Friday, July 2, 2021

Laura Lee Guhrke - And Then He Kissed Her

Supremely sensible Emmaline Dove wishes to share her etiquette expertise with London's readers, and as secretary to Viscount Marlowe, Emma knows she's in the perfect position to make her dream come true. Marlowe might be a rake with a preference for can-can dancers and an aversion to matrimony, but he is also the city's leading publisher, and Emma is convinced he's her best chance to see her work in print...until she discovers the lying scoundrel has been rejecting her manuscripts without ever reading a single page!
As a publisher, Harry finds reading etiquette books akin to slow, painful torture. Besides, he can't believe his proper secretary has the passion to write anything worth reading. Then she has the nerve to call him a liar, and even resigns without notice, leaving his business in an uproar and his honor in question. Harry decides it's time to teach Miss Dove a few things that aren't proper. But when he kisses her, he discovers that his former secretary has more passion and fire than he'd ever imagined, for one luscious taste of her lips only leaves him hungry for more.

Comment: This book has had many positive reviews and is often recommended as good historical romance. This is not the first book by the author I try and, in general, I would say my appreciation has been positive. That is why I felt confident I would enjoy reading this one too.

In this novel we meet proper lady secretary Emma Dove, who has worked years for Harry, viscount Marlowe, and her role has been priceless to keep his affairs in order. The viscount has no problem saying he likes business and Emma hopes he will publish her own work someday, especially since he has newspapers and publishing businesses. Their relationship is all work related until the day Emma finally discovers the viscount doesn't really read the books she gives him. That propels a reaction from her neither would really see coming but before Emma regrets her decision, Harry starts seeing someone brave and passionate underneath her poise as someone bland. Could it be these two have much more in common than what they believed?

There were several good elements about this story I liked. I would say my favorite element was how Emma seemed to have a great evolution as a character. She goes from someone uninteresting to a daring woman who wanted to reach for happiness. I can confess I didn't think it was very wise of her to embark on a relationship with the hero the way they did, I was not convinced her personality would have enabled her to really be comfortable with how things went, but for sake of romance, it was good this had a happy ending.

When this story begins, Emma is a dutiful and professional secretary, who has found pride in working for a man and being as successful as any man would be, perhaps even more so. Those she deals with recognize her efforts and her professional behavior and depend on her for their own success in dealing with the businesses viscount Marlowe has. I liked how she was presented, polite and professional, perhaps not very impressive but someone who followed the rules. She, of course, has dreams, and the biggest one is to have her work on etiquette published, things she wrote with the advice and lessons from her aunt, the person who raised her.

I liked how we see a side of Emma that makes her a good girl, someone worthy of the respect of others as well. Her following of the rules also works as a way to contrast with what she does later on, when she has this, we would call, eureka moment where she feels she has to do something with her life, as she feels time is passing her by. It was obvious why we have two sides of the same person, so that we can better understand why she felt like changing but call me a prude, I don't think her radical way of behaving was convincing. It's difficult to imagine someone like Emma changing so much at a time where a woman's reputation could be in danger. yes, they take caution with their meetings but... for me, this part of the story disappointed me a bit. I'd rather have them pining, changing their wishes in life, without the physical matters muddling things even more.

Harry is a good enough hero, I'd say, but while I liked how he changed his point of view about Emma and started seeing her for all that she is worth instead of just how convenient her role as secretary is, I wish their story had been more romantic, less about how well they do in bed. It's great he paid attention and was able to read her attitude as the result of upbringing and wanting to please the aunt who helped her so much but to have her be a hedonist in disguise felt silly. Although, I suppose that the romantic gesture at the end made up for some less than good things.

The relationship is complicated for they are from different classes. Nowadays we like to think this wouldn't matter, but there's a reason why there were rules about how to behave in society. It wouldn't have been easy for them to cope if their affair was obvious. I think it lasted for quite too long before Emma realized she can't change her personality in a radical way...but this is a romance so of course everything ends up well in the end.
Grade: 7/10

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