There were some great things about it but also some things that brought the overall rating down for me. I’d place it in the high 3’s so I’m rounding up to 4.
I loved the premise of this book. Daphne is an employee of Anthony, the Duke of Tremore, working on an excavation on his land, digging up antiquities for a museum he is developing. Before the book starts she’s fallen madly in love (or more like madly infatuated) with Anthony, who barely knows she’s alive. Their romance kicks off when she overhears a conversation between Anthony and his sister in which he says some pretty hurtful things about her and suddenly she finds herself and starts defying him left and right, which of course makes him finally notice her.
Everything that I just summed up in a paragraph takes about 70 pages to plod through. There’s a lot of interaction with Anthony’s sister setting up this plot and very little interaction between Anthony and Daphne at this point. I wish those first 70 pages had been spent on their relationship and how they worked together and the development of Daphne’s feelings instead, and then breezed past these pieces with his sister. If it had been done that way I would have connected better with Daphne when she was so hurt by what Anthony said. I would have felt that heartbreak more, but instead I just felt like I was waiting for their romance to start.
It took about 90 pages for the romance to truly start but once it does, oh man, it’s like butterflies from heaven. The cold and aloof Anthony finally does notice Daphne, he turns on the charm and starts making your insides melt. You think he’s going to be this hard, arrogant jerk the whole book, but in reality he’s actually pretty sweet and caring, and you finally get to see that at this point. And it doesn’t seem forced or fake. It’s so natural and his responses to her are unbidden and almost involuntary. Like he can’t help himself.
In some ways I loved how Anthony developed as a character, but in other ways I was a little annoyed. I loved that he wasn’t the typical romance hero who set out to seduce or take advantage of her. He wanted her to keep working for him and that was his end goal, something he was forthright about. But he just found himself falling in love with her and I adored that. But at the same time, he was very focused on his lust for her in a physical sense and while we definitely get to see his feelings develop beyond that, I wish his desires to know Daphne as an person were more transparent.
Daphne was also an excellent and unique heroine. She had spent her life traveling the world, digging up antiquities in places like Africa. She’s worldly and educated, and not in a fake, wallpaper type way like so many bluestocking heroines. She was not sheltered or naive. She wasn’t an innocent girl, dying for a little adventure, and she didn’t need a man to show it to her. It is she who is more experienced in the world than Anthony. It’s she who has to teach him things about people and cultures. I liked this role reversal, where the duke was envious of the lady’s experiences instead of the other way around.
What I didn’t like so much about Daphne’s character development is that she was in-fact the daughter of a Baron. This isn’t really a spoiler, it comes up very early. But I thought I was reading a book of different classes and this was kind of disappointing to me.
The middle of this book is where all the heat and passion lies. I love the way their relationship developed. It felt evenly paced and appropriate. It was natural and happened over time. And Laura Lee Guhrke did a great job developing the tension between them.
I know a lot of people connect more with the heroine but I read romance novels for the hero. I find it disappointing when I don’t get enough from his perspective. This book did not disappoint me! It has a great balance between hero and heroine and I might even say it leans towards being more revealing of the hero. I love those moments where the hero is seeing the heroine in a new light, realizing things about her he’s never realized before, suddenly aching to know more about her, spend more time with her, wanting to touch her. This book gave me that in spades.
And I have to say there is one kissing scene in this book that was so god damn hot. It was honestly worth reading 180 pages just to get to it. It’s lusty and passionate and crazy and unbridled and Anthony has basically lost all control. And even though it’s lust driven it’s so intense you can tell it’s also so much more. So much that it actually scares him. Oh, it’s everything I want in a kissing scene. Heart pounding.
The tension and feels did fizzle for me towards the end of the book. It suffered from the same problem as the beginning where the two were just not together enough to keep it going. But there is this really romantic quality with Anthony courting her publicly and communication with her through flowers which is really lovely. And the paragraph where he tells her he loves her at the end is perfect.
Overall, the book needed a bit more development. It was only 284 pages and needed a deeper dive into the characters. The end wrapped up a bit abruptly and there was no epilogue. But there were all the above things I loved about it too. It is absolutely worth a read and I will certainly be checking out more of Laura Lee Guhrke’s books.