Breathless

The Charade

His Every Kiss

The Marriage Bed

Not So Innocent

 
And Then He Kissed Her
by Laura Lee Guhrke
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-114360-1
***
Emmaline Dove is part of a new breed of woman. She is a girl- bachelor, as single career women were known in late Victorian England. She works for Harry, Viscount Marlowe, a rakish publisher notorious for his scandalous divorce and his public stand against marriage. In addition to doing his secretarial work, Emma also buys presents for his numerous paramours. Although she excels in choosing the perfect goodbye gift, she finds it rather humiliating and puts up with it only in the hopes that Harry will one day publish her book on female etiquette. When he refuses yet another time, she takes her chances with another publisher and quite happily bids Harry goodbye. Some months later, however, he acquires her publishing house and she finds herself working for him again.

Emma won’t let things fall back into their old pattern. For one, her advice column is such an unexpected success that no astute businessman would fire her. This gives her the upper-hand in what had been a rather one-sided relationship. For another, they finally acknowledge their mutual attraction, even if it takes them a while before they are ready to do something about it. And even then, they have a thing or two to resolve before they settle in for the long haul.

If And Then He Kissed Her sounds like a boss-secretary romance transposed to another century, it’s because that’s pretty much what it is. And yet, just as I thought I was settling down for a familiar ride, the story took some interesting new routes. Most of these are thanks to Emmaline, who has a lot more backbone and depths than I might have expected. When she eventually caves in to Harry’s demand, both her timing and her reasons are perfect. After a lifetime of self- denial and repression, she resolves to take her destiny into her own hands and indulges herself in everything from chocolate to peaches to Harry. She doesn’t, however, forsake all her convictions. These contradictions and complications make her an interesting heroine, one I could admire as well as identify with.

Harry is less likeable and certainly more predictable. Like so many romance-land rakes, he has had one bad experience with marriage and doesn’t care to try again. It takes him a while to realize that Emma is well worth the attempt. His prolonged hesitation may be why I feel she was wasted on him. He may have more experience, but she has more wit, intuition and insight, important tools where banter and seduction are concerned.

Guhrke makes good use of her setting. Although it might seem the era is incidental to the story, she provides enough information to make it an ideal backdrop and an effective way of livening up a much-too- recognizable premise. All in all, And Then He Kissed Her is a well-wrought rendition of a standard plot.

--Mary Benn


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