Christmas with her Boss by Marion Lennox
The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harlequin Romance #4205, 2010, Out of Print, Available in Digital
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: It was recommended by someone. I want to say Sunita? However, I unearthed it from the depths of the print TBR because Miss Bates has been championing Lennox of late and we tend to be simpatico when it comes to Harlequin.
The Review: Sweet baby, sleeping in the manger, Christmas morning Jesus - where has Marion Lennox been all my life? Oh, writing a bazillion books for Harlequin. You've just never read her before Wendy. You dunderhead. What a way to end the TBR Challenge for 2017. Finding a huge backlist I want to glom.
Meg Jardine is in a panic. She's a personal assistant to billionaire businessman WS McMaster for when he's in his Australian office. He's a demanding boss who expects a PA to be at his beck and call and keep things running smoothly. A high pressure job but ideal for Meg's life circumstances. Her current task is to get him back to Manhattan in time for Christmas. Minor problem: an air traffic controller's strike. All flights are grounded. There is literally no way Mr. McMaster is getting out of Australia. On top of that, because of all the grounded flights the hotels are booked solid. She is well and truly screwed...and not in a good way.
William is unthrilled. Really, like he asks that much of his PA? She screws up his travel plans?! OK, so it's not entirely her fault but he's still miffed. And now she's suggesting that since there's no hotels available and the building is going to be shut down all weekend (no AC, in Australia, in December? He'd melt within 15 minutes) he can come home with her. Literally with no other option, he agrees. Not realizing that home means Meg, her grandmother and her teenage half-brother out in the middle of nowhere on a dairy farm. With the Internet down. And crap cell phone reception. Maybe he can swim back to Manhattan?
We all know what happens next. The buttoned-up suit who keeps his staff at arms length (it's "Ms. Jardine" and "Mr. McMaster") ends up falling for his lovely assistant once close proximity and "adventures" happen. Raised by distant parents, William is living a temporary life. He has temporary girlfriends, temporary staff depending on what city he's in, and temporary friends. For once in his life he actually has holiday plans which is why he's so desperate to get back to Manhattan and so annoyed with Meg for not making it happen.
Meg is haunted by the death of her parents, her half-brother's medical issues and a grandmother who is still spry but not getting any younger. When she's not at William's beck and call as a PA, she's stationed at the family homestead living the life of a dairy farmer. Short answer - Meg doesn't really have a life that doesn't involve her loving family and cows. Dating? Yeah, not so much. Romance? Well one of her heifers got loose and met an enterprising bull - but that doesn't really count. She's attracted to William because, hello, the man is hot. But she's very aware of professional boundaries and the fact that he's "out of her league." She's not the sort to even entertain the fantasy of William McMaster but once they're away from work and all those professional boundaries get stripped away? All bets are off.
What I liked about this story was how cozy it felt and the hot Australian Christmas weather was a nice change of pace from the usual Romancelandia holiday fa-la-la-la-la. It's also a boss/secretary romance where both characters are very aware of professional boundaries and the importance of keeping them. Once they cross over that line (and this is a Harlequin Romance, so we're talking about a kiss not a roll in the hay...), both characters struggle with what they have done. It makes up the majority of the second half conflict and the Black Moment.
This all being said, as much as I loved this story (OMG, COMFORT READ ALERT!), the romance isn't quite as strong as I'd like. William is emotionally distant, kind of a foreboding ass early on, and the story takes place over a weekend - well it's just hard to go from that to jumping into "I love you, let's get married." Yeah, they work together and yeah they learn a lot about each other over the course of the story, but it still comes off as rather fast.
But heck, it's a holiday romance and it ticks all the boxes. In a year when not many books held my attention for more than a chapter at a time, I wanted everyone and everything to leave me the heck alone so I could read. I'm reading. Don't bother me unless someone is on fire and even then...tell me who is on fire first so I can decide if I want to put this book down. I'm going to ding this on the lower end of the B rating scale, but really - it was so lovely and so....well just so. Now I'm off to scour the TBR to see if I have any more Marion Lennox lurking there.
Final Grade = B-