One Night at the Penthouse Suite
Cora Ciacho’s father raised her from childhood to take over the Ciacho Group mega-corporation, but since his passing, things haven’t been going well. Her board of directors is scheming, she’s at odds with her mother and sister, and someone’s spreading corporate rumors. It’s not a great time for her boyfriend, call-center manager Stephen Cruz, to realize he’s having more trouble than he expected adjusting to being lower-class in Cora’s world, and lower status in their relationship. Want a book that takes some of the escapist luxury and corporate skullduggery of a Harlequin Desire, but flips genders to give you a competent boss heroine and a kind, supportive hero? Spend a night at the penthouse with Cora and Stephen.
I always enjoy stories featuring characters negotiating the realities of an existing relationship (instead of the more-common courtship stories). Cora and Stephen have been dating for some time when her father passes away, and it’s the transition to CEO Cora that the two have to address. I liked that they talk explicitly about their challenges, and that these conversations are difficult without being contrived or histrionic. Stephen’s voice in particular feels authentically that of a shy man who struggles to put thoughts into words – and who’s been pulling too many night shifts to be at his best. I appreciated that Mori puts as much time and effort into Stephen’s workplace as Cora’s. It’s one thing for the author to SAY that Stephen is valuable, and his job matters as much as Cora’s; it’s another to SHOW it the way she does by informing the reader about his career managing logistics.
The corporate setting is well-developed. Cora’s company is a megacorp – it has a discount airline, an online payment service, midmarket retail, and so forth, with the last providing the most urgent question of Cora’s new reign: should she authorize an expansion for retail into Southeast Asia?
The secondary female characters are excellent. The author cleverly sets us up to disregard them the way the male world of business does, before demonstrating the value of their contributions. Soft skills, social networking, and steady performance are just as important as boardroom grandstanding. Cora learns that she needs to do more than imitate her father – not only will it not work for her, but it wasn’t as perfect for him as she believes.
Mori delivers strong prose, and her sex scenes are spicy and enjoyable. The escapist depictions of the world of the ultra-rich, from the resorts to the spas, are exactly what I hoped for. I love how Cora’s sister discriminates against brands like Louis Vuitton for being too accessible, and her mother has a snit over not chartering a plane to the island they’ve rented for her birthday.
What held this one back from reaching DIK status? A weird coincidence is necessary to save the day late in the book. I wanted more about Stephen coming to terms with being the lower earner and the less-renowned individual in his relationship. I also felt that the scenes set in India are travelogue-y. (I understand that the author was writing for a Filipino audience and wanted to present India as a destination, but as someone who is foreign to both India and the Philippines, I preferred her straightforward characterization of the Philippines to her guidebook narration of India). And finally, I’m the sort of person who has a lot of trouble with secondhand embarrassment, so reading Stephen’s experiences in the first half of the book was definitely uncomfortable for me.
Overall, this is a great follow-up to Mori’s One Night stories, and well worth the current $1.99 price tag. I will definitely keep watching this author – and I hope Harlequin Desire takes a close look at her, too!