Party_Starts_At_MidnightFor 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.)


  1. Lucy King was originally a KISS author (has been so in the UK for several years), and she’s trying to make the shift to Presents now that the KISS line has been abandoned. Hence the atypical hero/heroine. I’ve enjoyed her books, some more than others. I think her first was my favourite. She is good at the banter and the contemporary feel, but I agree that the real emotional conflict can sometimes be lacking in her books. I haven’t read this one yet.

    Have you read Morgan’s One Night, Nine Month Scandal? That is my very favourite of hers, I think. I think you’d enjoy India Grey’s Presents as well. Sadly, she’s not writing them any more.


    1. Ah, that’s why she was familiar to Miss B.: the name was familiar, the context was not. The banter was the best part. However, because she kept her protagonists apart for most of the novel, there wasn’t enough of it.

      Miss B. hasn’t yet read Morgan’s One Night, Nine Month Scandal, but it’s in the Tottering TBR and she’s REALLY looking forward to it! Miss Bates loved Grey’s Presents, loved, and mourns the fact that she’s no longer writing them. Grey is in the mourning realm with Jessica Hart … though Miss B. has hopes for Hart’s return? Reinstatement?


  2. I would NEVER pick up a book with a back cover blurb such as found on this book’s cover. Brave you for wading in. It just sounds so two dimensional. I’m glad to hear that reading the book wasn’t a complete waste of time as might have been imagined. What is a TBR and an ARC?


    1. That’s the beauty of the Presents line: the plots and characterization are hyperbolic, but once you’ve clicked with what they’re trying to do, they make for fun reading. It was definitely NOT a complete waste, but Miss B. is also leery of Presents: when they’re good, they’re the best; when they’re not, ugh.

      A TBR is a To Be Read pile, which for Miss B. is now over 500 books … she’ll need several lives. An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy, a copy of a book provided by a publisher to a reviewer before the book is published to the public at large. The idea is to advance review it, but Miss B. never does: seems redundant when readers can’t buy it. She’ll review on day of release or thereafter.


  3. I used to read a TON of HP and I go back a long ways with the series. When I was, ahem “much younger” a friend’s mom subscribed to them when they first came out in the US and I read them from book #1. No fair looking up how LOOONG ago this was, and how aged that would make me, even had I been precocious enough to be reading these things in kindergarten! In the last few years, I’ve read a lot fewer of them, partly because I thought the writing quality was off a bit, and partly because I really can’t stand titles that are a plot synopsis – sarcasm here – stuff like “The Greek Billionaire’s Virgin Secretary” For some reason, I’ve always been very partial to HPs set in Australia and New Zealand, so authors like Emma Darcy, Susan Napier, and my #1 all time fave HP author Robyn Donald. Sadly, I tend to buy these when they are 10/$1 at the library book sale, and return them for resale after reading them (my answer to avoiding library fines!), so having a hard time identifying current titles I loved – although I have a stash of hard to find old Robyn Donald’s somewhere. I’ll be interested in seeing what responses you get to this question.


    1. What a lovely reminiscence of your experience with HPs. They are candified & Miss B. does still happily munch away: maybe because, like Ros and you, there’ve been such treasures amongst the dross. She counts India Grey, Sarah Morgan, Kelly Hunter, an early Lucy Ellis, Maisey Yates, Caitlin Crews among her favourites. She’s got a few Emma Darcys in her TBR. She’s read two Napiers and loved them, but Miss B is keen to try a Robyn Donald since you recommend her so highly! 🙂


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