The Cruellest Lie by Susan Napier

I bought this for 75 cents at Salvation Army because I liked the other Susan Napier I read.

Premise: Claudia was the girlfriend of a famous race car driver (Chris Nash) who died on the track while she was pregnant with his baby. A few months later, Claudia is seven months along into a difficult pregnancy when Morgan Stone arrives at her door, assuming she’s sleeping with his son Mark and is having Mark’s baby. Morgan makes several withering assumptions about Claudia and won’t let her get in a word edgewise to clear up the mistakes. During his visit, Claudia falls and when she’s taken to the hospital she discovers she’s lost the baby. It’s not Morgan’s fault, but in her grief Claudia allows him to believe he was responsible.

Fast forward two years – Claudia hasn’t seen either Mark and Morgan since she lost her baby, when she runs into them both at the hotel she’s working as a PR rep for. The father and son have a better relationship, but there’s a bit of a weird competitive edge to Morgan about Mark where Claudia is concerned. Morgan decides to offer the hotel (and Claudia) a chance to work with him on race-oriented functions surrounding a five-hundred kilometre sports car race in Wellington and sparks fly.

My Thoughts: When they first met, Claudia seemed to have a backbone, mocking and getting angry at Morgan for what he says, but the second meeting – while she tries at first, it seemed like he’d always win the conversation, never really listening to her or twisting things around his way. It was really annoying to read! It did not make me like either of them very much – him for being a jerk, her for being a doormat (she’s also described as fragile and actually swoons at one point).  Morgan was definitely the more annoying of the two characters however. Here are some examples:

  • Morgan jumps to some conclusions and makes an ass of himself on a regular basis but actually has the gall to point out to Claudia that: “people generally do seem to prefer making unflattering assumptions from the bare facts.” When she assumed something I felt much more minor than what he believed of her.
  • Mark calls Claudia while Morgan was in her office about an apartment for rent she may be interested in. Morgan puts it on speakerphone (Claudia somehow doesn’t realize this until Morgan tells her to say no), then takes the phone and tells his son she’s going to be busy and then makes innuendos about the two of them. The weird competitiveness Morgan has for his own son over Claudia was creeping me out. I have no problem with Morgan being almost 40 and Claudia in and Mark in their twenties, but it got weird.
  • Morgan actually figures out some of the misunderstandings from their first meeting but never tells Claudia he knows. No, he just uses it and her guilt to further his agenda. When she she tells him the truth and is shocked he didn’t tell her, he says “it was your story to tell Duchess, not mine”. EH? WTF excuse is that?
  • At one point he gets very angry, calls her a bitch a couple of times, and “he used a word which made her flush violently, then pale again as he continued with coruscating contempt.” – Isn’t this verbal abuse? So not romantic.
  • This also creeped me out (Morgan vs. his own son again): Morgan decides to get very jealous, cups Claudia’s breast in front of Mark, kisses her, and tells her to tell Mark that Morgan is the most important man in her life. Then he calls Claudia Mark’s stepmother and then acts like this is a proposal! A nugget from this particularly wallbanger-worthy seciton of text:

‘Or I could just throw you on that bed and strip you,’ he threatened silkily. ‘You never say no to anything I want there. Hell- a few minutes of foreplay and you’re usually the one begging…’

‘Er-Dad–“

RIGHT? Isn’t this inappropriate? He’s saying this crap in front of his son? Aieiee!!

Also there really is a scene here with a bodice, but no ripping of said bodice. OK I’m done.

Overall: I liked the other Susan Napier book I read, The Price of Passion (reviewed here) MUCH better than this one. Here I found both the hero and the heroine hard to identify with, and the hero was particularly offputting. I believe this is because this book was written a long time ago (1993), and the author’s writing has improved quite a bit since then.  I’m still going to look out for this author and try another one if I find it.

The Price of Passion by Susan Napier

Hohoho, I read another one of the 16 Harlequin free books this weekend, this time the Presents line (according to Amazon, this one belongs to the subset Pregnant Mistresses!!). This one is the line I think of where the hero does those punishing kisses. Harlequin says the heroes are "ruthless, dark and powerful". Indeed.

The setup: Katherine (Kate) is a researcher for a publishing house, who is pregnant with the baby of Drake Daniels, a wildly famous author whose "speciality was constructing tough, gritty, anti-heroes who were rude, crude and lethal to know". He often disappears for months, no one knows where, to write his novels, but Kate has figured out that he has a house in Oyster Beach, New Zealand. She follows him there to try to break the baby news. Kate and Drake and he have a "no strings" relationship, and Kate believes the only reason she's lasted two years with him was because she never sleeps the night and never disturbs his work. Both are the product of tough childhoods, she has an ambitious, cold mother who had no time for a kid, and his father walked out on his mother, who was so grief-striken, she eventually committed suicide, leaving Drake to take care of himself.

Overall: The best Harlequin I've read so far. I'd recommend this one. If I graded, I'd say B+?

What I liked:

  • I loved that this wasn't set in the U.S. The writing has a New Zealand slant, and uses non-American words for certain things. Quite a refreshing change.   
  • The banter was fabulous, both of them using lines from classics and old movies on each other. It flowed well and was fun to read. You really feel a connection between the characters and the romance felt believable because of it.
  • Kate I liked for keeping in character most of the time by exuding a calm exterior even when she's nervous, she may be thinking about something that will reveal her secret, but she doesn't do anything TSTL. Basically, she was good at recovering and I liked that she had spine.
  • Drake is very manly and whatnot. Do people like this exist? He came off extremely gruff at first but then warms to a "hard shell, soft center" kind of guy. Drake had one really big jerk moment in the book, but he did grovel afterwards and admitted his communication issues so he was decently likeable overall. He is also dyslexic which made him a bit more human.
  • They both had childhoods that reasonably explained their actions; like Kate learning from her mother never to bother someone when they are busy with their career or life, which is why she thinks Drake doesn't want her bothering him.
  • Cute pets. A three-legged dog (!!) and a kitten who squeaks. And they move the plot along, not just there to be cute.
  • My favorite lines in this book:

"'I'm not good with words -"

Her eyes widened. 'Drake, you're a writer.'"

I guess my only nits would be that a couple of things were a little cliched. Maybe Drake sometimes. And the description of him on the first page made me roll my eyes. She too is drop dead gorgeous of course, with almost silver eyes. Mmm hmm.  And something about the ending that was a bit too pat.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend