by Sabrina Darby, contemporary (2013)
Sabrina Darby, $8.99, ISBN 978-1482388756
It may be tempting to dismiss Sabrina Darby's Entry-Level Mistress as another entry into the billionaire angst club cliché, but to be fair, this formula has been around long before EL James spawned a legion of bandwagon-hoppers waving stories of sad asshole billionaires and their worthless ingénue girlfriends. This one, in fact, has more in common with a typical Harlequin Mills & Boon entry than those stories, aside from the first person point of view, that is.
Emily Anderson is the new staff in the marketing department of Hartmann Enterprises, which means she basically does everything that everyone else doesn't want to do. Our heroine's educational background leans towards fine art, and she even has a degree that tells people that she is an educated sculptor. The reason she is where she is at the moment is because she has an unholy fascination for the CEO, Daniel Hartmann.
Her father drove his father to suicide, and then his mother also committed suicide, and then Daniel ruined her whole family, and all that are just the tip of the iceberg where the history of their families is concerned. Emily tells herself that she wants to take down Daniel and make him pay for his sins, but it's soon obvious that she has no idea how to even start with her plan. Daniel, meanwhile, makes the moves on her - remember, it's not sexual harassment if a romance hero does it, as he's hot so it's hot and I should feel hot too. Is he playing her or is he for real?
If you ask me to pinpoint what I really like about this story, I'd say: it's the last few chapters of this book when these characters bare their hearts to each other. The author has a knack with such scenes: there is something really sweet and thrilling to see a confident man like Daniel asking Emily for another chance, and these scenes are just right. Not too melodramatic, not too understated - just right, in a way that encapsulates how terrifying yet exhilarating it can be to step off the precipice and just say, "Yeah, damn it, we're in love so let's see what all this nonsense leads to."
Up until that point, though, I am not sure whether I like this story as much as those last few chapters. As the story is narrated from Emily's point of view, her personality is the make-or-break point of this story. I wouldn't say that Emily breaks the story, it's just that she clearly doesn't know what she wants to do and thus, she spends the whole story flailing around in a tangled mess of emotions. She has little power over Daniel - Daniel is brought down low by his emotions for her, but he could have easily walked away as well. Daniel calls the heroine "naïve" late in the story, and he's right.
At the end of the day, I'm not sure whether Emily should get her happy ending. She doesn't do anything to earn it, as she more or less stumbles into it. In fact, she is such an emotional mess in this story that I don't think she's ready to shackle herself for life to someone like Daniel, who will completely overwhelm her. She should live up a bit more, fall in and out of love more often, and figure out herself first.
I can't say that Entry-Level Mistress is a success where I am concerned. Still, I find myself reading those last few chapters a few times before I finally put the book aside, so it's not a complete failure either. This one is somewhere in the middle of the road.
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