This is the second part of my accidental Susan Napier binge (read Part 1 here), which was itself part of a wider attempt to get some sort of handle on category romance. And the truth is, when I picked up The Mistress Deception and saw it was by the same author as The Mistress of the Groom my little heart sank a bit. It wasn’t that I was particularly averse to The Mistress of the Groom but, as anyone who has actually read that book will testify, it does rather leave you feeling like you need to lie down for a while in a quiet room. But The Mistress Deception turned out to be quite a different experience altogether.
It opens with the hero, Matthew Riordan (who we know is non-alpha because he wears, wait for it, glasses) being unpleasantly surprised to receive a blackmail message and some kinky photos of himself tied to bed by a hot chick. He immediately concludes that the blackmailer is the hot chick because blackmail works really well if you put yourself in the same compromising position as your victim. Of course, the hot chick is the heroine Rachel Blair, who works for a private security firm and, of course, is absolutely not the blackmailer because she possesses many excellent qualities as a heroine and a human, and one of those is common sense. And I like to think if she did decide to blackmail someone, she would do it effectively. We learn in a flashback in the next chapter that she did, as it happens, tie Matt to the bed but it was For His Own Good because he rocked up horrendously wasted to a formal dinner party where Rachel was in charge of security.
This is another deliciously absurd premise but I think part of the reason I eased into it better than I did in The Mistress of the Groom was because, unlike poor Jane who spends the whole of her book being shafted, The Mistress Deception takes Rachel’s competence and independence very seriously. She has a job, and she’s good at it, and the only people who question either of these facts are idiots. And while I’m willing to concede that getting into sexualised shenanigans with a drunk you’re trying to subdue is probably not present as a beacon of best practice in The Big Book of Private Security, Napier does a fairly decent job of make Rachel’s actions seem…well…not totally outlandish in context.