REVIEW: Secrets of Surrender by Madeline Hunter
Dear Ms. Hunter:
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+