April Love by Nancy Fraser

April Love by Nancy Fraser
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (112 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Hollyhock

Eleanor Martin is every company’s dream employee. She arrives early, stays late and never misses a day. If it weren’t for Eleanor’s skill as a private secretary, her architect boss would never make a deadline. Not only does she keep him on track, she runs interference between him and his over-bearing mother, his deadbeat brother, and the half dozen or so women who want to bed him and/or wed him.

When Jess Norton acquires a new client who asks him to build a palatial hideaway on Grand Cayman Island, Jess is certain he’ll never be able to complete the multi-million dollar job without the help of his efficient secretary. Despite her reservations, he convinces Eleanor to accompany him on the assignment of a lifetime.

The sun and the sand cast the perfect spell for romance. But will the tides turn in the opposite direction?

I’m a sucker for those career-themed movies from the 1950s where girls in crisply tailored suits conquer the business world and—of course!—find romance along the way. So naturally I was drawn to the premise of April Love, a novella about a secretary in 1958 who falls in love with her boss. That the romance takes place on Grand Cayman Island just adds Caribbean flair to the appeal.

Eleanor Martin is the perfect secretary and office manager. She’s her boss’s right hand woman, knows everything about the company, and is always one step ahead of his requirements. The fact that he happens to be gorgeous just adds spice to her interesting job. Her boss, architect Jess Norton, is a bit of a playboy but never lets his private life affect his dedication to his craft. When a commission requires him to travel to Grand Cayman, and no project manager is available to go with him, it is only natural that he bring along his super-efficient secretary instead. Once in the sultry tropical atmosphere of the islands, though, their relationship changes in ways neither anticipated.

The idea that leaving their familiar surroundings makes Jess and Eleanor see each other in new ways really appealed to me, but the premise didn’t hold my attention as well as I would have liked. For a novella, April Love takes a surprisingly long time to get going, and when it does, it doesn’t spend enough time developing the characters or building the emotion of the romance. Interactions that should draw the reader into Jess and Eleanor’s changing relationship are often summarized (“They sat there for the longest time, enjoying the warm evening, the cool water, and each other’s company”) or happen off-page (“They’d spent the remainder of the evening in light conversation”) while story space is expended on minor details like business arrangements and clothing choices. That lack of characterization, combined with the author’s tendency to tell rather than show, gave the story a flat quality and made me feel I had little sense of Jess and Eleanor as people and still less idea why they fell in love. Even their physical encounters were more matter-of-fact than involving (“when she offered no resistance, he pressed his lips to hers a second time”).

I wish there had been more atmosphere of the fifties. Beyond a reference to some baseball players of the era and mentions of the Pat Boone song of the title, this story could have taken place any time. In fact, I only remembered it was supposed to be the fifties when I wondered things like: would it really have been so easy to fly from Detroit to Grand Cayman in the pre-jet age and would there have been multiple daily flights to choose from? And did men wear shorts and casual shirts when dining in opulent hotels back then?

Overall, though, this story has an appealing premise and an attractive hero and heroine I wanted to root for, even if I didn’t enjoy their story as much as I would have liked.  I’m certainly not sorry I read this, and still enjoyed much of it. So, if you’re in the mood for a short read that takes place during the Golden Age of Rock and Roll, April Love might be just what you’re looking for.

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