Ladies and Their Secrets*
Uneven Set of Historical Romance Novellas
This is a set of five novellas from different series by the author which are supposed to be set in the Regency era (1811 to 1820), but at least one is set in the pre-Victorian, post-Regency year of 1836; the Victorian era started in 1837. The novels are generally well written, but the length seems too short for much character development, especially for certain characters like the villains. I have read other novels by this author, and she most almost always includes an element of suspense. I didn’t feel like that was really going on in these particular stories; they were more straight-up romances. These are quick and easy reads, though.
Here are my thoughts about the first two books.
The Earl’s Agreement: In this story, Lucy’s parents have given up on their wallflower daughter and are poised to force her to marry an odious man who’s old enough to be her father. At a ball, when she is despairing her fate in a garden, Edward comes across her, and they discuss her situation. He comes up with what he believes is the perfect solution: they will fake a betrothal, keeping her away from Lord Hutton and pleasing his mother, who has been bothering him to settle down. What actually happens, of course, is that they start to fall for each other during their fake courtship. I thought Edward was sweet and a perfect hero; he was funny and appreciated the heroine for her mind and bluestocking ways. I didn’t like the way Lucy’s parents treated her at first, but the author managed in the short novella to show change in the relationship between Lucy and her parents. The couple fell for each other a little too fast. The heroine’s actions at the end, while necessary, didn’t seem wholly within her character that we had seen before. The villain was drawn without much depth; he is just purely evil, and we are not giving much in the way of motivation for his actions. Still, for the sweetness of the hero, I did find myself enjoying this book.
Heart of a Marquess: Charlotte’s mother has just married an earl in a love match, and the happy couple is off on their honeymoon, leaving their marriage-age daughters together, chaperoned by the earl’s sister. The earl’s daughter hates that these two women have come into their lives, as she sees it is encroaching on her father’s love and time for her. Lady Emma is simply ghastly towards Charlotte on all accounts; she is the villain in this story, and she has been painted in very broad strokes. Nothing appears to be good about her whatsoever. Charlotte wishes that Lady Emma would be a true sister to her, but she is realistic about her step-sister. Charlotte comes to know a marquess after Emma locks her in a room at a ball. Emma is most displeased that Charlotte has caught his eye and is determined to ruin it all for her. The marquess himself has been reluctant to find a wife because one young has tried to provoke a compromise before. The hero in this book isn’t quite as swoon-worthy as the one in the previous book. I didn’t like how he believed Lady Emma’s lies about Charlotte at first even though he did know her somewhat. I felt like this book did lack because of the stick-figure villain and a somewhat lackluster hero.