Kathleen Gilles Seidel
May 1984, Series Romance
Harl American Romance #57, $2.25, Amazon ASIN 0373160577
I discovered Kathleen Gilles Seidel as a result of perusing the If You Like... page, and have been steadily glomming her books ever since. I have yet to find one that I don't like. Mirrors and Mistakes is an early title for the Harlequin American Romance line (#57), and is likely more than a little difficult to find. I located my copy at the bottom of a stack of boxes in the basement of my local used bookstore. I had to search for about twenty minutes to find it and had a small allergic reaction to the dust afterwards, but it was worth it!
Patrick Britten is a management consultant for Southard-Colt, a computer systems company. He is organized, fastidious, bright, and ambitious, and is clearly going somewhere within his corporation. He is asked to take over and rewrite a proposal for a project for the Government of India, a piece of business that another employee badly mismanaged. It is a big challenge for him, and one that will require a huge time investment, but if he can make a success of it, he will have a chance at being made a vice-president in the company.
Suzanne Lawrence is an upper echelon secretary at Southard-Colt. She is also intelligent and ambitious. Due to some rather extensive student loans and other debts, she has decided to use her education and other training in a practical way - as a highly paid office manager. She works all of the hours she can in order to pay off her loans as quickly as possible so she can make her own plans. When she is offered the chance to do some overtime work assisting Patrick, she jumps at it.
They soon discover that they have a great deal in common. They are both highly educated, highly competent, very attractive loners. They have the same values and goals. They enjoy spending time together. They understand each other, and a rather startling attraction builds between them. Startling because they are so alike, and how can two such similarly efficient, intelligent, reserved people ever fall head over heels in love?
The best, most consistently good thing about this book is the characterization. Seidel respects her characters so much that, in the end, they seem entirely real and fully-fleshed. Suzanne is extremely capable. She is young, but nothing seems too difficult for her, and she is not arrogant or puffed up about her abilities. Seidel doesn't create shrinking violet heroines. Hers are all strong, competent, intelligent, and perceptive, and yet entirely likable. As for Patrick, he is also very likable; he respects and admires Suzanne and her accomplishments and is not threatened by her capability. He is as attracted to her mind as well as to her pretty face and body. After the rash of hormone-laden heroes and Too Stupid To Live heroines I've encountered, they were real people, and a breath of fresh air!
Even when they act badly, they still seem almost sympathetic. The road to true love does not run smoothly for these two. At one point in the story, Patrick stumbles rather seriously and hurts Suzanne, but Seidel doesn't villify him. She invites you to feel the frustrations of both characters as they reorient and try to navigate the path again. Patrick and Suzanne, and to a lesser extent, the secondary characters, all seem so very human. They think, act, feel just like people you know - so much so that you want to know what happens to them, you want to know that things work out.
There is nothing so amazingly original about this story - two people meet, get emotionally involved, have problems, fall in love, but Seidel's insights into her characters and their lives, draw you in and make you care. Care so much that you can't relax, can't breathe easily until the last scene, the last word, the last kiss. And that is the mark of a good writer. Rummage about and see if you can find a copy of Mirrors and Mistakes; it's definitely worth the effort.
-- Rachel Potter
To comment about any of these reviews on our reviews forum