THE AVON AFFAIR IS A 14-DAY AVON BOOKS REVIEW EVENT ORGANIZED AND HOSTED BY CURRENT AND ALUMNI MEMBERS OF THE AVON ADDICTS.
Today, we're taking a walk down memory lane with one of my first Avon reads, and one that is still among my favorites:
While I’ve yet to read a book by Laura Lee Guhrke that I haven’t loved, this one has been the best to date by far. With the gentle humor, wit and heart that makes all her books great reads, this book features two brilliantly drawn characters and so much tension that I am still baffled that the book didn’t combust in my hands while I was reading.
For years, Emmaline Dove has been a model employee, not only assisting Harry Marlowe in his publishing business, but also in keeping his love life tidy and peaceful, placating his mistresses with trinkets and condolences when he determines that their affair has reached its conclusion. She is tireless in her work, hoping only that one day Harry will publish the etiquette books she has written. However, when it comes to her attention that, for all his explanations that the public has no wish to read about books on manners, Harry hasn’t read a word she has written, Emmie quits in a fury, determined to find someone who won’t play games with her talent…or her heart.
But Harry is not so easily deterred. Emmie has been his closest companion for years, and the idea that she can walk away so easily leaves him baffled. So he sets out to learn what makes his lovely secretary tick—and finds surprises at ever turn. For despite the fact that Emmie’s every move, every remark is the model of proper etiquette, there is something beneath her perfect exterior that keeps him coming back for more. What proper lady reads the unedited One Thousand and One Nights? And while Harry has sworn off love affairs, how can it be that this model of propriety has managed to take such a place in his heart that he cannot let her go?
Neither of these main characters are the kind you would normally expect to see as romantic leads. Harry, who apparently does nothing better than cause scandal, has lived through the hell of a divorce and now refuses to have anything by the simplest of physical relationships with women. While initially the womanizing part of his personality made it really difficult for me to like him, from the start, his interactions with Emmie showed the better part of his nature that he kept tightly hidden away. He never treats her as anything but an equal, and is willing to show her the broken heart that is hiding beneath his sometimes heartless exterior. Emmie herself seems at time to be the most uptight person imaginable, constantly chastising herself for the rebellious and ‘unseemly’ parts of her character. It isn’t until much later in the book that we learn the full reasons for her need for etiquette and order, but the heartbreak she has suffered is perhaps even deeper than Harry’s own. They are a matched set in temperament and stubbornness and the chemistry between them is absolutely sensational.
What makes this book so unique is way the relationship between Emmie and Harry grows and flourishes. Even though we are kept waiting for nearly 200 pages before the two actually share a kiss, the tension between them starts at a fever pitch and only gets hotter from there. Laura Lee Guhrke is able to eke more emotion, more tension and more passion from a single touch than most writers do with page and pages of action, and in this book she is at her best. The chase is by far what makes this book special, but the emotional bond that grows between the characters as they continue their pursuit makes the whole story magical.
A word about the ending of this book. I’ve read several other reviews that really took this story of task for the way it ended. I personally found it a really interesting choice. I don’t think that Emmie wasn’t true to herself in the slightest; in fact, I think that Harry allowed her to stop hiding and learn who she really was—someone who needed love far more than she needed social acceptance and propriety. Her willingness to follow that love was a much more courageous move than a cowardly one, and one that allowed Harry to drop his own pretenses and follow his heart, as well.
All in all, this was a wonderful story, beautifully told. Both Emmie and Harry are fantastic, complex characters, their exchanges were witty and winning and their romance had my heart all a-flutter even after I had finished reading. A winner all around from a great writer!