Saturday, 5 May 2007

Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier

Not a bad romance but not good either. The author has written much better novels. 5 mins after reading this romance I'd forgotten the name of the heroine. Says it all really.

The courtship of 26 yo pa Harriet (ie secretary) and her uber-boss Marcus. The heroine wasn't a virgin but should have been.

I think (hope) that 90% of the hero's dialogue was meant to be tongue in cheek as he tried to prevent barmy Harriet from descending into slapperdom. Because no hero could be THAT po-faced as the woman he cared about attempted to turn herself into a ho as an expression of freedom.

This was what might be called a 'sparkling' romance until about the final two chapters when it just becomes sordid. The author plays a trick on the reader here. The 'reckless conduct' refers not to the heroine's efforts to change her appearance and behaviour as written about in the novel but to the off-novel one-night stand she had with the hero at the New Year's party. She was passed out drunk and he was dog-tired. Neither used any contraception. And she couldn't even remember the incident. But this is not revealed until towards the end of the novel. That's right. They get married when she finds out she's pregnant.

The shame of it was. The heroine actually had quite an interesting and sad back story but again that was on the whole not much written about in the novel. I could never really figure out why the hero felt attracted to the heroine. The novel was published in 1996. No-one gets married to a one-night stand falling pregnant by then. On the other hand the romance is set in New Zealand and maybe culturally they are behind the times of the rest of western mores.

The way the story reads is that the heroine is tired of being a dull, dependable brunette. So decides to bleach her hair blonde, wear mini-skirts to work and accept dates from unsuitable but exciting men. She is the highly paid pa to a corporation's finance director but her metamorphosis catches the eye of the ceo himself and he takes her under his wing.

In the space of two short years the poor heroine has suffered the death of her beloved dare-devil brother, both her parents, her cherished aged pet and been ditched by a fiance who resented the time she was spending caring for her dying father. On top of all that she never took a single extra day off work. So naturally she's feeling a complete emotional wreck. Anywhere else but New Zealand she'd have had a nervous breakdown and probably ended up a drug-addict and homeless.

Having inherited plenty of money from her relatives, including death insurance, she decides to live for the day. She dyes her hair ash blonde, buys skimpy frivolous clothes and moves to a modern apartment in an upcoming area of the city with the aim of making new exciting friends. Of course underneath she's still a well-brought up young lady and Marcus surreptiously talks her out of her more wilder dating ambitions. He also doesn't fire her since despite the fact that she turns up for work looking like a hooker.

Harriet and Marcus do not get it together until page 135 of a romance of 188 pages. But why did the author have to make their big romantic scene so sordid? Basically Harriet asks Marcus to treat her like a one-night hooker...and he does. And on top of all that the author keeps the reader out of the bedroom so we only experience the shame of the experience for the heroine.

Like I said. I didn't really see where the love came from in this story. What's even weirder is that Marcus does discuss safe sex with Harriet and uses a condom. But it's too late. She's already pregnant with his child. Maybe the author is trying to show he's usually a responsible sex partner.

I feel I ought to mention one bit of weirdness displayed by the hero. He has a telescope in his office that he uses to...well, judge for yourself. Let's just say it tarnishes his glamour somewhat. And someone explain this. The hero is dark-haired, the heroine is brunette but their 4 yo children are blonde! See. New Zealanditis strikes again.

Anyway. After their second night of love Harriet decides she loves Marcus. Throughout the novel it is obvious that Marcus cares about Harriet. It is also obvious that Harriet doesn't give a fig about Marcus...other than he's her interfering boss. In some ways he's also her daddy substitute...after all he's the father of a teenager. It really is not obvious why they fall in love. On the other hand what can I expect from a churned out 200 page romance. Frankly the author ran out of pages.

The author has written better romances. The Lonely Season, Sweet As My Revenge spring to mind. This one is just average..but could have been so much better. Quite enjoyable.

Genre; contemporary romance in a backward culture; movie rating PG13; discussion of safe sex, pre-marital sex, sex while drunk, loose morals.

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