At the remote Marshall School, Gwen Ashby stumbles upon the job—and the man—of her dreams. Stern, enigmatic Edwin Yorke simmers with a heat Gwen longs to unleash. But Edwin knows all too well that forbidden love can end in tragedy….
An embarrassingly long time ago I got a box set from Harlequin’s e-Shivers line. I read The Headmaster by Tiffany Reisz and enjoyed it, but the other stories totally lost my interest so I put them aside, intending to come back eventually but promptly forgetting all about it. When I was looking over this year’s RITA nominees, though, I realized that Reisz’s book is on the list. The great writing and engaging characters sucked me in to this slightly gothic tale.
Teacher Gwen Ashby is at a crossroads in life, with no job and no place to live. While on her way to a friend’s in Chicago, she stops at a diner in a small town in North Carolina and learns about a nearby boarding school that might be hiring. With nothing strong drawing her to Chicago, she decides to head over to the school to see if she can get a job. The headmaster at the all-boys Marshall Academy is Edwin Yorke, and he’s strangely insistent that she really doesn’t want to work there. Gwen persists and gets Edwin to agree to a trial position. The school is downright unusual, however. Students use no modern technology and are pretty cut off from everything outside the school, but they’re bright and interesting and starved for a new teacher. Over time, Gwen starts to fit in and discover what is really going on at the school and with the secretive and sexy headmaster.
There’s a big plot twist at the end of the book that I won’t spoil, but it’s certainly not unpredictable. That didn’t impact my enjoyment of the story, though, because even though I basically knew what was coming, the writing was lovely. Reisz paints a solid picture of Gwen and Edwin in a short period. Gwen is strong and quirky. I like the way she stands up to Edwin when necessary, and their attraction is sexy and sweet. You get the sense that she’s not the kind of woman Edwin would normally be attracted to, but her openness and humor draws him in. He’s clearly an uptight but honorable guy who’s totally and completely dedicated to the boys he teaches. The students at the school are fun and heartwarming, and they add a great dynamic to the story.
The ending is awfully neat and tidy, and the social issues that come up are handled without any real depth. Nothing in this story is complex or revolutionary, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, it’s a short but engaging book, and it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Grade: 3.75 out of 5