Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke
Secret Desires of a Gentleman is the story of Maria Martingale, a pastry chef whose father had been the cook for the Kayne family, and Phillip Hawthorne, the current Marquess of Kayne. Twelve years ago Maria had been set to marry Lawrence, Phillip's younger brother, that is until Phillip convinced his brother to give up Maria and then payed Maria to leave with the promise she would never return. She had known that Phillip was protective of his family and would do anything to prevent his brother marrying a lowly servant and avoid scandal, but she hadn't know that Phillip had been harboring secret desires of his own for Maria and it was this that had made him get rid of her. Now Maria has opened up her own pastry shop right next to Phillip's residence (no building codes?) in a building Phillip happens to own. Fair being fair he allows her to keep working there but of course he gets a little hot under the collar.
Phillip is nervous that Maria intends to take back up with Lawrence, who is romancing the daughter of an influential businessman Phillip would like to have on his side. The book is filled with references to Maria and Phillip's past and how his feelings have never gone away. The problem that needs to be overcome is Phillip's arrogance, or snobbery, as he has to come to grips with the fact that he is falling in love with someone beneath his station. And Maria needs to come to grips with her belief that Phillip will always regard her as inferior. There is no "side-plot" just the growing relationship, which is both nice but also leaves the review, but definitely not the book, feel somewhat lacking.
Imagine how much amazing angst ensues when a man is forced to send away the woman he loves because he can not bear to believe she loves someone else. And then add her realization that he will never feel she is good enough for him and you get perhaps the best angst in a romance novel ever. A particularly fun bit of angst centered around a hair ribbon she had thought was lost, but was in fact taken by Phillip, who has kept it for fourteen years and taken it out every time he missed her. I know that probably wouldn't appeal to some people, but I thought it was great and showed a lot about Phillip and how much he was hiding and how much he needed Maria. I also liked the steamy scenes in the book- there were far too few in my opinion but the 1 (and maybe a half) was definitely good and the buildup to it was perfection.
This book also did a great job of showing both Maria and Phillip's perspectives on what was happening and explaining their motives. Most of the time it seems as though writers focus far more attention on the heroine's POV (which confuses me as wouldn't it be the male perspective that would be more confusing or interesting to the female readership), but a relatively equal amount of time was given to Phillip and that's a huge part of why he was just as relate-able as Maria. Lawrence- the main secondary character- was very likable and played the perfect role as he sorted through his emotions for Maria and discovered his brothers'. My weird complaint would be the time of the book; I couldn't really figure it out. Phillip wore a top hat and a cane and she wore a shirtwaist (which I'd never read about) so I was thinking it was early 20th century, but in reality I had no clue. Why couldn't she have just told us? Also- the cover? It... is not good.
Rating: I loved the angst and the characters, but I don't feel like it deserves five hearts. Still a great read.