Secret Desires of a Gentleman written by Laura Lee Guhrke
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
Genres: Historical Romance
Series: Girl Bachelors #3
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Once Upon a Time...
Maria Martingale was going to elope. But Phillip Hawthorne, Marquess of Kayne, put a stop to those plans when he learned his younger brother intended to marry a cook's daughter. Now, twelve years later, Maria discovers that the man who holds her fate in his hands is none other than the haughty gentleman who sent her packing—and he's as handsome and arrogant as ever.
Happily Ever After?
Always the proper gentleman, Phillip will do anything to protect his family from scandal, and when Maria dares to move in right next door, he knows scandal will surely follow. She is as tempting as he remembered . . . and the more he sees her, the harder it is for Phillip to keep his own secret desire for her a secret
Secret Desires of a Gentleman is one of my favorite historical romance books ever! In fact, I’ve reread this book multiple times over the years pre-Goodreads! The last time I reread this book as marked on GR was in 2016 – 4 years ago. Which is why I am writing this review now.
I am taking off one star to my rating.
I honestly don’t do this often, but I have been known to knock down stars after a reread. But I’d like to explain my 4-star rating and why I wish this book should have had an epilogue.
As my blurb on the title stays, I honestly think that this book needed an epilogue so Maria can get her man AND her dreams, too!
This review gets spoilery after this, so please proceed with caution.
Maria’s dream is to be a renowned pastry chef and have her own patisserie. She is very close to her dream when she finds the perfect shop on Half Moon Street. But who she bumps into on that street on that fateful day would change her life.
First, I want to say that I absolutely love this book so much. I also wound like to thank The Great British Baking Show (The Great British Bake Off) because now, I actually know what Maria has been baking! From profiteroles, croquembouche, to ganache, petit fours, ladyfingers, etc. I can actually picture everything in my mind when I was reading this book.
In Secret Desires of a Gentleman, our hero Phillip, the Marquis of Kayne, is a stickler for the rules and he has been hiding a secret. He has been hiding feelings for his family chef’s daughter Maria, who he grew up with. When Maria’s father dies, she finds solace in Lawrence, the Marquis’ younger brother and they plan to run off to elope. Philip puts a stop to this and pays her off to leave and never speak to Lawrence again.
That day when Maria collides into the Marquis was 12 years later and Maris is close to reaching her dream.
Before I start with my gripe about this book after x number of rereads, I want to share why I really love this book.
Of course, the baking scenes were a huge bonus! I love that we were able to see Maria in a few scenes making her pastries! Maria is also a very strong and independent woman. During this time, it was still scandalous for women to work and even own a patisserie. I love that the book mentioned Maria’s resignation about not having a family and children. And, Maria is also an older historical romance heroine at 28 years old.
Let me tell you, there are still a lot of scenes here that made me bawl. I am such a sucker of unrequited romance and it was so refreshing to read one where the hero was the one pining away for the heroine! Even when Phillip was a bit frustrating, especially when he tried to sabotage Maria’s owning a bakery.
You were different after your father died. She was wrong, of course. It was true that he’d changed toward her, but she had misinterpreted the cause. It wasn’t his father’s death and his ascension to the title the year before that caused him to shut her out the summer she came home and treat her as a servant rather than a friend. It was the fact that being friends with her had ceased to be enough, and anything more had never been possible.
Plus, he was also a stickler for the rules and really came off as snobbish, that I wanted Maria to just sock him and find her own HEA without the Marquis.
“I cared,” he said behind her. “But as I said, we should never have been friends. Friendship is not possible between a marquess and the daughter of the family chef. That is the world we live in.”
She forced herself to look at him over her shoulder. “No, Phillip. That’s the world you live in.”
This is the main reason why I knocked off a star.
There was a huge focus on Maria achieving her dream because of her fears of being left alone and penniless – which happened to her when her father died and Lawrence and Phillip abandoned her. So I really don’t understand the ending!
The ending ends with Phillip professing his love for Maria during a luncheon, in front of his friends, and Maria’s friends. While I really love the gesture, I feel like Maria forgave him very quickly.
The only had slept with each other the night before AND Phillipe had demanded that they marry only that morning without professing his love and also demanding that she give up her bakery.
So, while the luncheon, which happened just a few hours after their argument that morning, was a good way to show his feelings, I felt it was too quick. Especially since Phillip was such a stickler for rules and hadn’t really proved his love for her.
Now, this is why I wanted an epilogue!
The book ends with Maria accepting the proposal for marriage and saying that she will give up her patisserie because she would marry the Marquis. I absolutely hated this. Again, there was such a focus on Maria achieving her dream, everything she went through to be a top-notch patissier and she was giving it up for that? I mean, Phillip even mentioned that he would be okay for her to continue running her business!
“Were you the Clarendon’s pâtissier, then?”
“Not in name. André allowed me the duties of that position, but he could not give me the title of it. As a woman,” she added with a hint of resentment, “I was not considered worthy of such a responsibility by the owners of the hotel. It’s an axiom of my profession that only men have the talent to be great chefs. A false axiom, but many believe it. That is why I decided to strike out on my own. To prove myself. Why these questions about my bona fides?” She gave him a provoking grin. “Don’t you trust me?”
In my mind, I wanted the epilogue to show that Maria didn’t give up her business and continued to run her patisserie. While she still spent time at her patisserie, she already trained and hired new chefs to help with the business. I see the epilogue showing that Maria was accepted by the ton because she IS an amazing pastry chef despite her being a Marchioness!!
I was really disappointing to see how this book ended. I mean, WHY can’t she have her dreams and her man, too? This is fiction after all.
I still recommend this book. It will still remain as one of my favorite books, but I can’t in all good honestly retain the 5 stars that I initially gave it.
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Have you ever reread a fave book that disappointed you?
What are your favorite books featuring heroes/heroines that are chefs?