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!
Today, The Romance Reviews is proud to be a part of the With This Kiss Avon Addicts Blog Tour, featuring the final installment of Eloisa James' delightful and consistently surprising novella, With This Kiss.
Blending the idea of the historic serial with a modern reader's perennial desire to know more about their favorite characters and the events that happen after the final page has turned, this novella has been released in three parts over the course of the month. Any fans of James' The Ugly Duchess and Seduced by a Pirate, will recognize our heroine, Grace, as James and Theo's daughter, and our hero, Colin, as Griffin's adopted son. Though the references to these past books are fun, this story is all about Grace and Colin, and can be enjoyed by new readers and devotees alike.
From James' website:
Lady Grace Ryburn is in love with a dashing young lieutenant, Colin Barry, but she turns away, thinking that Colin is in love with her sister.
Should Colin throw propriety to the winds, imitate his pirate father, and simply take what he most desires?
As with all of James' novels, I loved the insight she provided to each of her characters, allowing readers to take a journey with them and experience their fear, pain, and, ultimately, their triumph, with each turn of the page. In this case, the anticipation of each new release has only added to the tension, allowing for some genuine concern and doubt whether Grace and Colin will ever overcome the obstacles between them and find their way into each others arms. Both characters are fully-detailed, complex individuals whose strength and courage is admirable, and whose bond, despite all their doubts, is beautifully strong.
Though there have been some plot developments that gave me pause for thought, the final installment of With a Kiss wraps up the story beautifully, tackling each problem in Grace's long history with Colin and providing a reading experience that was a sheer delight from beginning to end. This is a story about making amends, both for deeds done and deeds left undone, and watching both Colin and Grace take those first tentative, wrenching steps toward their heart's desire is wonderfully moving. Because each installment is about 30 pages, I was genuinely impressed with Eloisa James' ability to write directly into the heart of the matter, providing a feast of heart-wrenching moments and joyful details in each bite-sized portion of this story. Each of her books offers something truly memorable, but With a Kiss has been a special treat, providing not only a deeply romantic, dramatic and satisfying story, but also a unique reading experience that I enjoyed immensely. If you haven't yet started this fascinating novella, I hope you do so now!
Here are some links for buying each part of With a Kiss: