Karla's Reviews > Except My Love

Except My Love by Mary Burchell
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's review
Mar 03, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: harlequin, marriage-of-convenience, contemporary-romance, vintage-romance, harlequin-1930s
Read from June 22 to 25, 2010

Ok, this is weird. I KNOW I had a review of this book here, and yet....no. Hmm.... At least I can copy/paste from Amazon.

This was a nice trip into romance nostalgia. Originally written in 1937, Harlequin reprinted it in the 70s, so it's truly a vintage romance. Overall, it has the feel of one of those "women's pictures" from the golden age of Hollywood (though the setting is British). As I read it, I could imagine the cast for it and saw it unfolding in good old black and white. Loretta Young as Erica, Tyrone Power as Oliver, and Lucille Ball or Alice Faye as Erica's softie-under-the-cynical-wisecracks friend Carol.

The set-up is real simple: Secretary loves cold fish boss. Boss's dad wants son to produce an heir. Boss asks secretary for a marriage of convenience. Secretary agrees, and then no end of troubles result (old flame, baby, misunderstandings) until the final happy clinch.

As innocuous as it sounds, I really liked it. Erica was quite the drip at times, and I wanted to smack her once or twice, but she wasn't all that obnoxious. The catalyst to separate her and Oliver is cliched (view spoiler), but I could see myself in her position doing the exact same thing.

I haven't read many Harlequins, but the few I have had heroes of rather unlikeable ilk. I pretty much liked Oliver from beginning to end. He's cold, but not mean. He has genuine affection for his stellar secretary, and it makes his tenderness not be so sudden when it does happen. The honeymoon scene with her and Oliver was very touching. When Erica tells him that his gloved hand (a factory accident cost him two fingers) doesn't repel her at all, he pretty much crumbles with disbelief and we get a "scene fades" where their marriage-in-name-only moves into other territory. I felt sorry for the guy, who has been nursing a broken heart because his injury provoked the opposite reaction in someone else. Later on, when he thinks Erica deceived him, his hurt is pretty deep and real.

The best character in the story was Erica's friend Carol. I loved her dry comebacks and zingers, and she finds a romance of her own to make the story all the more tidy and sweet. (That this subplot is contained in the book rather than spawning a sequel is bonus points in my book. Wish more modern authors would do the same rather than making everything a series.)

Despite being written in 1937, there's no indication at all of world events, surprising since Oliver Leyne is in the iron and steel industry. Maybe there were references to pre-war tension and the 1973 reprint removed them to make the story feel more contemporary. Or maybe Burchell didn't put them in there in the first place. It'd be interesting to hunt down an original edition to find out.

If you like the old Harleys, you've probably already read it. But if you're curious about a vintage "Boss marries secretary" plot, this might be of interest.
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Reading Progress

06/12/2010 page 23
12.0% "Very good so far. Vintage glimpse of secretary as "office wife.""
06/12/2010 page 64
34.0% "Oliver's old flame is up to something...."
06/14/2010 page 111
59.0% "We're at the obligatory "heroine running away from hero" point."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Dinjolina (new)

Dinjolina Is this a cheater book?
I can not seem to get a clear answer.
And if it is-what kind of cheating is there? (I have a hot-cold relationship with cheating heroes)

Karla No cheating that I can recall.

message 3: by Dinjolina (new)

Dinjolina It is on the list :/ http://houseonblacklake.com/tag/cheat...
And there is a non-helpful description...

message 4: by Karla (last edited Oct 27, 2011 08:50AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karla I don't recall him cheating with his old flame while the heroine runs off pregnant. If he did, I probably didn't make note of it because SHE RAN OFF and IIRC didn't make any contact with him whatsoever. That's sort of making any marriage contract null & void IMO.

ETA: I also wouldn't call Never Call It Love by Veronica Jason a "true bodice ripper", like what the list says. But that term has sooooo many definitions, from Harlequins on up to honest-to-goodness bodice shredders like Savage Surrender. It's definitely a subjective term. :P

message 5: by Dinjolina (new)

Dinjolina Eh, I give up :)

I like real BR books. But sheeesh they call bodice rippers plain old contemp. cheaters...you know the drill-fiance gets mad, sleeps with best friend , knock her up,levaes the love of his life, marries the friend and then the girl left behing is back 10 years later so she could raise his kid. Emotinal abuse aplenty.

I always get those at the library. They trick me avery single time. So sad :(


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