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Book CoverLynneC’s review of Doukakis’s Apprentice by Sarah Morgan
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Presents 20 Sept 11

Sarah Morgan writes books about poor but feisty heroines and rich but unjerky heroes. Although she uses the usual Harlequin/Mills and Boon tropes, she uses them intelligently, to illuminate the characters, rather than by rote, to get through a story. This one is no different and I had fun with this book.

Polly Prince is the lynchpin of a small but successful advertising agency when her company is taken over by businessman Damon Doukakis. Damon is driven, hard, and he practices the “hot desk” system, where an employee doesn’t have a permanent workstation, but uses the first available empty desk. It’s true that this is an exaggeration of what happens in business, but threading through the story of Polly and Damon is the story of the reconciliation of two diametrically opposed management styles.

On paper the agency is a very poor investment, but Damon improves that when he fires everyone on the board of directors, who have been milking the profits without concern to the workers. That sounds familiar, too. He moves them to corporate headquarters, and gives Polly a chance, despite the fact that he knew her years before and he has an understandable grudge against her. Her aged father has run off with his much younger sister. They are at loggerheads from the start.

A lot of management style is concerned with the nature of the business, but improving productivity is sometimes closely linked with what you want to produce. If it’s advertising, then it’s an ephemeral, intangible product and a lot depends on the “talent.” If they’re not happy, then they can’t work to their full capabilities, and there’s a loss in productivity. Polly isn’t just the lynchpin, she’s the talent, too, something I found a little bit hard to swallow, but I can’t say it spoiled my enjoyment of the story. She has a pink, fluffy pen and a pink notebook that she creates in – having known “talent” in the past, that really rings true. They do have favourite talismans that they feel comfortable with. And creativity is usually done in a furious rush, leaving weeks of filtering, research, and developing the chosen ideas before involving the client.

I had some experience in an ad agency in the past, and it was one of the most enjoyable, if demanding, parts of my career. Hours were extremely flexible – you could take two- or three-hour lunch breaks, but for part of that, you might be in Oxford Street, drinking in the latest trends and studying shop displays, but you could equally be working in the office until midnight. That’s my preferred way of working anyway, so it suited me no end. And Polly works like that, too.

When we first meet Polly, she is dressed outrageously, including a pair of hot pink tights that Damon takes immediate exception to, not knowing that they are produced by one of the agency’s biggest clients and one that she is hoping to do more business with in the future. I enjoyed how Polly shows Damon what she’s doing, letting him discover for himself what she is doing and why, and I enjoyed Damon’s realisation and eventual capitulation. He isn’t an unreasoning boss. If something works, then he’ll use it and he slowly unbends.

I enjoyed the relationship between Polly’s father and Damon’s sister and their ultimate resolution. There is a lovely wry conversation at the end, which I won’t spoil for you, but I like a story that isn’t all sweetness and light at the end. The resolution to the office problems is perhaps a little unrealistic, but I can’t say it bothered me too much, and there is a really nice touch including a fish.

Of course, that means Polly as well. The love story is a little more conventional, but I enjoyed the development and the way Sarah Morgan blends it with the business story. I bought into their story, and it unfolded very sweetly, until I was rooting for this couple. This is a book where the hero and heroine actually do some work, and we see them doing it, which went a long way towards persuading me that these two, although starting from opposite ends of the spectrum, will make a success of their future together.

LynneCs iconGrade: A


Wanted: willing apprentice to handle indecently arrogant (but incredibly sexy) tycoon With her family business in crisis Polly Prince does her best to keep calm and carry on. But hard work alone can’t save her company from a takeover by the infamously ruthless Damon Doukakis…or her traitorous body from the lethal sensuality of her boss! As his new apprentice, Polly accompanies Damon to Paris to negotiate the business deal of her life! Worse still, Polly must at all costs resist Damon in the most dangerously romantic city in the world…

Read an excerpt.