Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Mousy Brown Haired Girls Never Fall in Love

Help a Bitch Out! Rachel wrote in with this request for help, and while it's a longshot, I figured there was a chance someone here might know – or know of about 40 books that fit this description! 

I don't remember my first romance novel – I've no doubt it was a Harlequin of the mid to late 80s (and belonged to my mom who had a crap ton of them). I do remember the first romance I ever read after moving Egypt (that has bearing on the why I no longer remember the title or author of this book – I was 13, jet-lagged, scared, stressed, and excited so I did what any good teen would do. I read a book.)

It was a paperback of average Harlequin Presents length though it didn't appear to be Harlequin (possibly Mills & Boon cover or some other publisher I wasn't familiar with). I think I would recognize the cover if I saw it but I can't describe it other than there was a woman and a man…possibly in a passionate clinch. Really narrows it down, huh?


Oh. And the title could've had something about butterflies.

So what I remember is the heroine works for a super hunky, super rich man (he probably owned half the known world). I mean, this guy is so uber attractive in every single way he can't keep a secretary because they all fall desperately in love with him. Or the beautiful ones do. Or something. Anyway, he doesn't want Gorgeous Blonde Girls working as his secretary. He has specifically requested a dowdy/plain woman to work for him.

Now I'm not sure if this is something the heroine learns from a friend who works at the hero's office or if she is a temp or what. It was a long time ago. The whole workplace thing just went right over my head.

In order to get/keep the job, heroine dies her blonde (of course) hair brown (because we all know brunettes are not gorgeous or prone to falling in love with super awesome [in his own mind at least] men) (I was kinda insulted being a natural brunette and all but whatever). She wears prescriptionless eyeglasses (of course) and shapeless professional attire (baggy business suits in grays and dark blues and beige).

I remember she goes home after work to her apartment (probably a flat since I believe it takes place in England) and is removing her “disguise” when she either had to go back to the office for some sort of secretarial emergency or her boss shows up on her doorstep (nothing creepy about that, right?) with some sort of office/world domination emergency. She has to hastily put her disguise back in place. I also remember there is a scene that focuses on her retouching the dull brown dye job. 

Obviously something happens and her amazing gorgeousness is revealed and there is likely some drama or something and ultimately they live happily ever after. Somehow that part of the book just didn't stick. What stuck was her having to pretend to be dowdy (a brunette who wears glasses, of course) to get/keep this job. I don't remember it being the best book ever or anything. I just wish I could remember the title and author. Because the “disguise” aspect of the book just haunts me. I don't even know. Oh. I read it in 1994 (that's the year we moved to Egypt). It would've been March/April of 1994. I don't know if anybody else read this or will remember it but I thought why not appeal to the Smart Bitches here.

Yeah, us brunette chicks, we never score hot guys. *sigh* Anyone remember this book? It's making me think of the manga “Midnight Secretary” but Kaya wears glasses, and doesn't dye her hair, if I recall. Do you recognize this plot? 


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  1. 1
    Juice says:

    It sounds vaguely familiar but it’s been just as long for me. *g*  I would guess it’s a Penny Jordan, though.

  2. 2
    Clbevill says:

    Oh yeah.  Penny Jordan sounds right.  Too bad she wrote about a million books.

  3. 3
    Nicole says:

    Did she have kids from a previous marriage?  Try The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier. (Try just about anything by Susan Napier.  She’s good)

  4. 4
    ridiculousspider says:

    She had no kids.  I am almost positive she was a virgin. 

  5. 5
    LauraN says:

    Of course she was!

  6. 6
    Susanna Kearsley says:

    Is it A Perfect Arrangement, by Kay Gregory? The Mills & Boon edition was pubbed in March of 1994 (and one of Kay’s previous books was called “Impulsive Butterfly”, which may be the butterfly you remember..)

    Anyhow, there’s a comment on BookCrossing that says: “Set in the UK, a contemporary romance. Ethan hires Holly as his assistant specifically because he doesn’t want an attraction to a girl at his office, after being burned by a gold digger before. But Holly can’t help falling in love with him. And he fights his love for her, until the very, very end.” (…

    And the blurb on the entry for the large print edition says: “‘YOU’D SUIT ME VERY WELL. YOU’RE TIDY, YOU’RE INTELLIGENT, YOU’RE UNLIKELY TO VAMP ME…AND YOU CAN TYPE!’ Hardly the most flattering description Holly had ever heard – but for all Ethan Yorke’s arrogance – his job offer WAS tempting. And plain Holly, in her business suits and glasses, knew that she was safe… Ethan would never look twice at her! So why did she have to go and do a foolish thing like falling in love with him?” (…

  7. 7
    Svet_chick says:

    Although I hadn’t read the book, I’m an amateur writer and that’s why all of my heroines are dark haired and dark eyed. (Got tired of feeling insecure because I’m not a blonde nor am I blue eyed girl and I also wear glasses…)


  8. 8
    ridiculousspider says:

    A Perfect Arrangement sounds so much like one I’ve read, but I can’t be sure it is the one I’m thinking of until I read it.  Which means I will have to order a copy from somewhere. 

    Even if it is not the book I’m looking for, thank you for finding one that sounds so much like it.  :D

  9. 9
    ridiculousspider says:

    I’m not blonde and blue-eyed either.  My eyes are green.  What has always made me feel insecure in romances are the heroines are often described as “slender but curvy in all the right places like a woman should be”.  As a slender (actually skinny until I made an effort to put on some weight) female, I’ve always been like “Seriously?  Women ‘should be’ shaped only one way and if she isn’t that way, she isn’t a woman?”  The first time I read a romance where the heroine was not only slender but nearly flat-chested, I cheered. 

    I may be in the minority on that….but, damnit, barely A cups deserve love too.  :P

  10. 10
    Beccah W. says:


    I am both a brunette, and wear glasses (yes, a real prescription). Thank God I have good self-esteem or these dated romance novels might start to make me sad. Gotta love what the genre has been doing in recent years. I say hell yes to women of all sizes, shapes, ages, etc. gettin’ some good, good lovin’! And yes, brunettes with glasses can be passionate beauties too! :P

  11. 11
    LunaRocket says:

    YAY A-cups! With big hips, does that count as curvy? I’ve got the blue eyes but they’re your ordinary ones, not the lapis lazuli kind, nor I think do they ever flash. I’ve got the mousy brown hair though. I much prefer that to having it called dirty blonde as I did for most of my younger life. But now it’s red “tosses hair back”.

    I absolutely love a romance with a tall gal who isn’t afraid of being tall.

  12. 12
    ridiculousspider says:

    Yay for passionate, beautiful, glasses-wearing brunettes (and redheads and blondes – since I can’t hate on all blonde, blue-eyed women since my niece fits that description).

  13. 13
    ridiculousspider says:

    According to one of my best friends, big hips absolutely count as curvy!  I have brown hair that is so dark most people mistake it for black, so I recently dyed it a purple-black. 

    Red hair is fun! 

    Tall women who are proud to be tall are awesome.  I’m average height, though. 

  14. 14
    anon says:

    If it was set in New York (I remember a picnic in Central Park), released in the mid ‘80s, and the heroine’s disguise was achieved using actor’s putty to make her face look wonky, I have read this and I think my mom still has it. Alas, I don’t remember the title (though I think it was a Silhouette) and I won’t have a chance to look for it for a few weeks at least.

  15. 15
    Natalie H6 says:

    I have the mousy brown/dirty blonde hair going on too. Can’t really tell what color it is and also washes you out no matter what. I keep mine highlighted blonde and hot pink :)

  16. 16
    Maria510maria says:

    I read that one too, it was Manhattan Masquerade by Joanna Scott. It has a similar story line, but not quite the same. I mostly remember it pissing me off because the issues that were created by the setup became non issues rather quickly. The heroine disguised herself in this one because she was tired of getting hit on by her bosses. Only when her new boss hits on her it was ok because he was HAWT.

  17. 17
    ridiculousspider says:

    Hot pink!  I love brightly colored hair.  I’ve been through red, green, and multicolored (it was like having a party on my head lol).  I had a woman try to convince me that having bright ass hair was setting a bad example for my daughter. 

    Her argument: Would you let your daughter dye her hair that color? (The color in question was green.)

    My answer: Yes, I would.  I’ve offered but she turned me down.

    Her reply: …..Your hair color is still stupid. 

    Good times, good times. 

  18. 18
    ridiculousspider says:

    The cover of Manhattan Masquerade look familiar but I just don’t know. 

    What I most distinctly remember about the book is the focus put on the heroine dying her hair.  It was written like dying her beautiful blonde hair brown was this deep event.  I was amused by the concept of hair dying as some sort of reflection of one’s soul or psyche or something.  I mean, I read this at 13 and had already had my hair dyed once and highlight once.  I couldn’t believe the emphasis. 

  19. 19
    The Other Susan says:

    “office/world domination emergency.” *snerk*

  20. 20
    Jody Wallace says:

    This sounds familiar but I have a terrible memory for titles! However, it does make me want to read or write a book where the gorgeous, high-maintenance hero and/or heroine says, screw it!, and quits wearing shoes that pinch and makeup and uncomfortable clothes except for fun or dressy occasions :). Don’t want to villainize heroines or heroes who take pains with their appearance, but a reverse Cinderella could be interesting too.

  21. 21
    Shana says:

    Another similar book, but it takes place in New Zealand: His Serene Miss Smith by Essie Summers.

  22. 22
    ro says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve read this but the name is escaping me right now. If it’s the one I think, then the hero’s father hires her with the disguise stipulation because his son can’t stop bangin’ all his secretaries. The hero and heroine have to look after a baby together, and she isn’t able to keep up with the hair dye, etc., so her disguise slowly falls apart. I think they have to pretend to be married to keep CPS from taking the baby? I hope I’m not confusing two books, but the dyeing the hair thing was a HUGE DEAL to teenage me.

  23. 23
    LunaRocket says:

    Blonde and hot pink, you are braver than me! I remember the first time I went home to visit my parents after I went red. I walked in and my mom about fainted. I asked her what was wrong, she loved telling me about all the nice red highlights I used to have as a kid (I don’t remember them). She apparently liked highlights but not ALL red!

  24. 24
    Maria510maria says:

    I don’t remember her dying her hair in Manhattan Masquerade, but she did wear really heavy makeup for the first few days on the job that made her face breakout, and a pair of heavy glasses that hurt her nose, and I’m fairly certain a fake nose. Her roommate was an actress and helped her with her transformation from hot to plain. There was also a mean older lady, and maybe a mailroom clerk. For a book I didn’t like I certainly remember lots of details.

  25. 25
    ridiculousspider says:

    I would read a reverse Cinderella story! 

  26. 26
    Natalie H6 says:

    I agree! If my son wanted, I would let him dye his hair any color he wanted! It’s just temporary and it’s fun! What’s the harm in that?

  27. 27
    Natalie H6 says:

    It started as red highlights and then one time I used a different dye and ended up with hot magenta pink. My whole family loves it. My 80 year old grandmother prefers the pink because she says its fun and everyone needs a little color in their life. I don’t think I could do the pink as an all over color though….that’s a little terrifying to me…but I bet the red looked fantastic!

  28. 28
    LauraN says:

    Somehow I read that as “I have a terrible memory for titties!”  That would be a pretty great submission for Caption that Cover.  The hero has glasses and a puzzled look on his face, the heroine’s dress is falling off (like they do).  I can see it now.

  29. 29
    ridiculousspider says:

    I ordered a copy of A Perfect Arrangement off ebay.  Turns out it isn’t the book.  The heroine actually seems to be “dowdy”. 

    I got to chapter 2 and already want to break the hero’s kneecaps.  He purposefully changed the heroine’s job description to include making his coffee and picking up his dry cleaning.  To “disabuse her of any liberated notions”.  Omg.  No.  Just…no.  The woman is a trained accountant and he is using her as a secretary/errand girl.  nvjkfdahoitfgweufjcdsakl.  I can’t even….it is just….I have no words.

    (Please excuse the ellipse abuse.)

    Maybe it gets better but I can’t read further to find out.  My brain threatens to explode.

  30. 30
    Robin Mayerhoefer says:

    It sounds a little like Touch Me In The Morning by Catherine George, but nothing about butterflies in the title obviously, and I don’t really remember anything her dying her hair. The heroine wears “maiden aunt clothing” and horn rimmed glasses to work, the arrogant hero wants a secretary who will be immune to his good looks…

    I read another Catherine George book around the same time where the heroine drabbed herself down, but she did it take a job as a nanny in the hero’s home, so I doubt it would be that one.

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