Perilous Refuge by Patricia Wilson
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars
This book turns out to be deliriously romantic by the end. I definitely didn't expect that, although some of my trusted HP Buddies have raved about it, so I should have thought there would be some winning element here. It's ground that has been covered before: the boss and his secretary. In this case, Helen is a single mother who is is also the bread-winner for her small family of a three-year-old daughter and a sister who is just about to go to college. She has no time or inclination for romance, especially after her disastrous marriage to an abusive jerk her sister Tina refers to only as 'Pig.' She wants to keep her head down and have her safe, well-organized life.
When Ross Maclean, the owner's son, takes over the position as the head of the London office of their company, that dream bites the dust. Ross needs a secretary who can work the hours that suit his own needs. At first he plays along, but he's intrigued why she must leave precisely at 5 pm everyday. When she explains her situation, he seems angry. Helen thinks it's because she allows him to think she's an unwed mother. How wrong she is.
The tension in this story builds slowly. There are a few misunderstandings (not annoyingly so, but because both characters aren't anxious to unshield well-guarded hearts). The fact that we don't have much of a hero POV assists in us feeling like Helen, on a precipice, completely unsure about Ross' intentions. What his endgame is. Ross has a cold, calculating demeanor that makes him feel unpredictable. He plays his cards very close to his chest. While I love a demonstrative hero, I think this layout worked well for the book, leading to a beautifully surprisingly conclusion.
At the end, you realize just how desperately in love Ross is, and the reveal is rapturously romantic. Although I do have to say he showed his love in many other ways. I for one, loved how he bonded almost instantly with Tansy. It's because I am a sucker for men who love children. I also liked how he gets along so well with Helen's sister, after she realizes he's not a jerk like her sister's ex.
There is a little bit of "Other Woman" drama, but it's not overdone. Just enough to prick Helen into realizing that she does love Ross and doesn't want to share him or allow his love to go elsewhere.
Overall, this was a lovely surprise for me. A book with some very effective romantic elements, and one that takes the often overused boss/employee relationship theme and creates a distinctive and satisfying romance story. A vulnerable heroine and a tough hero, but done in a way that doesn't seem like gross mismatch, but a meant to be love story. As such, I'd give this one: 4.25/5.0 stars.
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