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REVIEW: Secrets of Surrender by Madeline Hunter

Dear Ms. Hunter:

book review I know that you are a gifted writer and I certainly feel like I am supposed to understand the underlying dynamic of the characters’ motivations but I admit to being lost. I do think that you are challenging norms here and I appreciate that but somehow I could never quite connect with the heroine.

Roselyn Longworth is the sister of Timothy Longworth and the cousin of Alexia, heroine of Rules of Seduction. Timothy fleeced a bank of thousands of pounds and fled England when his perfidy was discovered. Rose retired to the countryside. Alone and scandal-ridden, she allowed herself to be seduced by Lord Norbury. She believed that she was his paramour and goes with him to a weekend party. Norbury humiliates her while there and offers her up for auction amongst other licentious nobles.

Kyle Bradwell, a man of affairs and part time architect, has a strange past with Norbury and is present at the party. He impulsively bids on Rose in a manner calculated to suppress the others and wins her even though he really can’t afford to do so. Kyle was a victim of Timothy, indrectly, and his financial circumstance is precarious as a result.

The scandal is such that Rose must cut herself from her family- from Alexia, from her sister, from everyone. She is shunned in her village and has few options. Alexia’s brother in law, the Marquess of Easterbrook confronts Kyle and tells him that he has the power to change Rose’s story.

With each passing page, I grew more frustrated with Rose. The story begins with Rose’s realization that she had been lying to herself.

Roselyn Longworth contemplated her damnation. Hell was not fire and brimstone, she realized. It consisted of merciless self-awareness. You learned the truth about yourself in hell. You faced the lies that you had told your soul in order to justify doing the wrong thing.

But her hard-earned self awareness is inconstant. She’s reluctant to be saved by Kyle, believing falsely she has other options. (and this is a circumstance in which she cannot save herself). She continues to act in ways that are contrary to good sense. Interestingly, different characters confront her on these issues but Rose’s perspicacity is sorely wanting. She does show moments of lucidity such as when she realizes that her association with Norbury has put her beyond the pale but mostly it seems that Rose lives in a deluded state wherein her past rank and her purported brother’s love still matters.

Despite the fact that Tim’s fraud left her and her family susceptible to the whims of unscrupulous men, Rose never really accepts that Tim has done wrong. After all, the victims were all repaid, she reasons. At one point, she even lashes out at the people who refused restitution.

Toward the end of the story it seemed that you wanted to excuse Rose’s constant bad choices by positing that she believed she deserved no better. I found that her bad choices were the result of Rose feeling a sense of entitlement based on birth and society.

There are moments of tenderness such as when Rose bakes pie for Kyle believing that it is a special treat and Kyle eats the pie that Rose makes even though he hates it. In the changing mores of society where those with money were growing in prominence and challenging the society’s valuation, Kyle was in that in-between netherworld where he was too good for those of his past but not good enough for those in his present. The book further contemplates the concept of the definition true gentleman whether they can be made, whether they are born. Kyle, despite the meanness of his birth, embodied the qualities of a gentleman–honorable, considerate of others, a savior. Norbury, an heir to an earldom, was not.

Even though I failed to be convinced of whatever was the point of Rose’s character, I still think this is a quality book. It’s just not one that I would re-read and I’m not convinced I could recommend it without reservation but it’s one in which I recognize the problem could very well rest in me, the reader. C+

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

  1. MaryKate
    May 27, 2008 @ 19:06:08

    OK, I realize this isn’t germane to the review, but is it just me, or is this cover exactly the same as PASSION by Lisa Valdez, except the fan thingy is orange?

    I finally gave up on Hunter with Rules of Seduction. I always feel a bit bewildered with her books. Like I’m missing something. But then again, it’s not the first time I’ve not understood what the fuss was all about.

  2. WandaSue
    May 27, 2008 @ 19:21:02

    I bought this, started it, DNF, and it sits alone on my night stand, soon to stand amidst many at the used book store.

    I don’t know why I waste my money on this author. I don’t “get” her, and I worried once that it was me. Now I know better.

  3. Jane
    May 27, 2008 @ 22:04:36

    I really, really enjoyed Rules of Seduction but I agree with the sentiment regarding “getting” her or feeling bewildered by her books. I often feel like I am missing some nuance or some reading into the character particularly when I am presented with characters that I feel like I should like.

  4. Marg
    May 28, 2008 @ 03:46:11

    I really loved Rules of Seduction when I read it last year. I was less enamoured by Lessons of Desire when I read it a few days ago, and just ordered this one today. Maybe I should have held off!

  5. Devon
    May 28, 2008 @ 07:46:46

    I think quite often Hunter is trying to do something different with her books, which I admire and I’m intrigued by. But I don’t like her heroines a lot of the time, and in general feel a kind of distance from the characters. Does that make sense? Guess I don’t get them either.

  6. Jane
    May 28, 2008 @ 07:51:20

    I have to confess that it does my heart a bit of good to see I’m not the only one who has a hard time connecting to Hunter’s books. I’ve really struggled in the last two books and have felt like I’m a bit dim for not seeing what she is trying to get at but I do appreciate that she is trying to do something different and I won’t stop reading her.

  7. Stephanie
    May 28, 2008 @ 08:56:01

    I’ve read the first two in this series and think Hunter’s style is very smooth and polished. But I find her characters oddly unengaging, and the Longworth family with its weak, self-indulgent men and petulant, rather clueless women is particularly unsympathetic. Maybe I should look for some of her earlier medievals and see if they impress me more favorably.

  8. BookBoor
    May 28, 2008 @ 20:33:42

    Rules of Seduction is a keeper for me. I didn’t read Lessons of Desire because the heroine was introduced in RoS and she rubbed me wrong so I decided to avoid it. However, I did read this one and I admit that I wouldn’t want to be friends with her either. I agree with Devon’s comment about Hunter doing something unique. Her heroines don’t always start off with redeeming qualities. They can seem entitled and naive and take a significant amount of the book to exercise sense over sensibility. However, I think her heroines seem more human for this reason. I occasionally find myself scoffing while reading books I absolutely love because the heroine takes it on the chin whenever an obstacle is thrown her way. She dons her martyr cap and endures, dignity intact. I’m usually thinking she’s better woman than me. Hunter’s heroines don’t always receive their circumstances with grace and/or dignity. They rail and despair or become indignant. It’s almost like a 12 step program or something. When she pulls it off, it really works and you feel completely satisfied. When she doesn’t you kind of feel like you went through all these emotions and didn’t achieve nirvana.

  9. Devon
    May 29, 2008 @ 07:38:08

    Her heroines don't always start off with redeeming qualities. They can seem entitled and naive and take a significant amount of the book to exercise sense over sensibility. However, I think her heroines seem more human for this reason.

    Bookboor, you nailed it. It’s a risk, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

  10. Linn
    May 30, 2008 @ 15:16:11

    Devon said:

    But I don't like her heroines a lot of the time, and in general feel a kind of distance from the characters

    Well put. Kyle was tepidly appealing (a bit too perfect and understanding), the instant hot sex was mystifying (ahem — Norbury?), and Roselyn was simply offputting.

  11. Michelle
    May 31, 2008 @ 12:07:37

    I really enjoy Madeline Hunter and have read all her books. Naturally, I like some more than others, but they are always well written. I do think she writes a more nuanced heroine or at least not the stereotypical sweet young thing kind of heroine that can be the center of a lot of historical romances. (I did have a hard time warming up to Portia in the previous novel, but the end of her arc/journey was so much more satisfying for it) Although that can make it harder to “like” and feel empathy/sympathy for the heroine initially, I appreciate it. They feel more real and more interesting and somehow more historic – warts and all. It gives them stronger journeys/arcs.

    In terms of feeling a distance from the heroines, I don’t think she does deep POV (point of view) as well as some other authors and that can make the reader feel that distance. I actually didn’t feel that distance in this book though – and it’s kind of an ironic criticism since she talks about that kind of distance between the hero and heroine.

    I just really liked this book. Found it very moving and thought it had a deep understanding of human dynamics. In some ways, I think her last few 19th century novels have been as satisfying as her first three medievals – which were my favorite novels by her for a long, long time.

  12. Meanne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 04:31:13

    I guess I’m one of those people who “get” Madeline Hunter’s books because I enjoyed this one. Not as much as I enjoyed her “Rules of Seduction” which I’ve reread twice in the past year alone inspite of my daunting 1,000+ TBR books ( mostly ebooks thank goodness!! ), but still, it’s a quality book as Jane describes it, and I was thoroughly engrossed in the hero and heroine’s journey to falling in love…

  13. avidrdr
    Jan 28, 2010 @ 20:34:13

    I am so very glad I found this website. I checked this book out at the library because I liked the cover and then came home to see if was on here. I don’t think I’ll read it now….I have stacks of others I’ll know I’ll like and would rather use my time on those…perhaps I’ll give Ms. Hunter a go when I get those stacks down :)

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