The Boss's Demand
The Asian idea of yin and yang – or balance in all things – is true for romance novels as well. There needs to be a balance the emotional conflict and sexual awareness of the hero and heroine. Ms. Lewis favored the second over the first.
As the book opens, Sara Daley enters her boss’s office knowing that Elan Al Masurm, who wanted a gray-haired old lady as his new secretary, wants to fire her before she develops a personal interest in him, as his past two secretaries had. While arguing for her job, Sara spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about how attractive her boss is. When Elan allows her a month’s grace period to prove herself and they shake on it, she thinks to herself how difficult a challenge it will be as, in an instant she becomes “aware of [his] dangerously male life force”.
Sara proves to be a good personal assistant. She begins to take on more responsibilities in the office and in the business. With the increase in her duties comes and increased awareness of Elan, and vice versa. The sexual tension (and the mention of it) between the two mounts, but the author’s constant mention of their chemistry disrupts the story’s narrative flow. For instance, we learn that Elan distanced himself from people from childhood, when he was sent thousands of miles away to boarding school…and shortly thereafter lost his beloved mother. When Elan tells Sara of his lonely childhood, with only his horses for company, it goes from a moving moment to sexual one when the word “stallion” invokes lusty thoughts in both of them.
That’s not to say that the use of sexual frustration never worked here; with Elan it actually leads to personal insight into his psyche. Not so with Sara; she reacts to his confession by falling asleep.
After a successful business trip, Elan takes Sara on a picnic in the dessert. There passion explodes and they make love. Both regret the encounter. Elan tries to drive Sara away by giving her harder and harder work assignments, hoping she will find herself in over her head and thus leave his employment. The plan backfires, as Sara is a hard worker, has figured out his plan, and is determined to take on any challenge he throws her way.
Sara discovers she is pregnant, even though protection was used. Elan asks her to marry him when he learns of the baby. Sara is the product of a bad marriage; her parents married because there was a child on the way. It turned out to be disastrous union as her father continued to play the field. Sara refuses Elan’s offer because of the example of her parent’s marriage.
What follows is a dance between Elan and Sara as he tries to convince her to marry him. But his high-handed method does nothing more than convince Sara to continue to refuse. He’ll have to go far to convince her that his overbearing attitude will not ruin their chance at a happy marriage.
I think there’s a good, emotional love story here, but it’s often lost in the author’s wish to constantly remind readers that Sara and Elan are really, really, really sexually attracted to each other. Jennifer Lewis, who debuts with The Boss’s Demand, does manage to find a way of eventually focusing on the story’s emotional impact, but needs to find a better balance earlier on.