by Laura Lee Guhrke

February 2004
ISBN: 0-06-054174-1
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Anthony Courtland, the Duke of Tremore had in his employ, an extremely gifted antiquarian and mosaicist. She was a rather plain, nearsighted, and subdued young woman—but also extremely competent. Her name was Daphne Wade.

After the death of her father Sir Henry Wade, in Morocco, Daphne had been left destitute. Fortunately, the Duke of Tremore had wished to employ her father as the chief antiquarian for his museum, and had sent tickets for their passage to England. Having no place else to go, Daphne gambled that the Duke would accept her in her father’s place. Daphne had worked side by side with him, he’d taught her everything he knew. So, after the initial shock and disappointment, Anthony agrees to take her on. In fact, it was imperative that he should utilize her skills. He would be excavating priceless artifacts for the museum he planned to open in a few short months. No one now, but Daphne, had the experience or the knowledge to undertake such a vital task.

Daphne benefits as well. She procures a position she loves and a place to call home. But better yet—this shy, unassuming, intellect, could peer out the window (spyglass in hand) and sketch Anthony while he labored shirtless, working on the excavation project. The sight of his tall, tanned, broad shouldered body brought an intense feeling of pleasure to Daphne. Yes, she had realized for sometime now that she was hopelessly and irrevocably in love with her employer. "Love," she thought, "should be a pleasant thing, warm and tender, not something that hurt one’s heart by its intensity.”

Loving Daphne is the furthest thing of course from our hero’s mind. And, most unfortunately, one evening while conversing with his sister, Viola, Anthony likens Daphne to a “stick insect on a twig.” A machine, without feminine appeal, lacking womanly attributes, she was rather pathetic, he pontificated, "when she does manage to get out a few words, she cannot seem to string them together without stammering." More regrettably, Daphne overhears the pointed conversation, and finds that her dream of Anthony is shattered.

But, during that heinous conversation, Daphne would learn that she had a true friend in Viola. She had offered to give Daphne a Season in London. Viola intends to introduce her to a new way of life, a life she had never known before. Viola failed in her attempt to convince Anthony to marry for love rather than duty to one's station in life. Instead, she would direct her efforts toward Daphne. Let Anthony marry the cold, unemotional woman he had set his sites on. She could offer Daphne so much more.

But while anger and hurt fuels Daphne to a new purpose and ambition, she never anticipates Anthony’s determination to keep her exactly where she is. Nothing, not even the wooing of this plain little wallflower in her drab dresses and unattractive smocks will deter him from his goal. He must open the museum on time. Thus, the real bargaining begins.

Laura Lee Guhrke effortlessly creates characters you come to love and care about. Even though this historical has a tried and true formula used countless times before, the relationship between Anthony and Daphne seems fresh, and innovative. Anthony smolders with sexuality, and Daphne is gutsy, and captivating. The secondary characters like Viola—add breadth to the story, but fade into the background, so that you may focus your attention on our hero and heroine. I enjoyed every page. This was my first Laura Lee Guhrke read, although I’ve heard repeatedly about her talents, notably in Connor’s Way, which I’ve frustratingly come to realize is very hard to find. But, that won’t stop me from my expedition or excavation! No dear reader, I plan to collect everything she’s written. So, put Guilty Pleasures on your keeper shelf too, and hold on to it for dear life.

Reviewed in April 2004 by Janice.

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