Helen Brooks – “The Billionaire Boss’s Secretary Bride”

30 Jul

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Presents, 2008

WHY THIS NOVEL: I like Helen Brooks’s novels.

The back blurb:
“As fas a secretary Gina Leighton is concerned, billionaire businessman Harry Breedon has never shown more than a professional interest in her. Why should he? Plain and plumb, Gina knows she’s hardly trophy-wife material!

But Harry has noticed her – sexy curves and all – and now that Gina has another job offer, he’ll have to act fast. This handsome tycoon is determined to seduce her into staying – even if that means making her his wife!”

The Billionaire Boss’s Secretary Bride is a story about how sometimes it takes a loss to really appreciate and see the things right before you and make you change.

After working for one year in close proximity to Harry, Gina decides she can’t take anymore and that she needs to leave because she’s completely in love with Harry. Gina is 32 and a redhead with a generous hour-glass figure of which she thinks it’s not what men are looking for. Normally, I’m not too fond of romance heroines with that kind of self image (curves do nothing for men?), but Brooks keeps it from turning into triggering an urge to snort with incredulity on my side.

Harry is surprised how much Gina’s leaving affects him. It breaks up his taking-her-for-granted feeling and makes him see Gina in a different light. Later it gets clear that this was no sudden development on his side. It was there from the beginning, but he couldn’t/wouldn’t acknowledge it due to his past, even before himself. His ex-wife shattered his belief in love and made him a cynical have-them-then-leave-them kind of man (again, Brooks keeps this from getting really snort-worthy).

The story is told alternately from Gina’s and Harry’s POV and so gives the reader a lot of time with the hero (which helps making his realization about Gina more believable). It begins with Gina’s last day at work and covers her last two days in her hometown before she moves to London (her time there is told in the last chapter). On Gina’s last day, Harry offers to drive her home from work and from there things snowball.

The next two days, they spent quite some time together. There is a nice plot element with some dogs that developed form my cynical “oh yes, a device is needed to keep them together some more” view to an important part of Harry’s characterization. It also gives Harry the chance to deliver some killer lines:

‘You’re probably asleep by now, but I just wanted you to know I’ve thought of a name for the puppy, and it is one I could yell in the middle of a field. Zinnia. What do you think? My gardening book tells me it’s a plant of the daisy family with showy rayed flowers of deep red and gold, like your hair. I thought it appropriate.’
There was a pause and Gina found she wasn’t breathing.
‘Oh, and the book also said in the language of flowers it means “thoughts of absent friends”.’ he finished even more softly. ‘Goodnight, Gina. Sleep well.’ (p. 122)

which also nicely refer back to what Gina said about her hair colour at the beginning. Sleep well, indeed.

Gina is determined not to give herself away and says her reason for leaving is another man. The irony here is that Harry gets kinda jealous of himself. There are some nice “awhhh!” situations there. Gina doesn’t just turn into a starry-eyed kinda woman when Harry is around (although this is there, too, of course). For the most parts, she’s able to keep her mind and to see him clearly. For example, the following quote is from right after he accuses her of running away with her move to London:

‘What about you?’ she demanded, her blue eyes flashing. ‘Isn’t this slightly hypocritical? You’d let Anna [his ex-wife] turn you into someone else, someone you were never meant to be. Oh, you can prattle on about life changing and shaping us and all the waffle when it applies to you; that sounds quite lofty. But, where I am concerned, it’s ruining my life. Well, let me tell you, Harry, I don’t intend to let my life be ruined, but I think yours has been. You’ve become selfish and shallow, without anything of substance to offer a woman beyond the pleasure of your company in bed. And that wouldn’t be enough for me by a long chalk.” (p. 86)

This quote leads up to the turning point of the story because it makes Harry take a clear look at himself and realize that he’s in love with Gina. He knows that there is no hope for that (the other man) but there is still friendship and he is willing to settle for that (at the moment). He also knows that “the ball was in her court. He had asked her for her new address in London more than once” (p. 127).

So after the first half of the story, the novel turns into a story about two people thinking the other doesn’t return their love and it gets a bit bittersweet. There are some near misses with misunderstandings – scenes when one or the other would probably have come clean but gets “saved” at the last moment. I didn’t think it was irritating, rather that it was needed to make Harry’s development more believable. If they had managed to get it all distangled in the remaining two days, I would have been rather sceptical of Harry’s feelings. This way, it’s two months later before all is cleared up.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Probably yes.

Grade: 4 / 5


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