Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Guilty, #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Hero: Anthony Courtland
Heroine: Daphne Wade
Date of Publication: January 27, 2004
Started On: June 26, 2019
Finished On: July 06, 2019
Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Gurhke is testament enough as to why I adore her books. In the debut book to her Guilty series, Ms. Gurhke certainly does not disappoint readers with her take on a plain Jane heroine with a hero who is a self-assured duke, oblivious to the upheavals that is forthcoming, all to reach that sweet and soul satisfying destination called the happily ever after.
24 year old Daphne Wade has been in the employment of Anthony Courtland, Duke of Tremore for five months and counting. The 29 year old Duke had been Daphne’s saviour even had he not realized it at that point in time when he had taken her under his employment. Left bereft in the wake of the death of her father, Daphne had nowhere to go but turn up on the Duke’s doorstep, hoping against hope that Anthony would not mind hiring her services as an artifact restorer instead of her father.
Daphne’s secret vice since then, has become observing Anthony in every setting she could find him, engrossed in the work that is more than just a hobby for the Duke. Little does Anthony know that the timid and unassuming woman under his employment as he sees her, has fallen for him, and fallen hard.
Things change abruptly on the night that Daphne overhears how Anthony views her as a woman, something that hurts her significantly enough to make her give a month’s notice to quit and leave. Anthony has absolutely no idea as to why Daphne does something that is so out of character for her. However, Anthony is determined that he would persuade Daphne to stay with him and see it through to the end of the one year project, just as much as Daphne is determined to leave when the time is up.
So begins a clash of wills and a time during which Anthony begins to discover a woman who makes his head spin with desire and his heart do the unwanted. Anthony is a man deeply scarred from his childhood, not in the usual fashion, but something that readers would have to discover for themselves to understand where he is coming from.
There is such heady desire in the sense of discovery that unfolds between Daphne and Anthony, and to see Daphne emerge from her shell through Anthony’s eyes was one of the best aspects of the story. When a hero realizes that he had been underestimating the heroine all the while, and finds that he is head over heels in lust at the very sight of her; there is nothing more enjoyable to a romance reader than that. I absolutely reveled in the feels of the story, of that whole journey of especially Anthony coming to terms with how he feels about Daphne.
There is a sweet ache in the agony of wanting someone and pushing them away at the same time. Because humans by design are programmed for self preservation, and we at times tend to do that at any cost, sometimes at the cost of losing our chance at happiness with someone who is deserving of us. Anthony’s tale is as such, he could have easily taken the easy way out, but then the heart wants what it wants, even if Anthony takes a while to accept that truth.
The ending to this story was such a beautiful one. I believe that was what did it for me in this novel. The beguiling courtship of Daphne by Anthony towards the end, and how everything just came together was devastating to the heart, all in a good way.
Definitely recommended for all romantics out there, especially the ones who root for the heroines who are usually overlooked; beauty even though it lies in the eye of the beholder, sometimes takes a while to get there.
Final Verdict: Laura Lee Guhrke is an author who knows how to deliver a romance that packs a punch; a hero who makes you swoon, a heroine that makes your heart ache, and a love that is all encompassing.
“It is so hot in summer that the air shimmers over the horizon in waves, so hot it’s hard to breathe. The heat makes your skin feel stretched so tight over your bones that it hurts.” She closed her eyes and rubbed her wet cheeks with the tips of her fingers as if in remembrance of the hot desert sun. “And all you feel is your own sweat turning the dust on your face to caked mud. Your mouth is dry, and you keep licking your lips over and over, but it doesn’t help. They are so chapped and dry.”
Anthony lowered his gaze to her mouth, watching as she ran the tips of her fingers back and forth over her moist, parted lips. Though they may have been chapped in the desert, there was nothing but softness to them now. Lust hit him with such unexpected force that he could not move.
The skin of her cheek felt warm and satiny beneath his fingers. How? he wondered. How did a woman who had lived in deserts all her life have skin as soft and fine as this? He touched his fingers to her lips as she had done. How could her lips be so velvety as this?
She was looking at him, her eyes wide with shock, but in their depths, there was also something else, something that reflected what he was feeling. Yes, desire was in her eyes and in the rapid wisp of her breath against his fingers. It was in the way she stood so still, tense and poised like a deer about to flee. If he slid his hand down, he would feel her heart pounding as hard as his own.
His hand touched her cheek, he brought his mouth closer to hers, and she felt a queer, weightless sensation in her stomach as if she had just dived off a cliff. His lips pressed to hers.
Pleasure unfolded inside her like a butterfly opening its wings to fly. Never in her imagination had she experienced anything so piercing and sweet as this.
He tore his lips from hers and trailed kisses along her jaw as his hand shaped and caressed her breast. Her soft curves burned him wherever her body was pressed against his. Her hips moved, arching against his weight, and shudders of pleasure fissured through his body.
All he wanted was to pull her down onto this hard, dusty floor and feel her hips move like that beneath him, feel those long legs wrap around his body. He wanted her to say his name, over and over while he made love to her.
“I tried to stay away,” he said, pressing quick kisses to her lips, her cheek, her forehead, her chin. “Because if I came back to say good-bye, I would not be able to stop myself from doing this. Daphne, you have been like a shadow beside me for six long weeks, and everywhere I went, I could see you. I am not made of stone. I am just a man, and God help me, I cannot stop wanting you. Do not torture me anymore.” His tongue ran across the crease of her lips. “Kiss me back.”
Her lips parted beneath his, and she closed her eyes, groaning into his mouth. So long. He had been away so long, and she had forgotten how it felt to have his mouth on hers.
“Say my name,” he breathed against her skin. “Say it, Daphne. Say it.”
He touched her with his thumb, and that tiny movement unlocked something inside her, released all the repressions and restraints she had imposed on herself ever since she had first met him. With the force of a river breaking through a dam, pure, indescribable pleasure rushed through her, and she could no longer stop herself from giving him what he wanted. “Anthony,” she cried, “oh, please, oh, yes, yes.”
“Daphne,” he said, sliding his hands behind her shoulders, pulling her to a sitting position. She slid to the edge of the table, and the feel of her, moist and inviting against the tip of his penis drove away any thought but the need to possess her. With one hard thrust, he entered her.
She cried out, and he knew he had hurt her. He stilled, but she wrapped her arms around his neck and tightened her legs around his hips, pulling him deeper into her, and he lost any semblance of sanity.