Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And Then He Kissed Her, by Laura Lee Guhrke. A Review by Debra

It's always gratifying when a student leads a teacher to something new. One of Bookishly's star protegees found this author and recommended that we read her work. As usual, our teaching comes full circle. This author is good. Very, very good. And the student gets an A.

And Then He Kissed Her is the story of Harrison Robert Marlowe, viscount and man of business in this year of 1893. He is an owner of several newspapers and publishing houses and he employs a female secretary, Emma Dove, to keep his life tidy, his businesses humming and his mistresses in line.

Emma has worked for Harry  for five years, and for just about as long, has tried to get Harry to publish her etiquette for "girl-bachelor" books. Rejection after rejection ensues, and finally, after finding out that Harry has been a bit less than honest in his critique of her writing, she quits his employ and sells her work to his competitor. Unbeknownst to Emma, Harry has been working to buy his rival's newspaper, and once again, Emma finds herself on Harry's payroll, but this time,  with an important difference. She is  no longer his secretary; due to the popularity of her etiquette column, she is now Harry's star attraction and chief money-maker.

With their relationship on a more equal professional footing, Harry gains a new respect for Emma, and that respect starts to drift in an entirely new and not unwelcome direction. Emma realizes that Harry may be the most commitment-phobic man in Great Britain, but she decides life is too short to squander a good thing, and conventions of the day aside, they begin a torrid affair.

Ms. Gurhke writes with a wry sense of humor and a snappy style that keeps the story flowing. She interjects enough details of the Victorian era to give the reader an excellent feel for the times, and the unusual nature of both Harry and Emma's actions. We get a fairly good idea of the attitudes and opinions of the changing mores at the end of the 19th century, when money and the making of it starts to usurp the old order of the Peers of the Realm. And we also get a glimpse of the changing attitudes towards  marriage, divorce and a woman's employment outside the home. All of this is wrapped up in a fairly wonderful love story that will leave  you clamoring for a sequel.  Or an epilogue at the very least.

I have a few more of this author's writing on order. I have my "student" to thank for her recommendation. She is definitely a very quick study.