ she huffed.

“They’re not pantihose,‘ she said absently, thinking gloomily that it didn’t take much to make expensive elegance look cheap and tacky. Maybe black hadn’t been such a flattering choice after all.
‘I beg your pardon?’
He hadn’t moved and Harriet was acutely aware that he was standing between her legs, the fabric of his dark trousers brushing against the sensitive skin of the insides of her knees. This time the threat posed by his proximity was unnervingly real. He was overpoweringly close, his warmth radiating through her like an invisible touch, his clean male scent creating a curious disorder in her senses. He made her feel both fragile and vulnerable and she panicked lest he detect her irrational fear, rashly seeking to repulse him with offensive brashness.
‘I said I’m not wearing pantihose. They’re stockings. See?’ She provocatively lifted her knee to press it against his hip, and flipped back her hem to reveal the lace-trimmed suspender that gripped the opaque band of her laddered stocking. A strip of smooth, naked thigh was also inadvertently revealed—a starkly erotic contrast to the black lingerie.

Feeling safe and yet aware of a tantalising danger, Harriet inhaled and let out a shuddering sigh and wriggled deeper into his lap. The malleable outline against her hip was large, and Harriet felt another wave of prickly heat wash over her as she indulged her sinful curiosity and wondered what it would take to arouse a man of his iron self-control and how different he would feel in his state of excitement.
She imagined what would happen if she was lying like this in his arms but for some inexplicable but necessary reason they were both completely nude. Surely he wouldn’t be unaffected then, no matter how skinny or pathetic he thought she was? He was a man and he wouldn’t be able to help himself. He might fight against his primitive instincts because he didn’t want to hurt her, but he would eventually succumb to the feel of her naked breasts and thighs rubbing against him. He would kiss her fiercely, and smother her small breasts in his big, clever hands, and then he would go thick and hard against her squirming bottom and he would turn her in his lap and—

Intent on preventing him from reaching the bottom of the pile, Harriet hastened forward, but she was too late. His eyebrows shot up as he studied the final cover.
‘Sexual Fulfilment: Erotic Techniques To Enhance Female Pleasure’
‘Give me that!’ Flustered, she tried to snatch it out of his hand.
‘Give you what? Sexual fulfilment?’ he enquired with a wicked grin, easily evading her attack by catching her wrist and pulling her down onto the bed beside him. ‘Why, Harriet, I’m flattered by your eagerness but it’s rude to grab.’
‘I meant give me the book!’ she grated at him, feeling the heat of his thigh against her hip as they bounced lightly together on the edge of the bed.

He kissed her deep and hard, burying his mouth in hers, using his teeth to tease her lips apart and his tongue to thrust roughly inside. His hand slid from her upper arms to her ribcage, his fingers splaying up her slender sides, gripping her, supporting her torso while he slowly twisted from side to side, massaging her breasts with the rigid muscles of his chest. With a groan he turned her even further into the heated embrace, forcing her head back with the power of his kiss, lifting his knee to rest his thigh heavily across her sprawled legs, urging her against the hardness between his legs.
‘Kiss me; touch me the way she was touching him.’ He whispered the ragged command into the moist depths of her being, and she felt him tear at his buttons so that his shirt parted across his smooth, hot chest.

“Marcus—’
He bit her throat, his fingers curving into her soft waist as he sucked at her flesh. ‘Yes, say my name; tell me where you want me to stroke you; tell me what excites you…’
Everything excited her. She could barely string two coherent thoughts together, let alone utter any words. All that came from her lungs were gasps and tiny whimpers and moans that seemed to drive him into a greater frenzy.
Harriet clutched at the thick-hewn shoulders under the loose white shirt, her manicured nails biting into the rippling muscle and raking down his biceps, causing him to arch and shudder and rub himself more frantically against her. The heat was coming off him in waves, the muscles in his arms and chest jerking with convulsive tension, his hot mouth ravishing her senses as he hungrily devoured her response to his astonishing explosion of desire.

“I knew you weren’t wearing a bra,’ he muttered harshly, covering the delicate mounds with his palms, cupping and shaping her with his fingers, finding the soft nipples with his thumbs and tracing their outline by feel, circling them over and over again, drawing them out with the gentle pressure of his nails. ‘I could see these shadowed against the cotton… dark, smooth, round discs that I wanted to touch and lick and suck until they were ripe and wet and hard… as hard as I was…’
He nuzzled her mouth as he told her what else he had wanted to do to her breasts with his tongue and hands and body while she had been standing there talking, innocently unaware of his lustful fancies, and his eloquent description made Harriet so dizzy that if she hadn’t been lying down she would have swooned like a Victorian maiden.

He donned the protection without the least sign of modesty or embarrassment and Harriet fleetingly compared him with Keith, who used to fumble around in the dark, as if it was an offence to his masculinity. She even suspected that Marcus lingered deliberately over the intimate task, enjoying having her watching him touch himself, heightening their anticipation of the pleasure to come.
‘Next time you can do it for me,’ he promised huskily, and with a stunningly swift movement caught hold of her ribcage, his thumbs curving up under her breasts as he pulled her down on her knees to straddle his lap, arching his hips so that he slid smoothly inside her in the same fluid motion.
‘Oh!’ Harriet’s hand spread across his chest as she felt him take a heaving breath and arch up again, pushing deeper, tighter, a huge, hard invasion of heat that made her instinctively grip his hips with her knees and rock forward, flexing her inner muscles around him.

“Don’t move.’ This time she knew that his grating harshness wasn’t anger, it was rigid self-restraint. She obeyed, her bottom settling on his iron thighs. After a few moments of absolute stillness Marcus lifted his head and gave her a lazy smile that made her toes curl in her black shoes.
‘What now, Mr Fox?’ she teased him throatily.
‘Now?’ His hands swept down her sides and over her stockings to the knees that were wedged against his hips, and then slowly followed the same course back again.
‘Now, Miss Smith, we stay like this for the next ten hours.’

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