An intelligent pair of lovers and sizzling sexual tension make Guilty Pleasures a most enjoyable romance. It breaks no new ground, but it tells a familiar story in a very engaging way.
Anthony Courtland, the Duke of Tremore, is fascinated with antiquities. He is excavating a Roman villa on one of his properties and plans to build a museum to house the artifacts. When Sir Henry Wade, the antiquarian Tremore hired, died before he could begin work, his daughter Miss Daphne Wade takes his place and restores mosaics, translates inscriptions, and catalogues artifacts. Tremore barely notices Daphne, since she conceals her figure behind a heavy canvas apron and wears an unflattering hair style. Daphne has noticed Tremore, though. She surreptitiously watches him thorough her spyglass as he digs for artifacts while shirtless. “Much better looking than a classical statue,” is her verdict.
Tremore has decided that it’s time to marry and have an heir, and to that end he plans on proposing to Lady Sarah, the cool, haughty daughter of a marquess. His sister Viola, Lady Hammond, lonely in a loveless marriage, attempts to disuade him, but Tremore declares he does not want a love match. He’ll marry Sarah for an heir and keep his mistress Marguerite for pleasure. When the conversation turns toward Daphne, Viola informs Tremore that the girl a baron’s granddaughter. Daphne’s mother was disowned by her father for marrying Henry Wade, and even though the marriage was happy and Henry was knighted for his discoveries, the baron never relented. Viola wants to sponsor Daphne for a Season and help her take her place in Society. Tremore makes a very disparaging remark about Daphne’s appearance, a remark Daphne overhears. She decides to quit Tremore’s employ and take Viola up on her offer. When Daphne gives notice, Tremore realizes how important she is and bargains with her to stay.
Daphne and Tremore grow in the course of this book, Daphne in particular. She begins the book acting like one of those bespectacled secretaries in an old movie, mooning after her handsome employer. After she overhears Tremore’s nasty remark about her appearance, her spine stiffens and with Viola’s encouragment she begins to assert herself. She is the granddaughter of a peer and the daughter of a gentleman, after all, so she quits deferring to His Grace. Tremore realizes how much he needs her, and as she begins to dress in a manner more appropriate to her station, he also realizes that she is an attractive woman and a loving intelligent one at that – unlike the coldly beautiful Lady Sarah.
Guhrke has created quite the wounded hero. While still very young his father grieved himself into a state of madness, and as a result, Tremore was forced to take on the responsibilities of the title. And ever since, he’s mistrusted the power of love. It is for that reason he plans a dispassionate marriage and has kept his heart free of entanglements. But Daphne is so perfect a match for him that he is terrified of his feelings toward her.
Guilty Pleasures is an enjoyable historical romance. It may not break new ground, but it tells a pleasant tale and tells it quite well. I love intelligent characters, and Daphne and Tremore were more than likable. I hope that Laura Lee Guhrke will give us the story of Tremore’s sister, Lady Viola, in the future. She is as intelligent and likable as her brother and deserves a happy ending too.