The furthest distance she's gone from her small Arkansas hometown is New York city, where she now lives and works as a secretary. She agrees to assist her the 28y.o. viscount friend of her boss,
She just didn't expect him to be so stodgy and snobbishly insulting of her American country ways.
He likewise didn't expect someone so unpolished be his temporary assistant while he's trying his best to avoid his royal mother's criticism of his unregal lifestyle.
Neither did he expect to be so attracted to someone like heroine.
Nor enjoy her company like he does no other, sharing his archaeological projects while she knits.
An affair rages between them.
She is baffled, however, at how he can quickly shun her like one of the staff
and continue to insult her person.
When she realizes why he was keeping her his dirty secret,she reaches her limit. How can he undo the damage?
I've read a few Clare books and this one did not disappoint. It has her trademark humor and hot and sweet romance between Hero and heroine. I was laughing from the first pages of the book then switched between gasping at how mean Hero was being to heroine and sighing when he'd try to make it up to her. This was a different sort of grovel book. There isn't one big, angsty betrayal & then a big grovel at the end. It's a series of Hero hurting heroine and him apologizing and trying to fix his mistakes along the way. Yet he hurt her again because he either still didn't truly get understand how he's hurting her, what she wanted, or how to fix it sufficiently. Throughout the book, we see him increasingly try to do right by her, fail, and try to amend his mistakes again.
-----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details---------------
How he hurt heroine:
1. criticized her hair for being messy & made her wear it in a bun
2. told her she "dressed like a vagrant" (p. 70) and had to buy her 'proper' clothes so she didn't embarrass him in public
3. didn't like her "revolting twangs" (p. 26) and often corrected her grammar
4. criticized her lack of decorum and lack of emotional restraint
5. irritated by her cheerful friendliness with the staff and strangers she met
6. showed affection with her in private but became avoidant and condescending to her in public
7. when she thought he was being nice to her, he ruined it by saying something that makes it about him (i.e., not publicly embarrassing him, making things easy for him, conforming to what he thought was proper). For example, instead of telling her he didn't want to abuse his power as her employer over her for kissing her, he apologized for kissing her because she was "a commoner" (p. 94). After making her happy by complimenting her on how beautiful she looked in her ball gown, he ruined by following it with "every fool" (p. 99) was going to the ball and that she "looked like the other ladies" (p. 100).
How he made it up to her:
- when he realized he wronged her...he tended to admit it, feel bad about it, & do something to fix it (i.e., thought she knitted & wore cheap clothes because she was too poor to buy appropriate clothes & took her clothes shopping (p. 67), complimented her on her looks so she didn't think he thought she looked bad (p.106))
- apologized even when it's hard/unfamiliar of him to do so, especially as the employer to his own employee (p. 65, 99) & explained why(awful at showing affection properly esp when in Belissime where he'd been 'brainwashed' to act like royalty (p.178))
- sometimes explained why he's being grumpy (i.e., not happy to be back to his childhood home where he's hounded by media & busy social schedule)
- restrained himself from cricitizing her incorrect English & incorrect expectations of privilege to be "nice (to her)" (p.146)
- chatted with her because she expected conversation, even though he'd rather eat his meal while reading (p. 65)
- sometimes thanked her for arranging things so he got the things he really wanted (i.e., privacy, being at archaeological site)
- protected her & made her feel safe (i.e., from his older bro's lecherous plans, papparrazi man sneaking into her room)
- comforted her when she was scared/upset, even giving her an awkward hug without being asked because he knew she liked being hugged for comfort (p. 54) and let her cling to him when she was scared even though he hated clinging (p. 55)
- didn't laugh/mock her for she asking to sleep in his room because she felt insecure about her recent room invasion & shared his bed platonically with her
- was sometimes thoughtful (i.e., cancelled his busy day appointments to take her proper clothes shopping & even took her souvenir shopping & sightseeing because it made her happy, booked her makeover appointment for the ball)
- complimented her (i.e., 'you are impressive" (p. 125))
- asked for advice from his friends/cousin about how to woo her
- letting her wear the family heirloom necklace in public
- he later made her feel wanted for herself (i.e, he preferred her curls over makeover look (p. 128))
- later clarified that she had power over him in private, even though in public he was her employer (p. 129)
- told her sweet romantic things (p. 131, 183)
- later did what she requested to show proof of his love for her (i.e., kissed her slobbery dog upon request/open to kissing her chicken if she truly wanted him to (p. 177))
- asked her to live with home (p. 178)
- later offered her a high-pay job to be his assistant while living with him because she wanted financial independence from him
- purloined hotel shampoo & soap for her because she liked it
- let her bring her big slobbery dog with her to his book-filled home
- later viewed her as beautiful and "charming" (p. 190) even in her raggedy clothes/underwear
- later found her drawl "erotic” (p. 184)
- later told her he loved her often (p. 191)
- introduced her to his friends a week after she moved in with him & told her about the secret history of his tattoo because she looked hurt that he was keeping things from her
- later proposed in the presence of a news photographer he requested to be a witness because he was proud to publicly show off "his woman" (p. 197)
What struck me the most was his sincerity at either being clueless at how he's treating her & how to make it up to her. This is a grovel book. Although its mostly a scattering of grovels mixed in with his mistakes, there is a big proof of his love for her towards the end. There's a bit of angst but not too much because of the nature of the hurt and apology and Hero switching from acting like a jerk to heroine and genuinely sweet and considerate throughout the book. It's not a jekyl-and-hyde thing but more like a man who's not romantically savvy and learns to romance her from trial and error.
Hero was portrayed as a scholarly & bookish sort, complete with thick-framed spectacles. He was also a stodgy snob. He knew it and ignorantly thought it was his right since he was royalty anyhow. It was funny how he fought with his friend's mouthy girlfriend who kept niggling him about the stick up his butt. He acted so snobby. She was also the reason heroine ended up being his temporary assistant. His being paired with down-home Arkansas hillbilly heroine was hilarious! I was cackling at how they met and at many moments where she pushed his snooty buttons with her country-girl ways. Yet their opposite pairing worked. We see both of them, especially Hero, evolve. Hero began as a superficial person who struggled with defying social expectations of his royal background. Being around heroine exposed how socially-pleasing, hypocritical, and staff-dependent he truly was. He struggled to overcome his faults to become a better person. And making heroine happy was his barometer.
I liked heroine for being down-to-earth, emotionally open, and positive. She tended to look for what's right with people and the situation. It was her purity of spirit and ability to surpass negativity that attracted Hero the most. She was so different from what his upbringing yet, unknown to him, fit right in his close group of friends and their girlfriends/wives. His royal upbringing blinded him to her appeal and he struggled with it. Yet she represented the very thing he really wanted in life: simplicity, sincerity, and freedom from social constraints. In a way, her personhood openly exposed his weaknesses, showing him how rude, disrespectful, and pretentious he really was. I liked the juxtaposition of heroine with Hero because it provoked his character growth. Especially during times when she let him have it. I loved how she confronted him with about his arrogance and hypocrisy. She may be cheerful, friendly, and sweet but she had this inner fire that blazed when it came to standing up for what's right. She didn't make things easy for him. And I liked that, even after he told her he loved her, she still didn't really trust him to not emotionally ravage her like he often did before. She treaded carefully with him. The only thing I thought was odd was how she wanted to be financially independent from him yet had no problem accepting his offer as his 2nd personal assistant for a ridiculous amount of money. The specifics of her job wasn't discussed, except that it was temporary based on her trust in him as his girlfriend.
I recommend this book.