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REVIEW: A Lady’s Secret by Jo Beverley

Edited to add: Caution There’s a major spoiler in paragraph 3.

Dear Mrs. Beverley,

When you posted to one of my earlier reviews that your next book would be back in the world of the Mallorens and feature a rake with a ‘nun on the run,’ I started salivating. Me wuvs the Mallorens and Georgian historicals so I was bugging Jane to make sure we got a copy. Then silly me got it in my head that it was due out in June so I sorted it after a few other books I wanted to finish. Well, yesterday afternoon I saw it listed at Fictionwise. I said a bad word. I reshuffled my book stacks and read half of it in one evening. Today I finished it off and here I am, lost again in the world of the English aristocracy where “all things are possible.”

I enjoyed reading your “how I wrote this story” entry after I finished the actual story. How you figured out exactly who this cursing nun is whom Robin overhears in a French inn, how they get together, how it turns into a road romance and ends so happily. When Petra and Robin end up in England at about the halfway mark, I did wonder, “okay, so what’s she going to do with the rest of the book?” Drive your hero mad and show us how enterprising Petra is, that’s what. Oh and let Robin finally prove both to himself and to his family, servants and tenants that he’s ready to admit that he’s grown up.

I’ll also admit that up until right before you revealed it, I was wondering how these two tied into the Mallorens. I kept muttering the name “Robin” to myself and trying to place him in past books. Then it all fell into place and I said “AHA!” Perfect. It makes total sense, ties in with the well established “Grand Tours” young men of good family made at the time and gave me the delightful chance to (major spoilers here) see the Eminence Noir as a father. I also had to laugh at poor Robin’s realization that Rothgar will be his father-in-law. Somehow I don’t think it’s something most men of the time would have lightly taken on. I was not surprised that Bey would accept Petra. He’s still so eager to take responsibility for everyone he can lay his hands on which is something you’ve made a part of him since book one.

Lemme see – other things I liked. That Robin grows and matures as the book progresses. I’ll be honest and say that, like Petra, I would have been annoyed with him some during the early stages. But as he tells Petra at one point, he can ‘do’ serious if the need is there. I like that we see him do it and come to the point where he decides to fully take up the responsibilities of his Earldom – something he’d put off since the sudden death of his father a year ago. And any man who’s willing to deliberately lose a 1000 guinea bet in order to win his lady love is a man in love. His declaration as he asks her to marry him is great. Kudos that he asks her before he finds out who she really is.

In this day when people think nothing of a single woman hitchhiking around South America, I feel we probably won’t have as much an appreciation for the job Petra does in dodging the villains who are after her and managing to make her way across Europe without the aid of a man. We see how men were ready to take advantage of a woman traveling without a male to make arrangements for them in the tale of Lady Sodworth. By the way, my eyes popped open when I read that title! If I didn’t know you were English, I would have guessed it was a really bad name choice by someone unfamiliar with British slang. Oh and I heart the fact that Petra remembers the little people who helped her along the way. Nice touch.

I liked learning about the everyday life of the 18 C English countryside as Petra progresses from Folkstone to her final destination. However, she seems to do this without as much difficulty as one might imagine. I especially like the fact that you have your noblemen characters doing nobleman things and more concerned about that then trying to be Lord Spy. Sure Robin does a little on the side while he’s romance a lady at Versailles, but I think he’s now put that behind him with his decision to really be an Earl. I love Coquette who certainly doesn’t suffer from any size inferiority complex.

So, what didn’t work so well pour moi? The villain Ludo – man he’s really obsessed. I just don’t like villains like this as the real life versions scare me. This is a personal preference and obviously might not bother others. Did Petra have to get preggers? It’s not as if this really propels the proposal as Robin has already sincerely asked by the time he finds out. I would also have loved to see Lady Sodworth find out exactly who Petra is.

Is this the set up for Thorn and Grandison? From your author’s note, I would think so. Please, pretty please. But oh, another Duke. What happened to ‘plain misters and misses can be high born in England?’ I’m sure Bryght and Portia were glad to hear Diana’s news.

I’ve gone on and on about what I liked about the book but I think the best way to show how much I like it is to say that after I read the free arc we got, I went out and bought my own copy. A-

~Jayne

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

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

22 Comments

  1. Jill Myles
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 15:05:08

    This sounds great and the cover is so pretty. I want.

  2. Bonnie L.
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 15:28:06

    I liked this book and was surprised by Petra’s secret (I am glad that I was forewarned that the Author’s Note contained spoilers). I would have rated this one a B+ because Robin’s lust thoughts in the beginning were just way too over the top for me in combination with the mostly off-stage villian with shallow motives.

  3. Ana
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 15:47:37

    The Mallorens are back? Woohoo. Great. I am still working through them – got to Devilish now. But will most certainly pick this one up, the review was very good. Thanks

  4. Traci
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 17:36:52

    This review got me excited to read a series again. I think I will pick up the whole series this weekend. Thank you!

  5. Amanda
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 18:27:15

    I loved this book! Only thing that threw me was that Robin was only 26 and Petra, 21 (I think). But that’s just cause I’ll never see either of those ages again:) A really great read, though and one of the most action packed historicals I’ve read in a while.

  6. Jayne
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 19:13:12

    Well, 26 and 21 is better, I think, than the usual 32 and 18 that are so common for historicals. I liked the action packed aspect and loved that it didn’t come across as nothing but action packed. If that makes sense. You know how in some books it’s just one thing after another after another after another and you never get the feeling that the characters can even draw a breath before the next episode? I didn’t get that here.

  7. Jayne
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 19:15:04

    Jill, I think Beverley has gotten some really nice covers for this series. Both the original ones for books 1-5 (okay, maybe “My Lady Notorious” was a bad clinch one) but the rest have been lovely.

  8. Jayne
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 19:16:57

    Bonnie I’m glad I didn’t know Petra’s secret til I read it. And I’m glad we finally got our spoiler cover to work for this review. I freaked when I finally got a chance to sign on this evening and saw it wasn’t there. Thanks Jane for getting it to work!

  9. Brenna
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 20:08:01

    Great review Jayne. And that's one major spoiler. I haven't read the book yet so all I can say is “wow, I never expected that.” When it comes to spoilers, I just can't resist them. I'm feeling excited about ordering this book as I love all things Malloren, especially Rothgar. Jo Beverley is an auto buy author for me but strangely enough, I was not able to finish her last book. It just didn't capture my interest. But now, I' can't wait to get my hands her new one

  10. Amanda
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 20:17:30

    Jayne said: Well, 26 and 21 is better, I think, than the usual 32 and 18 that are so common for historicals. I liked the action packed aspect and loved that it didn't come across as nothing but action packed. If that makes sense. You know how in some books it's just one thing after another after another after another and you never get the feeling that the characters can even draw a breath before the next episode? I didn't get that here.

    Very true about the ages. And YES about the action not overshadowing the romance. I think what really worked with this is that they had some downtime in between skirmishes. That allowed Robin and Petra to get to know one another in a way that I think doesn’t happen when it’s strictly one action sequence after another. So you could believe that their relationship grew out of genuine affection. Not just because of the adrenaline rush of going through some scary stuff together.

  11. Caffey
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 22:46:11

    This has been on my wishlist since I heard it was coming out, but I thought June too. I had to make sure I didn’t read the spoilers but either way I’d probably hear about it. But just gave me the goosebumps knowing its out. Great reading your review.

  12. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 08:42:36

    Caffey I don’t know why I had June on my mind as the release date. But it’s definitely out in stores now.

  13. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 08:46:04

    That allowed Robin and Petra to get to know one another in a way that I think doesn’t happen when it’s strictly one action sequence after another. So you could believe that their relationship grew out of genuine affection. Not just because of the adrenaline rush of going through some scary stuff together.

    Yes, yes exactly. I also liked the language bits where Petra got introduced to the wonderful world of the English language as spoken by natives. But even that didn’t seem ‘overdone’ the way these things sometimes are – just misunderstandings arising from everyday conversations.

  14. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 08:47:13

    Brenna, “Lady Beware” didn’t work so well for me either. Which is another reason I was so happy to learn this one would be a Georgian. Those have almost always tripped my trigger.

  15. Estelle
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 08:52:13

    I really liked this book too and had a great time reading it. I’ve always had a weakness for Georgian romances in general and Beverley’s georgian romances in particular. I espcially liked Robin’s characterization. The transformations from easy-going fellow to earnest fighter and strategist were always believable and I’ve rarely seen it so well done. Then there’s Petra. She was a delight from start to finish. It was easy to see why Robin was so taken with her and vice-versa. And of course there’s also Coquette. My, how I laughed!

    There’s only one thing that bothered me and that I can’t quite shake off and it’s what you put in the spoilers. I’m not sure I should discuss it here since some people haven’t read the book yet and I don’t know how to put spoiler tags. I’ll try not to give any names away. It almost felt contrived so that we could have a tie in with the Mallorens and an excuse to revisit them. I also found that it was dealt with all too quickly and a little too easily. The easy acceptance of the father I could understand. But the One Big Happy Family (ie, the scene at super the day of Petra’s arrival)and the never ending smiles of his wife I couldn’t. We never got to see something from her point of view. No matter that it’s something that happened more than 20 years ago, IMO no woman would feel unreserved joy at learning that her husband had a child from a past liaison, especially since they haven’t been married long at all yet. Acceptance would come, but so quickly? without the least little pinge? I remember one scene in particular, the one in the carriage when they’re going to the venetian soirée. Petra is wearing a replica of her mother’s mask and her father makes a comment about it, saying that he remembers it….with his wife sitting next to him (and both Petra and the reader know in which circumstances he saw that mask too). Surely it was not considerate of him to mention this in front of his wife? His actions in this book made me perversely think less of him although I used to admire his character greatly.

    So, yes, I was disappointed to see how this book tied into the Mallorens world, especially since, as I mentioned above, it wasn’t at all necessary to Robin and Petra’s story–which I greatly enjoyed independently from this nitpick I have. It dimished my previous enjoyment of a certain book which was on my keepers shelf until now–I need to re-read it and see if I can dissociate it from A Lady’s Secret before deciding whether to leave it there or not.

  16. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 08:57:25

    I thought and thought about the reunion scene and in the end decided it was just the way of the family in general and that they were probably following his lead in particular. As to the wife…well, maybe it was just more accepted. Men will have their little pecadillos and it happened so long before he and she met and fell in love. It did make me go o-O a little but in the end, it wasn’t enough to really change my grade.

  17. Stephie Smith
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 11:37:47

    Beverly is one of my fav authors. Loved To Rescue A Rogue and am halfway through Lady Beware, which rescued ME after I started about 10 historical romances that I didn’t like enough to read past chapter 4. So I can’t wait to get this one.

    BTW…what’s wrong with another duke? I will always choose a book with a duke as the hero over any other. Always! Always! Always!!

  18. Li
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 13:38:25

    I really liked this book too, but I can see where Estelle’s coming from with the contrived tie-in point. I liked the connection, but I’m not sure if it would work as well for first-time Malloren readers.

    I did think the wife’s reaction was quite in character though, having gotten to know her in previous books. It would have been interesting to have seen more of her POV, but maybe that would have extended the story too much?

  19. Keishon
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 14:11:03

    I just bought a copy and can’t wait to dig in. I’ve never read Jo Beverly either so it’s good to start with a good one. [g]

  20. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 19:22:05

    Stephie the deal with Dukes is there’s too damn many of them in romances. It’s gotten to the point that almost every book *has* to have a Duke hero and in a series, you can potentially end up with 3-10 of them (depending on the number of books in the series). I know this isn’t real life but it’s supposed to be imitating real life and there just aren’t that many in real life. I’m absolutely fine with a plain mister. Mr Darcy was not titled and all the heroes from romance books need not be either.

  21. Stephie Smith
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 09:28:55

    And I LOVE those series that have all the dukes. Those are the books I absolutely live for:-)) Hopefully, there are enough of both types of heroes to satisfy us all.

    I don’t think fiction should imitate real life. I wouldn’t want to read it if it did. I think that’s why I love the Regency historicals with dukes. It’s sort of like Cinderella, with the guy everyone wants and no one (but the heroine) can get. The real dukes of the period certainly were nothing like these guys in romance novels. I’m sure I wouldn’t want to read a book about a real duke, unless he just happened to be young, rich, handsome and hung like a stallion (LOL).

  22. Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary » If You Like . . . Julie Garwood, the Historicals
    Oct 13, 2008 @ 04:01:49

    [...] everyone that this is about a ‘nun on the run and a dandy' and that usually sells the book. Jayne at DA loved it. I loved it. Go read it. Beverley also wrote several medievals in her past, but they tend to move [...]

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