And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke
The first book in the Girl Bachelor series, And Then He Kissed Her is the story of Ms. Emma Dove, the very competent secretary to Lord Harrison Marlowe, the most successful publisher in London. For five years Emma has been Harry's lifeline; buying presents for his family for all major occasions, as well as presents for his mistresses, kept his appointment book and made sure he kept the appointments, and generally kept his office and his staff from falling apart. Having grown up with her controlling army father and her fastidious governess aunt, Emma is a near expert on proper behavior and has tried for years to get an etiquette book published. Harry has repeatedly turned down her manuscripts claiming they weren't quite up to snuff, but Emma is horrified when she learns that Harry has never actually read more than a couple paragraphs of any of her books. On her 30th birthday Emma realizes that she has spent her entire life waiting and decides to take matters into her own hands. She quits her job at Marlowe publishing and gets her book published as a serial at a rival newspaper.
Harry is furious and yet he can't help but admire, not to mention feel intensely passionate about, the new Emma who is proving so much better than the stern, uptight spinster she had always appeared. For reasons he can't fathom he finds it impossible to get Emma out of his head and is determined to get her back into his life. He buys out the newspaper Emma now works for and both find their new working relationship much improved over their previous one as the two are now on more equal footing. Harry is frustrated over Emma's morals standing in the way of a romantic relationship between them and challenges her to give up her aunt's propriety. Emma knows that Harry is determined never to marry after his disastrous first marriage ended in divorce but she decides now is the time to embark on the "spring of her life" and the two spend two months together until Emma figures out that being Harry's weekend illicit affair isn't enough for her; she is ready to admit what she wants and what she wants is to spend the rest of her life with the man she loves.
Harry and Emma are wonderful characters and both were written so skillfully and their characters develop so much throughout the course of the novel. Emma is forced to confront her past of an uncaring father and an overly rigid aunt while Harry's development from the dissolute rake to a man desperately in love are both realistic and incredibly enjoyable to read. The two are perfect foils for each other as they each challenge the other to become better people, deal with their problems head on, and fall in love with each other. The scenes between the two cover the full range of emotions from gut-wrenching to laughing to passion to crying and are just so beautiful. As usual Guhrke does a stand up job writing from both Emma and Harry's point of view and the reader is always well informed about what each of them is thinking and just like everything else, it's very well written. Even the fact that they'd worked together for five years without anything happening doesn't stand in the way of my enjoyment (as it might) because her character progression is just so brilliant.
Unlike many of Guhrke's earlier works this one contained quite a bit of steam even if it did happen to be packed quite heavily towards the end. There was one very interesting scene involving peaches and honey that was especially fun and overall Guhrke just really stepped up this element of story writing. (Unfortunately this was actually written prior to the other two books I've reviewed- so perhaps a more adequate statement would be that she started slacking off. Hopefully that won't continue.) Guhrke seems to inspire quite mixed emotions among readers who either love her writing or hate her. For this review I once again read the reviews on amazon and can say with assurance that I had no problems with everything people who gave her poor reviews for. Almost all the problems had to deal with the characters actions, mainly Emma's, but Guhrke did such a splendid job giving the back ground of both protagonists, showing how and why each of them changes and grows as a person that their actions and reactions are really not at all difficult to understand.
Rating: A very character driven novel with a strong plot that absolutely sparkled. This really was a 4 1/2 heart book, but I do reserve 5 hearts for absolutely perfect books and while this book is VERY close, not quite.