Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke

Book Description:
Once Upon a Time...

Maria Martingale was going to elope. But Phillip Hawthorne, Marquess of Kayne, put a stop to those plans when he learned his younger brother intended to marry a cook's daughter. Now, twelve years later, Maria discovers that the man who holds her fate in his hands is none other than the haughty gentleman who sent her packing - and he's as handsome and arrogant as ever. Happily Ever After? Always the proper gentleman, Phillip will do anything to protect his family from scandal, and when Maria dares to move in right next door, he knows scandal will surely follow. She is as tempting as he remembered...and the more he sees her, the harder it is for Phillip to keep his own secret desire for her a secret...  

I loved this book!  It reminded me a little bit of the movie, Sabrina and a little bit of Pride and Prejudice - how could I not love it?  Two of my favorite movies! 

This is the third in Guhrke's Girl Bachelor Series.  Set during late Victorian times in the 1890's (one of my favorite romance novel periods), Maria is a self enterprising heroine.  She is a hard worker and has a good head on her shoulders.  She is determined to make a success of herself as London's premier patisserie owner.  As far as Maria is concerned, times are modern for a young, single woman and she will not let the masculine world of prejudices prevent her from grabbing the brass ring.  Yes, she is the daughter of a chef, hardly part of the upper class, but she was well schooled.  Sent away to boarding school, she later learned how to become a top notch baker in the French style.  Her pastries are to die for - and she knows it! *grin*  We first meet Maria as she finds an ideal kitchen for lease.  With her best friend's money to back her (it's Prudence, who is now a duchess from the last book in the series), Maria can't resist the modern, clean kitchen that also has a front room for her bakery.  It's perfect!  Until she finds out who the owner is!  It's Phillip Hawthorne, Marquess of Kayne, the elder brother of her former fiance from twelve years earlier.

Phillip was responsible for Maria's broken heart and she'll hate him forever!  But, as we learn over the course of the story, was she really in love way back when, as a young and naive seventeen year old?  And why is she still so angry with Phillip after all these years?  Maria grew up with the two brothers, Phillip and Lawrence, because Maria's father was the family chef.  Scampering around, climbing trees and playing cricket, Maria was close to the boys.  But, once they all became teenagers, everything changed.  Phillip became distant and serious.  Hurt, Maria turned to Lawrence and before long they believed themselves in love and planned to elope.  As the young Marquess of Kayne, Phillip put a kabosh on the whole thing and paid off Maria to stay away from his brother forever.  Young and brokenhearted, she took the money and used it to support herself as she learned how to become a first rate pastry chef.

Now, the whole awful memory has come back to haunt her.  Lawrence is back in town from America, about to be engaged to a rich American heiress, and Phillip is doing his best to keep them apart.   I loved Phillip!  We get his point of view as well in the story and there's more to him than meets the eye.  Inheriting his title at a young age, as well as being saddled with a ton of debt, he busied himself by turning the family fortune around.  He's a businessman now and he's not about to let Maria ruin the possibility of a big shipping deal with Lawrence's future father-in law.  Lawrence, unfortunately, is a bit of a scapegrace.  Fortunately, Maria has no interest in him - she just wants to be left alone by the two brothers to run her bakery.  But, as it turns out Phillip is her landlord!  They're thrown together constantly and soon the two of them can't deny the attraction that has been simmering since they first bumped into each other!

Phillip soon cannot stop thinking about Maria, he becomes obsessed with her.  It doesn't help they share a balcony that joins their two separate town houses.  All he can think about is that she is in the room nextdoor  - undressing.  He wants her badly, but being the gentleman that he is, he does the unthinkable.  He proposes to her - and what a mess of it he makes.  Rivaling Mr. Darcy at Hunsford, Phillip makes no bones about how unsuitable a match he believes the two of them will make.  But nothing can stop him.  He must have her.  Well, Maria lets him know exactly what she thinks about that!  (Trust me, he makes it up to her later!)

Despite his disastrous proposal, I loved seeing how both of them cave in to their passion, and we get some insight into how Phillip felt all those years ago, and what was the real reason behind why he forced Maria and Lawrence to break up.  I found many moments amusing, poignant and the ending was very special, albeit, a trifle corny and totally unrealistic - I loved it!

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did - Maria is feisty and strong and Phillip is handsome and debonair with an Achilles Heel that can't turn away a chocolate tart.  Can he let loose and drop his serious side and have fun again with the pert young girl he knew and longed for long ago?  No matter how lowly her connections?  Anything is possible!

A great book!


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