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Guilty Pleasures    by Laura Lee Guhrke order for
Guilty Pleasures
by Laura Lee Guhrke
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

For months antiquities restorer Daphne Wade has taken secret pleasure in watching and sketching her employer, the Duke of Tremore as he works alongside her unearthing ancient Roman ruins. She's not afraid that the Duke will ever notice her shy glances - no one has every paid her much notice. Then Anthony's outgoing, unhappily married sister Viola comes to pay a visit. They bond instantly and Daphne finds herself truly enjoying Viola's company and counsel. Having traveled and worked with her father most of her life, Daphne has never had the chance to put down roots or make female friends. Soon keenly aware that Daphne is smitten by her handsome brother, and determined that Anthony avoid a bad marriage, Viola executes a plan to bring her brother and her friend together.

Within days Daphne announces her plans to resign and join Viola in London to sample the social whirl and yes, perhaps even find herself a husband. Annoyed at Viola's meddling and filling his prized employee's head with silly notions of leaving the estate and finding husbands, Anthony pulls out all stops to convince Miss Wade to stay. But Daphne will hear none of it. Anthony's biting words are still ringing in her ears after she accidentally stumbled into a conversation between Viola and her brother. Indeed Daphne doubts she'll ever forget the Duke's cruel words, 'Miss Wade isn't a woman. She's a machine. It's rather pathetic really. She has as much appeal as a stick insect on a twig'.

Theirs becomes a war of wits, words and bargaining chips as Daphne continually raises the stakes and Anthony smoothly moves in to outmaneuver her ultimatums. When Daphne refuses to budge from her decision to leave, he simply keeps raising her wage until she'd be foolish to turn him down. When she admits she cannot dance, Anthony offers to teach her -- but only if she stays on another month. When Daphne accuses him of being rude and insufferable, he promises to mend his ways. And so their game continues until the day that she does finally leave for London. By this time Anthony has come to realize that his Miss Wade is truly one of a kind and that he'd be a fool to let her get away.

This is a wonderfully realized romance with equally fine characterizations, especially those of Daphne and Anthony, two people who think they are so very different, yet who complement each other more than they realize. Laura Lee Guhrke has crafted a Regency gem in Guilty Pleasures -- a story that you'll want to enjoy again and again.

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