Saturday, February 28, 2009

Secret Desires of a Gentleman: B+

Secret Desires of a Gentleman, by Laura Lee Guhrke:

Laura Lee Guhrke does it again! This wonderful entry in her "Girl-Bachelor" series tells the story of Maria, the daughter of the cook for the Marquess of Kayne. She grows up as a close friend of his two sons, the lighthearted Lawrence and the priggish Phillip. However at age 17 she and Lawrence fall in love and attempt to elope but are thwarted by Phillip, who then pays Maria 1,000 pounds to leave and never come back. Twelve years later, Maria, now a successful baker, opens a bakery right next to Phillip and Lawrence’s London residence—when Phillip finds out, he sets out to do everything he can to keep her away from Lawrence.

Maria is delightful and simple: self-sufficient, impulsive, witty, and a shameless flirt, she cares about her bakery more than anything else. Phillip is much more complicated. He values honor and chivalry and takes society’s rules very seriously, and he therefore considers Maria his inferior because of her class. Throughout the book he struggles with his strong reaction to Maria as well as his own cruel treatment of her. He considers himself a good person but he wants her gone.


Like most of Guhrke’s romances, this one develops slowly, with plenty of antagonism between the hero and heroine. Maria and Phillip are well-matched foes, and watching them battle it out was LOTS of fun. Even more fun was seeing them slowly, helplessly fall for each other, and having this process unfold framed by their childhood memories. They are a natural and beautiful couple, and their story is delightful and very sexy.


My only beef is the ending. Phillip’s inevitable change of heart felt very rushed and not entirely authentic, and Maria’s decision to give up her bakery was also glossed over quickly. It all came off a bit implausibly for a Guhrke novel—she usually handles character growth very well, and I was a bit disappointed.


Nevertheless, this is a fantastic read and I highly recommend it. B+!


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