Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Secret Desires Of A Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke

Title: Secret Desires Of A Gentleman
Author: Laura Lee Guhrke

Type: Historical Romance
Published: 2008

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 hide his own secret desire for her…

Why: This is one of five in a series that Guhrke herself does not appear to call a series. So maybe just related books:

She's No Princess
And Then He Kissed Her
The Wicked Ways Of A Duke
Secret Desires Of A Gentleman
With Seduction In Mind

Of the five, I'd only read And Then He Kissed Her. I enjoyed that one quite a bit and, in the mood, was happy to pull Secret Desires Of A Gentleman from my TBR stack.

Thoughts: Light and entertaining. But not necessarily convincing.

Phillip resides at the top of society and Maria is a merchant--owner of a bakery shop.

Maria is the more compelling of the two, if you can accept her attitude and behavior. While I liked her wit, I couldn't always reconcile her behavior in this book's setting. Don't get me wrong, I love a historical heroine that bucks societal constrictions. I just wondered--more than once--whether a woman of her station would really feel so free to act as she does. I also wondered how her station--beneath that of the hero--didn't bother her more than it did. Yes, it was the source of the conflict. But she didn't seem to take it as deeply to heart as I would have liked. It seemed a vulnerability Guhrke could have explored but didn't. A chance for her to engage reader emotion that she ignored.

Phillip is the least compelling of all SDOAG's characters. Another missed opportunity for Guhrke, IMO. Where Guhrke took Maria's mouthy disregard to one extreme, she took Phillip's stoic, rigid adherence to the rules to the other extreme. And then failed to balance that social prison with sufficient glimpse of the emotion within. IOW, his own emotional grappling with the issue of station didn't run any deeper than Maria's. Again, it was a vulnerability Guhrke failed to explore.

I say that Guhrke failed to explore these vulnerabilities because although she didn't adequately explore or develop them, she did provide the occasional hint or sign. Like when Maria is forced to leave Phillip's home via the servants' entrance--not all that safe and in a downpour no less. Or when reader's learn that it is Phillip who took and has coveted Maria's favorite hair ribbon for 12 years. Both of these 'opportunities' tugged, found me holding my breath, bracing for the emotional fallout. It just never came. Every time I shifted to the edge of my seat, Phillip quietly retreated into society and Maria had a temper tantrum.

Bringing them together in bed changed that dynamic little. Another disappointment. And, in the end, when Phillip chooses a public venue to announce his love for a woman beneath his station, it wasn't enough. I wasn't convinced of his choice of her over societal rules. Nor was I convinced that she was ready to put her love for him first and her need to live outside societal constraints second.

Overall, light and entertaining. One, because Guhrke doesn't trouble readers with very much emotion or angst in the telling. And two, because there are lots and lots and lots of desserts.

Of note: If memory serves, I thought the H/H from And Then He Kissed Her better developed than these two. So while SDOAG didn't stir as much emotion as I would have liked, I'm still keen on reading the other titles in this set of Guhrke books.


  1. Great review. I agree with you it could've been so much better. The ribbon thing had me holding my breath and then nothing. Still enjoyed it. Have u tried some of her older titles? Breathless is one of my all time favorites.

  2. I loved Breathless! Didn't review it (only mentioned it in a drive-by like post), but it was certainly review-worthy. Great, great book Giselle. Have you read any of the others in this related set of books?

  3. Hey Jennifer :D

    seems like I enjoyed it more than you did... or perhaps it's because I read The Wicked Ways of A Duke (which wasn't very great :()

    By the way, She's no Princess is not part of this series.

    I thought it was quite enjoyable, but after reading your review, I can see the missed opportunities... As for Maria feeling her station, I think it's because it's always been that way in their relationship, don't you think?

  4. Probably yes. Within their dialogue, her attitude felt natural...lifetime of it natural. There were a few moments however when I wondered at her public behavior...think that was what I was thinking anyway.

    Hmmmm, Wicked wasn't so good, eh? Guhrke a hit or miss author? Or is it just that some of her titles are more enjoyable than others? No duds, just some that don't work as well as others? Got me thinking now...LOL.

  5. Another thought provoking review, Jennifer! I haven't read this book, but I did read And Then He Kissed Her. I have to agree that Gurke tends to write a more prominent heroine. At least, that's how I feel about it. It sounds like this book would have made for a good discussion.

  6. Thanks Jill! Thinking back...I've read Breathless and Then He Kissed Her. You're right. In both, the heroine definitely leads. Which isn't to say the heroes were weak, not at all. Specially in Breathless, whew.

  7. It's more that some of her books are more enjoyable than others... I quite enjoyed all of her older releases, but her latest series... And Then He Kissed Her and Secrets of a Proper Gentleman were better... Wicked and the newest one, With Seduction in Mind were so-so.

    You're right, she tends to develop the heroines more than heroes.

  8. I didn't realize She's No Princess was connected to this series. I think I have that in my TBR pile, but I'm not positive.

    I do know I have this TBR, but I've been putting off reading it. I can't say why for sure, since I enjoyed the other three I read, but reading your review makes me think I've been making the right choice.

  9. Holly - My bad. Nath pointed out that She's No Princess is NOT part of this series. That one is on my TBR stack and I'm curious to see if it is stronger than those in this series.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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