For a while now, Miss Bates ARC-reviewing was akin to a baby in a high chair with Cheerios strewn on the tray: all slap-happy grabby, a few falling to the floor, others tossed away, or crushed, some consumed, chewed over, enjoyed. It was so many choices, so many books, nothing focussed, or settled, or embraced out of sheer curiosity and freedom. It was “water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.” Flexing her reading muscles and dipping into the Tottering TBR has been great. BUT Miss B. possesses a backlog of guilt-inducing e-ARCs: her good-girl syndrome says, “Do something!” Therefore, dear readers, on occasion, she’ll dip into the battered “ARC” hat to pull out a bunny and offer a mini-review until it’s no longer a bottomless top hat, but a modest beanie. Miss B. WILL learn to be circumspect. One bunny is Lucy King’s The Party Starts At Midnight, a contemporary Harlequin Presents with a purty cover, zippy dialogue, and atypical HP characterization. Here’s what the blurb tells us about it:
This was not the itinerary that events planner Abby had intended:
8:00 p. m.: Leave the spectacular party you’ve organized in search of Leo Cartwright – international playboy, notorious tycoon and your most prestigious client.
8:10 p. m.: Find Leo asleep, half-naked, in a penthouse suite that just screams decadence – and battle a wildly-out-of-character impulse to kiss him awake.
8:30 – 11:30 p. m.: Return to the party. Spend all evening avoiding Mr. Cartwright – and trying to forget his tempting demands …
11:59 p. m.: Assure Leo that you will not be mixing business with pleasure.
Midnight: Break your own vow … All. Night. Long …
Here’s what Miss Bates thought of it. The most enjoyable part of King’s novel are the first five chapters. The blurb does not do them justice. They’re funny, charming, and well-written. They’re magical. (These opening chapters reminded Miss B. of another HP she loved: Sarah Morgan’s The Twelve Nights of Christmas, with its delightful opening scene where the hero finds the heroine asleep in his luxury hotel room bed.) King’s novel sees the heroine find the hero asleep and charmingly makes reference to a “reverse Sleeping Beauty.” Abby is surprised at her insta-lust for His Sleeping Beautiness and hauls herself back from the foolishness brink of kissing him awake, ” … now wasn’t the time for panic, desire, and random acts of insanity.” He awakes to the sight of a blue-eyed redheaded beauty and his response echoes her quick wit, “You’re here to cheer me up.” How adorably vulnerable. But Abby lets him have it anyway, calling him on his assumption that she’s available for his, um, “entertainment.” This makes for a great analogy to their relationship: there is a passivity and helplessness to Leo that makes him an atypical HP hero. There’s a self-possession and knows-her-own-mind-ness to Abby Summers that makes her an atypical HP heroine … please note she’s also NOT A VIRGIN, always a plus in the missbatesian universe, nor is she innocent, naive, or in awe of the hero’s greater-everything. Miss Bates liked them both.
Moue of disappointment: Miss Bates wasn’t convinced, however, after the initial meet-cute and scorchy love-making, that they are meant to be together. There be reasons. Just not terribly interesting ones. Post-chapter-five, Abby and Leo play a dance of avoidance that turns to a dance of annoyance. Abby leaves Leo after their night of love-making without a by-your-leave. He contrives to get her back and in his bed and they play a fairly boring dance of why I won’t sleep with you and why you should sleep with me. King keeps the two apart for ages and brings them together for superficial reasons: it’s a failure of a viable conflict thinks Miss B. When they finally admit to their undying love for each other, it’s “out of the blue” revelatory: a sudden realization of love and babies forever when they’ve only been in each others’ company, and not in a courtship-y manner, for mere days.
King’s The Party Starts At Midnight had potential: the banter, when it was there, was great; the premise, interesting; the characterization, refreshing. The plot … meh. The romance … sparkly fireworks to chapter five … and then, a barely simmering potage of wilted vegetables. Miss Austen says, “almost pretty,” Northanger Abbey, and Miss Bates says she’d give King another try.
Lucy King’s The Party Starts At Midnight is available, and has been since October 1st, at the usual vendors in the usual formats. It’s published by Harlequin under one of Miss Bates’ favourite lines, Presents. Miss Bates received an e-ARC of this novel from Harlequin via Netgalley.
Miss Bates loves Harlequin Presents. What are your favourite titles from that line? (She urges you to read the Sarah Morgan title she mentioned above.)