by Suzanne Enoch

March 2000
ISBN: 0-380-80916-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

What would you do if your amazingly handsome future employer announced he was hiring you because ever since he'd set eyes on you he'd wanted "to peel you out of that ridiculously prim gown, and cover your naked skin with hot, slow kisses"? Well, perhaps today you'd slap him with a sexual harassment suit, but for Miss Alexandra Beatrice Gallant, would-be finishing governess, her initial reactions are shock, outrage, and a healthy dollop of "alright, when?"

Alexandra, victim of scurrilous rumors about the death of her previous employer, is desperate for a job. Lucien Balfour, Earl of Kilcairn Abbey and notorious rake, desperately needs help to get an unwanted cousin and her harpy of a mother off his hands. The Delacroix ladies have become Lucien's responsibility and he's extremely unhappy about it, especially since between the two of them they have the intelligence of a gnat. And that's being unkind to the gnat. Enter Miss Gallant, elegant, bright, opinionated and beautiful. Lucien ignores her somewhat shady reputation and hires her on the spot - Alexandra resolves never ever to be alone with this man who does quite dreadful things to her emotions and her hormones! And we know that's a promise she'll keep, right?

Lucien's intent to relieve Miss Gallant of her gown is unshakeable, and Alexandra's determination is soon weakened by the seductive wiles of an experienced rake. The intelligence and humor that pervades their dialogue, both physical and conversational, is a joy! The Delacroix twits make us laugh and cringe at the same time - thank heavens Alexandra is able to redeem the young Rose and turn her into a semi-acceptable lady. Ms. Enoch's characters are all written to perfection here, we can understand their thoughts, feelings and actions very clearly.

It is wonderful to watch Lucien as his sensual urges are overridden by something other than lust - something he doesn't want to put a name to, but that is all-powerful. Alexandra's behavior clearly indicates that she is suffering from the same malady, but she absolutely refuses to accept it! Lucien's clever plotting results in a wonderful conclusion to this tale - you'll have to read it to find out how he confounds Alexandra's enemies and comes to terms with his own heart (but as a clue, don't miss the wine cellar scenes!). This is a rare book in which most of the characters are having fun - yes, there are problems to be overcome and solutions to be found, but it is all done with a light heart and a funny twist. Don't miss Alexandra's etiquette lessons to Rose - they're a delight! The love affair between Alex and Lucien is red-hot and a satisfyingly natural consequence of their emotions rather than an obvious plot development. In case you missed the point - this is a really great romance! As another reviewer said, "Indulge and be delighted". Couldn't have said it better myself.

Reviewed in September 2001 by Celia.

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