Once Upon a Mattress by Kathleen O’Reilly

Once Upon a Mattress by Kathleen O’Reilly
Once Upon a Mattress by Kathleen O'Reilly
Once Upon a Mattress by Kathleen O'Reilly

An endearing heroine makes up for an underwhelming hero in this fun, sexy story.

This novel revolves around Ben MacAllister, whose family owns MacAllister Beds, a mattress company, and Hilary Sinclair, who’s an executive at the firm. Let’s get my biases out of the way: every time I’m reminded of the mattress company—which is most of the time—I think of those dodgy Captain Snooze ads. Sexiness factor: zero.

Moving on.

Ben’s parents are in the middle of getting divorced, so he’s home to help out with the family business: ‘He’d never cared much about the company; his family was the reason he was here instead of completing number thirty-seven on his “list of things to do before I die”.’ But when his dad starts talking about selling the firm, Ben is determined to prove he has what it takes to keep the business in the family.

Hilary is getting over a seven-year relationship that went nowhere. She’s in a new city, having bought a charming new place (read: needs work), and the job at MacAllister Beds is a chance to prove she make it on her own two feet.

Ben is an underwhelming hero, and his insistence on being more responsible and ditching his devil may care attitude to life isn’t always convincing. Still it’s fun to watch him fall victim to Hilary’s wiles, thanks to O’Reilly’s flair for turning nondescript heroines into goddesses:

Hilary leaned over his desk, showing him more flesh than he’d seen in his dreams, and he fought to breathe.

It was a struggle to look up into her face, but when he did and saw the devil in her eyes, he could feel the yawning jaws of the trap she was laying for him.

Hilary Sinclair, seductress extraordinaire. It was a new look for her, but she didn’t seem to have any qualms about it.

On the other hand, Ben had about eight inches of qualm.

Hilary is endearing as the relatively plain looking heroine who’s trying to get over a failed love affair by starting afresh in a new city. Her valiant efforts to make something of herself are stymied by forces out of her control—from her leaky ceiling to the possibility that she’ll lose her job when MacAllister Beds is sold to another company.

Hilary’s voice is the voice of every woman who has ever been a sucker for a sexy man:

The first thing Hilary noticed was his smile. Every girl knows the smile of a man who plans on getting lucky…

Every survival instinct told her to slam the door in his face.

She invited him in.


Hilary’s attempts at seduction are are charming, and Ben’s response is often worthy of a chuckle. It’s fun to see her playing with Ben without going over the top. Ben has his moments, too—his first gift to Hilary is a king-sized bed.

Yay or nay?

Although the hero’s characterisation feels shallow at times, the romance part of the story is always fun and sexy. Parts of the plot that deal with Ben’s parents and the family business can be distracting and slow, but maybe that’s just because the scenes with Ben and Hilary are so enjoyable and I wanted more of them.

A copy of this book was generously provided by the author.

Title: Once Upon a Mattress (excerpt)
Author: Kathleen O’Reilly
Publisher: Harlequin Temptation
A format: 9780373691272 (5/2003)

Where you can buy this book

This book is no longer in print. Try the links below for a secondhand copy.
WORLDWIDE: AbeBooks | Amazon | Better World Books | Check your local library

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