Dear Ms. Hart:
Congratulations on getting nominated for the 2008 RNA Romance Prize Shortlist. It’s a good thing that the RNA doesn’t judge on titles because despite the cringe inducing title, this is a touching, heartfelt book.
Perdita James is the Operations Manager of Bell Browning Engineering and she and the rest of the management team is sent to a leadership training course after BBE gets a new CEO, Ed Merrick. Perdita is irritated because she’s a good leader, thank you very much, and doesn’t see much use in being defined as peacock by some questionnaire where all the other management members are friendly dolphins or nit picking owls.
The truth is that Perdita is a peacock. People listen to her and gravitate toward her. In a room full of people, Perdita is bound to be at the center of the loudest, biggest circle as she charms people with her smarts and her humor.
Interestingly, while Perdita and Ed work together, this isn’t at all about a boss/subordinate conflict. Ed Merrick, a widower of five years with three children, decided to take this job far from London to move his kids to a better neighborhood and away from the temptations of London. Ed’s immediately moved by Perdita, almost despite himself given that she spends as much time getting ready as his teenaged daughter and that she is so different than his deceased wife. The more that he observes and spends time with Perdita, the more he respects and likes her and realizes that while he might have enjoyed and loved the restful, gentle spirit of his past wife, he was ready for the fiery super competent Perdita.
The problem isn’t that Perdita isn’t attracted to Ed. She is. But she had a long relationship with a single father and it broke her, almost completely, when her former love refused to even once put her ahead of his children. Perdita struggled with the guilt of wanting to be first with the resentment of not being first and the bone crushing unhappiness when she found out that she wasn’t worth enough to her former lover. Getting over Nick, the old flame, took an enormous effort. Complicating this Perdita is taking care of her mother who is increasingly ill and in need of 24 hour care. Perdita just can’t see how the two of them with their many commitments could ever make a life together.
This story has plenty of angst in it, but it also has a great spirit of humor lent primarily by Perdita as she battles her attraction to Ed. In several scenes she tries to set Ed up with her divorced best friend but becomes instantly angry and jealous when the friend pretends interest in Ed and makes to pursue him.
There is so much that is relatable about Perdita. She’s definitely a strong woman, one confident in her success in business and really her ability to achieve almost anything. But she’s given a piece of her heart away in the past, subsuming her natural individuality for a man and she never wants to go there again.
Ed is a wonderful character. He’s at times frustrated and angry and patient. As a reader, I couldn’t help but cheer for these two people to get together. They seem so clearly suited but Perdita’s explanation for not wanting to get involved with Ed made sense. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t open to relationships, just not one with a single father. For Ed’s part, he had loved his wife, but he was ready for a relationship. Let me end with the one characteristic about Perdita that was important but not defining and that is that Perdita is 40 and I really appreciated seeing a woman of her age get the starring role in a romance book. B+