I find it hard being asked to choose favourites even though it happens all the time. My children seem fixated on exploring ‘favourites’ and, for obvious reasons, interviews often include questions about most loved books, films, etc. I’m intrigued to read other people’s answers to those questions but have incredible difficulty choosing a single favourite myself. But among the many terrific romances I’ve read I had no trouble finding one to share with you. It’s so good I just wish I’d written it!
Susan Napier’s Harlequin Presents story, SECRET ADMIRER, is a stand out book for me, despite the fact that it’s now 16 years old. 16 years represents a lot of romances under the bridge and yet I remember this book vividly. It was such fun to pick it up again recently and rediscover what a great story it is.
I’m a sucker for a memorable opening and SECRET ADMIRER delivers in spades. Grace darts into the lift of a high rise building in downtown Auckland. When she discovers a couple already occupy the lift she almost backs out but the sound of pursuing footsteps racing closer makes her enter and slam her hand across the ‘close door’ button. Her companions aren’t friendly and when the lift gets stuck between floors Grace snuggles down into her borrowed fur coat and tries to avoid eye contact. Unfortunately the air conditioning breaks down too and the temperature soars. Still Grace refuses to give up her coat. Infuriated by her stubbornness, when she’s obviously about to pass out from heat exhaustion, Scott Gregory steps forward and rips the coat open, intending to push it off her shoulders. But he’s not prepared for what he discovers. That single act is the catalyst for a story of enormous intensity and ingenuity and emotional honesty.
Here’s what the back cover blurb has to say:
Grace under pressure
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 demeanour 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 pretences. 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.
One of the things Susan Napier does beautifully is make us sympathise with her heroine. That confrontation isn’t the last in the book (of course!) as Scott pursues the woman who intrigues him. When she encounters him again at a tense business meeting, he’s already discomfited her by first sending a not-so-subtle reminder of the night they met. The last thing she wants is to confront the contemptuous stranger from the lift but to learn he’s the powerful entrepreneur threatening the survival of her company is the stuff of nightmares. Especially when, in one short meeting he strips away her gallant defences and discovers the vulnerabilities no one else has guessed at. The author does a fantastic job of creating a heroine who’s stoically strong yet incredibly vulnerable. Nor does she shy from putting Grace in situations that make the reader almost cringe with embarrassment on her behalf. Yet Grace proves herself strong enough and honest enough to win our respect.
As for Scott, he’s one of my all time favourite heroes. Intense, edgy, intelligent, self assured and with an absolute focus that makes his pursuit of Grace a fascinating and sometimes unexpected journey. However, though he’s tough and sometimes pushy, he’s caring, honest and supportive. He makes no bones about the fact that he wants her, but he never tries to bully her into submission. He has too much appreciation of her spirit and her emotions to do that. Instead he woos her, engages her mind, challenges her and makes her confront the changes in her life. The passion between them is a so powerful and Scott such a sexy hero that it’s a hard book to put down.
This hero is a wonderfully real character, with secrets in his past. He has to confront those and learn to move on. In fact, he's one of the most intriguing romance heroes I’ve read, but I’d better not reveal too much for fear of including a spoiler.
If you’re looking for intense emotion, strong characterisation and a ripping good love story, see if you can find SECRET ADMIRER.
Has anyone else read this book? I know I’m not the only Susan Napier fan out there. If you haven’t, do you have recommendations for another terrific category romance, preferably one that starts, like this one, with a bang?
Annie is working on her next story for Harlequin Mills and Boon Modern/Presents/Sexy and trying not to get distracted by thoughts of other great books she wants to reread.
Her For the Sheikh’s Pleasure is currently a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Award. Her latest release, The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife is available from Amazon. You can read about her next release The Desert King’s Pregnant Bride on her website.