The Reluctant Tutor
by Paula Hampton, historical (2000)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29134-5

It is books like these that make me wish I'm a nicer woman. A more forgiving Florence-Nightingale-with-a-lamp earth mother sort who wouldn't mind reading about a romance where the hero keeps a secret and the heroine remains unaware of this even as she succumbs to the hero's charms.

What happens is aspiring architect Kate Delaney finds herself working with Gabe Murray. Kate has always wanted independence and all, and she has told her grandfather that if she doesn't succeed in a year, she will go back to him and marry whomever he suggests. Unfortunately, Old Man Murray croaked before Kate could reach him, and Gabe scoffs at her talent because of her gender. But they make a bargain: if she stays for a year, he'll teach her the skills of the trade. If she leaves, well, tough luck.

Gabe strikes another bargain with his rival - he will make her leave soon enough.

So the story goes. It's like a waiting for a time bomb to explode as I turn the pages. Will the final grovel be worth it? Well, not really. As usual, no matter how much a hero lies to a heroine, if he saves her from a bad guy at the end of the day, hello, he's the catch of the day - grab him, girl! The author uses the tried-and-tested method of external conflict sweeping any complicated emotional development (like a good grovel) under the carpet.

Sure, the hero feels guilty a lot. But he's telling it to me, not the heroine. Heck, if that's how the show is going to be run, let me just push sweet, typically nice and rather clueless Kate out of the way and let me be the heroine. Then I'll take out my rolling pin and he and I can have a nice, long screaming match before I consent to be his sweetheart for life.

See what I mean about me wishing I'm a more forgiving person? The Reluctant Tutor is a decent romance, much better than some of the Harlequin Historical books that came out at the same time with it, but - how do I put it? We just don't click, this book and I. I want a hero to grovel to a heroine, not to me, because the way I see it, it's not my forgiveness but Kate's to give.

Anyway, this book's not too bad. It's, in fact, above average. It's just that, sorry The Reluctant Tutor, you and I? We just ain't meant to be.

Rating: 78

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