Synopsis from back of book: Tessa had worked hard to get to the responsible position she held. The last thing she'd consider would be giving up surgery for the joys of love and marriage.
Patrick was an obsessive workaholic who'd built an empire and now saw the acquisition of children as a natural step to ensure the succession. And he wanted a full-time mother for his family.
“It would serve you right if you fell madly in love with a successful career woman,” Tessa said.
“I'd prefer to be a bachelor forever in that case,” Patrick replied.
Their battle of the wills was inevitable – but would one of them emerge the winner...?
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 1991; from my personal collection of books – I have no idea where or how I acquired it.
My thoughts: The plot was a little silly and far fetched. Tessa is 27 and a surgeon who spends all her time working, to the point of near exhaustion. Her boss forces her to take a three month vacation, so she goes home to her godfather's, where she was raised after her parents died. He is away himself, but the home is currently occupied by his housekeeper and a dog named Henry. On her first day home, she discovers a hole in the wall between her home and the neighbor's, where Henry has been slipping through to make himself a nuisance next door. While examining the hole in hopes of repairing it, Patrick, the new owner of the neighboring home, happens along, and assumes she is there in answer to an ad he's run for a household staff member. He is condescending and arrogant, and wanting to take him down a peg or two, Tessa goes along with his assumption, taking on the persona of an 18 year old drop out, letting him think she is house-sitting next door. When they part company, she thinks how funny it will be when he learns who she really is. But to her surprise, she is later offered the position.
You would think at this point she would decline the employment offer, but no, she decides to accept, and continue with the joke. Naturally they are attracted to each other, with Tessa constantly being insulted by Patrick treating her as a silly teenager (though of course she is masquerading as one), and Patrick fighting the attraction and appearing to feel disgusted with himself every time he breaks down and kisses her, since he of course believes she is a flighty teenager considerably younger than he is. I kept feeling a sense of foreboding and thinking no good could come of this little game.
What saved the story for me was Tessa's personality. She's smart and sassy and funny. Since her job is just a lark to her, she isn't under the normal constraints a household staffer should be and has no problem smarting off or talking back to her boss, Patrick, or his snooty assistant who is also her boss. Until her enforced vacation she had immersed herself in work after a bad breakup, and hasn't really been interested in another relationship, but now she finds herself wanting Patrick. Meanwhile, Patrick tells anyone who will listen his views on marriage – someday he'll marry, but he will expect his wife to put him first and not have a career of her own.
As Tessa gets deeper and deeper into her lies and more involved in Patrick's household, she does begin having qualms about her charade, and she keeps deciding she's going to come clean and reveal her true identity, hoping in the process to wipe a smirk off Patrick's face and show him how wrong he is to judge people. But then she decides for one reason or other the time isn't right, and of course once she realizes she's fallen for him, she wants him to fall for her before he finds out she is a dreaded career woman.
A quick, fun and enjoyable read, despite the silly plot (and slightly creepy cover).