With Seduction in Mind by Laura Lee Guhrke
Daisy Merrick is constantly getting fired from various jobs for being to blunt with her employers/customers; such as telling a woman in a dressmakers shop where she works that no that color does not look good on her to telling a lawyer that no she is not required to sleep with him because she's his typist. Sebastian Grant, the Earl of Avenmore, is a renowned author whose work has deteriorated immensely from his widely praised early works to quick hack jobs that are just as widely derided. After her latest disaster at work Daisy decides to apply for a job at her friend's husband's publishing company, Marlowe publishing. She submits her own novel and begs for a job and while he reads it he sends her to review Sebastian's new play. She gives him a scathing review and the play lasts last then a week, making Sebastian furious with the upstart reviewer. Since Daisy's novel is not quite ready for publication, but shows promise, Marlowe decides that Sebastian should help Daisy polish up her writing while she keeps him on task so that he can finally finish his very overdue promised manuscript.
She follows him to his estate where he is very reluctant to get any work done- until Daisy offers an incentive: for every 100 pages he rewrites she'll give him a kiss. Daisy convinces herself she's doing it to improve the admittedly lackluster romance scenes in her novel while Sebastian is just doing it because he can't help but find the tall red-head with a "luscious bum" completely desirable. Sebastian is a recovered cocaine addiction and Daisy is the first thing since cocaine that makes writing fun and easy for him and when he begins to feel they're getting too close he runs back to London where he finds that he can't write without Daisy there. So when he heads back to Avenmore his new plan is to completely make Daisy his but he is still convinced that happy endings are impossible and that Daisy will never be more to him than an inspiration and a good bed partner. Despite knowing Sebastian's feelings about love and happily-ever-after's Daisy can't help but fall in love with Sebastian and it is only when she is forced to confront his lack of true feelings that she runs away. Sebastian needs to confront his fears of "addiction" and his own beliefs about love before he runs after to Daisy to win her back.
The first half and second half of this book were like completely different novels. The first half was slow and not in the build up to a really great relationship that most of Guhrke's admittedly slow first halves are like. There wasn't enough of the two characters together in the first half and indeed until the two moved to Avenmore all their interactions were just flat. Most of, perhaps all of, Guhrke's novels are soley focused on the relationship developing between the two characters and there is not a lot of background plot or extra-ness getting in the way. It does not make the book feel lacking or anything but it does make writing a truly complete 370 page novel very difficult and it shows in this book with the flat first half. I tend to like this lack of extra-ness in books as long as it really forces the author to flesh out the relationship and I feel like many authors are not able to do this. Guhrke does it very well in most of this novel. Once the two got to Avenomre and started working together and kissing and such the book improved immensely and I did not put it down until I had finished (except for a class of course, but even that I did very reluctantly).
All the Lady Bachelor books have featured women who are friends from their days staying at the boarding house on Little Russell street but this was the first time any mention was made of all the men in the books knowing each other. St. Cyres (my least favorite), Phillip the Marquis of Kayne, and Marlowe are apparently acquainted, if not exactly bosom buddies. It didn't detract from the story but it was just a little bit jarring and odd to me that all these male friends just happened to marry women who were also friends. At least Guhrke is very good at not continually hitting us over the head with her previous characters' happiness- although Maria (Secret Desires of a Gentleman) does make a brief appearance and we do hear about Emma (And Then He Kissed Her). As with most of the good stuff in this novel the sex and build up is relegated to the last half of the book and while not super steamy or plentiful is very well written and quite good really. The last half is also filled with some delicious angst as Sebastian guilts about taking Daisy's innocence and while Daisy worries about having fallen in love with a man who she knows will never return her feelings.
Rating: I probably would give the first half a two and the second half a 5 but I can't give a book a 4 with such a dreadful first half even if it did turn into a winner eventually. I would recommend skimming through the first part and tuning in when they go to Avenmore.