For prim and shy Daphne Wade, the sweetest guilty pleasure of all is secretly watching her employer, the Duke of Tremore, as he works the excavation site on his English estate. Anthony hired Daphne to restore the priceless treasures he has been diggin up, but it's hard for a woman to keep her mind on her work when her devastatingly handsome employer keeps taking his shirt off. He doesn't know she's alive, but who could blame her for falling hopelessly in love with him anyway?
Anthony thinks that his capable employee knows all there is to know about antiquities, but when his sister decides to turn the plain young woman in gold-rimmed glasses into an enticing beauty, he declares the task to be impossible. Daphne is devasted when she overhears...and determined to prove him wrong. Now a vibrant and delectable Daphne has emerged from her shell, and the tables are turned. Will Anthony see that the woman of his dreams has been there all along?
Laura Lee Guhrke is one of my favorite writers for many reasons. She rarely delves into typical historical romance cliches and loves to expand into unique settings like late Victorian or Edwardian England. Guilty Pleasures is a perfect example of her writing style!
Daphne Wade is a skilled archaeologist who is working with an English duke, Anthony, on the excavation of ruins on his land. Anthony's ultimate goal is to start a museum for the artifacts that would be open for the public, as opposed to just the aristocracy. He originally intended to hire Daphne's father, but hired her when she appeared at his estate and explained her father's untimely death.
I absolutely adored Daphne's character. Her intelligence, personality, and upbringing are fresh and highly entertaining. The crush she had on Anthony at the beginning was sweet and perfectly understandable for a woman of her shyness and lack of social experience. But, when she discovers what Anthony truly thinks about her, she does not spend much time bemoaning her situation. Instead she takes charge of her life for the first time ever and her determined nature and clever wit begins to emerge.
Anthony, at first, appears to be the typical British lord with his arrogance, slightly selfish nature, and unromantic outlook on life and marriage. But, as the story moves along, readers begin to see the deeper side of the duke and understand how his life has shaped him. His love of history and determination to bring it to the entire country, not just the upper classes, is an admirable quality that gives his character a fresh twist. He does bluntly discuss Daphne's lack of social graces, but it is obvious that his opinion is flawed and able to be changed. His transformation to romance hero is subtle yet powerful.
The love story is unique and avoids falling into many romance novel traps. I especially appreciated how Guhrke avoided the overblown makeover scene with Daphne. Readers get to see both of the main characters look at each other in a new light as they spend more time with each other as friends rather than employer/employee. It is especially fun to see Anthony's wooing to keep Daphne to finish the museum slowly transforms into wooing her to be his wife.
There are a few secondary characters, but only two truly stand out. Anthony's sister, Viola, and his best friend, Dylan, both are destined for books in this series...which I've already read and enjoyed. It was nice to see Viola and Daphne's early friendship and how that motivated Daphne to take charge of her destiny.
Overall, this was an entertaining read. The characters were relatable and deep and the love story was not contrived or stereotypical. The archaeology tidbits were fascinating, especially for a history nerd like me, but didn't take over the story at any point. There were a few points of the book that dragged a bit especially at the beginning, but it quickly righted itself. Highly recommended!
Rating: 4.5 Stars--Really Liked It!
1. Guilty Pleasures (Anthony/Daphne)
2. His Every Kiss (Dylan/Grace)
3. The Marriage Bed (John/Viola)
4. She's No Princess (Ian/Lucia)