Secret Admirer, by Susan Napier

>> Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Last Friday I read Secret Admirer, by Susan Napier, an old Harlequin Presents title.

Running into a potential business partner late at night in a broken elevator - when one was wearing a glamorous fur with nothing on underneath - was awkward, but Grace Blair was cool enough to handle a hot situation.

Her poised, controlled demeanor belied the insecurity she felt taking over her late husband's business empire, but Scott Gregory was able with one caressing glance to strip away all her pretenses. Especially since the handsome New Zealander had made it clear from their first inauspicious meeting that in business, knowledge was power - and that he knew exactly what he wanted.
Despite some early doubts, this was ultimately a B.

I usually decide purchases based on reviews, but occasionally I read some intriguing tidbit in a message board post or mailing list message and buy the book. This is what happened with Secret Admirer, and by the time it got here I hadn't the foggiest idea of why I'd bought it. First of all, it was a Harlequin Presents, which I've always thought of as the old-fashioned ones, with the cruel alpha males and spineless heroines. Definitely not my cup of tea. And when I started it, it seemed to be just that.

The hero, Scott, behaves very much like the sterotypical alpha of old times, when I started reading romance. He acuses Grace of having a "protector", he's condescending and patronizing and manipulative. And Grace is just as problematic. At one point, she thinks she behaved "like a shameless hussy of the streets". A heroine who actually says the words "shameless hussy" and not as a joke has to be a bit too old-fashioned for me ;-) And I got really irritated by the way she lets herself be manipulated by Scott so easily. I just can't believe someone would actually fall for the old "What, afraid of kissing me? No? Then prove it!" trick!

Furthermore, I really didn't get why she got so upset about the elevator episode. So she gets stuck in an elevator naked under a fur coat, and at one point the guy she's stuck with very presumptuously opens her coat and sees she's naked. That's it. Embarrasing? Yes, sure. But blackmail material? Nah. Anyway, good for her for calling his bluff about it.

Still, Grace not as stupid as some heroines I've read. Naive, yes. Easily manipulated by Scott, that too. But she did have some strength and common sense. She was smart enough to admit she was ignorant in business matters and to formulate a strategy to remedy that and to cover her ignorance meanwhile.

But then, after grumbling my way through the first part of the book, I came to the first love scene and the subsequent revelation. It was an "A-ha!" moment. So that's why I decided to buy this book! The minute I read the revelation I had to go back and read the whole love scene again, from the new perspective. Really wonderful!

And after that, we have a new, kinder Scott, who actually shows some vulnerabilities. That part alone was worth the price of admission. He does have a bit of an "all women are bitches except you" attitude, which I really didn't appreciate, but he's ok, as alpha heros go.

It was an interesting book, quite original, and though it wasn't quite a keeper, I'm glad I read it.

Oh, as a last comment, I'll mention that the book was set in NZ, but this wasn't really an issue. Unfortunately, it simply didn't have a strong sense of place, nothing to differentiate it from the run-of-the-mill US urban setting.


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