Reckless Conduct, by Susan Napier

>> Friday, August 26, 2005

The last Susan Napier I read was a disappointment, so I hoped Reckless Conduct, written quite a few years later, was better.

Behaving badly...

Harriet attended the company's New Year's Eve party in all innocence. It wasn't her fault that the punch she'd been drinking was stronger than expected--so that she'd ended up confiding in a gorgeous stranger about her broken engagement. How was she to know she'd been pouring her heart out to the chairman himself, Marcus Fox? the office party!

Now Harriet has to work with Marcus. Luckily, she's since changed her image, dyed her hair blond and is a model secretary. Unluckily, Marcus still recognizes her--and seems determined to punish Harriet for her reckless conduct!
It was. Much, much better. A B.

Just a note: there will be some spoilers in this post, and I really liked reading the book without knowing these things. So be warned before you continue. I could write very cryptically, trying not to go into any spoilers, but I'm feeling lazy ;-)

Paraphrasing the brilliant AAR review of Balogh's Slightly Sinful, Susan Napier has never met an amnesia plot she didn't like. In about half of the books I read by her, the heroine has had some kind of memory trouble which keeps her from remembering having sex with the hero. One lost part of her memory after a brain operation, another blocked certain painful, traumatic memories by forgetting a couple of years of her life (and in that book, yet another character pretended he had amnesia), and the heroine of RC has forgotten everything that happened a night she got very, very drunk.

When the book starts, we readers know very little about what happened on that fateful New Year's Eve party. There's that little tidbit in the back cover blurb about how Harriet has run off in the mouth to Marcus about her former fiancé, but even if there weren't, you do get enough clues to know something Important happened then.

And you also get a little hint that there might be something interesting to Marcus' feelings for Harriet, probably related to this night. I've complained in the past about Napier sometimes not writing anything from the hero's POV, other than a couple of throwaway paragraphs which don't help at all and actually feel out of place. We have something similar here. A bit from Marcus' POV right at the beginning, and then nothing, right until almost the end.

And it works. I can't believe I'm writing this, because my position usually is that the more from the hero's POV, the better, but it works very well. I actually liked figuring out the mystery of exactly what Marcus was up to with his uncharacteristic actions and why, what had happened. And enough little things slip out, things that Harriet doesn't pay any attention to but which eagle-eyed readers surely will notice, to begin to suspect that everything he's doing, he's doing to win Harriet.

Marcus is such a wonderful change from that jerk that the hero of my last Napier. He sometimes puts a toe across the line separating nicely macho from domineering, but he's a Presents hero, after all, and since it's only a toe, only every now and then, I forgive him. For starters, I liked that he's crazy about Harriet from the beginning, and that his pursuit is constant but gentle.

I also liked that he never tried to squash Harriet new joie de vivre. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy the way she defied his authority. And by the end of the book, I loved him for the way he'd worried and worried about how better to help Harriet deal with those lost hours, the way he desperately researched the best way to approach the problem.

Harriet was fun, for the most part. I very much respected her decision to break out from her submissive, docile way of life and really enjoy herself, after all the tragedy that she'd endured, and I liked how she didn't go back to mousy woman and really did enjoy herself. And speaking of the sadness of her recent past, there was one scene that broke my heart and had me sobbing, which was when she told Marcus about the death of her cat. I'm sick, I know. I read about the lingering death throes of her parents and I'm sad, but ok, but when I read about how she returned one day and found her cat dead after a hit and run accident, I'm bawling.

Everything else was pretty good, too. Even the thing about Harriet "babysitting" Marcus' 15 year old daughter Nicola was just fine. First, because the way Harriet ended up stuck with the task made sense. It's obviously not a very professional thing to ask her, and she was expecting to be given an interesting task, so she's disappointed. She tells Marcus exactly that, and he really has to work to pressure her into doing it. And second, because I really did like quiet, studious Nicola.

This one definitely goes in the keeper pile. Hope the next one's a success, too!


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