Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.49, ISBN 978-0-263-90028-6
Contemporary Romance, 2012
Gilded Secrets is actually one of the very rare books in the Modern line (or Presents if you are American) where the hero is not an outrage asshole and he is very honest about having fallen for the heroine and never wanting to let her go. This may not be good news for readers who read these books for a certain kind of hero, not that there is anything wrong with that since someone has to love those jackasses, but it’s good news for me, who bought this book as part of a impulse buying spree when these books are available at heavily discounted prices at a book warehouse sale.
Vance Waverly is the last of the Waverly family that once ruled the auction business around the place. Well, he’s still in business, but he’s becoming increasingly annoyed by what he sees to be a series of inside jobs and sabotages designed to weaken the business. Could all this be the nefarious shenanigans of a rival auction house? Does he have a mole in his business? Could it be… gasp, that gorgeous but jittery “Look at me, readers, I’m so goody-goody and I’m cute even when I’m increasingly flustered!” PA of hers, Charlotte “Charlie” Potter? Of course, he has the hots for her, and she him, which can complicate matters because Charlie is up to no good. Oh, she’s blackmailed into this, and she’s only doing this to protect her kid, so don’t worry, Charlie is still virtuous and what not.
Our heroine is an embarrassing waste of brain cells for the most part, and it’s actually impressive how she managed to avoid being discovered for so long, as she’s transparent and hopeless at subterfuge. I tell you, the bad guy’s biggest regret must be enlisting this hopeless case to be an unwilling partner in crime. Don’t facepalm too hard when you discover the heroine’s big secret that is being used to blackmail her – you should know by then that Charlie won’t be winning any prizes for her smarts anytime soon in this century.
But this isn’t a story about smart heroines, it’s about a very rich hero swooping in to save the heroine from her mess and making her life a pretty place in the process. This is a pretty well done fantasy, especially since Vance can be quite the dreamboat when he puts his mind into it. He’s a bit of a chauvinist pig when it comes to women in the workplace, but honestly, women like Charlie aren’t going to change his mind anytime soon. So, all in all, hot. And dreamy.
But this is one story that is just mind boggling. For one, the tabloids are apparently going ga-ga over the news of someone in this company shagging someone from that company. These are not members of some royal family or some Hollywood celebrities, and they aren’t found dead dangling from the chandeliers, so really now, will tabloids really care about these things? And then, the blackmailer sending instructions to Charlie’s work email! My goodness, can’t that fellow at least text the heroine on her phone or something?
And it’s all downhill from there; there are many things about this story that won’t hold in today’s context. I’ve been told before by an author that you can’t go wrong writing Harlequin Presents by remembering that your target audience comprises predominantly women seventy years old and above. I sincerely hope she’s kidding, but reading Gilded Secrets, I do wonder. This is because despite being set in the present day, the story appears to be written by someone who learned everything about suspense and rich people drama from books by Judith Krantz and the like back in the 1970s and 1980s, and is completely out of touch with contemporary developments ever since then.
If you can overlook the whole “things made up by Grandma who still doesn’t understand how WhatsApp works” feel of this story. this one is a pretty pleasant rescue fantasy. Of course, if you want that kind of stories in this line, you may need to adjust your expectations a bit before starting on it. Me, I can take it or leave it, but… seriously? Sending blackmail instructions to the heroine’s work email? You know what, let’s just move on.