REVIEW: Alluring Secrets by Lynne Connolly
Dear Mrs. Connolly,
“Alluring Secrets” is the second story of this latest trio available from Samhain Publishing. While it’s going to get a better grade than the first story, “Seductive Secrets,” there were still a few things that didn’t work quite right for me.
Penelope Makepiece is a young woman of aristocratic family who’s been invited, along with the young man who’s expected to offer for her, to a houseparty held by the older brother of Penny’s friend Antonia. Penny both anticipates and dreads it. She’s not crazy about the arranged match with her cousin Toby – though it will neatly tie the family fortune she’s due to inherit upon her heirless father’s eventual death with the title Toby himself will gain – and she’s been in love with Antonia’s brother Severus Granville, Earl of Swithland for years.
Severus is also dreading his own party. In a drunken moment, he set up the whole thing as a way to finally choose a bride from amongst the lovelies on the marriage mart. But now he feels like a buyer at a horse auction when the horses are flirting like mad with him and their parents are worse. One by one he decides he can’t face a future married to any of them but he’s got to choose someone or risk pissing off a goodly number of people.
But as the party progresses, he begins to see and really notice Penny. Kind, sensible, intelligent – and he’s enthralled by her secret hobby of stock picking – eligible and easy to talk to. She’s a woman he can actually imagine sitting across from at the breakfast table in the coming years without shooting himself at the thought. But has his “Wow, I could have had a V-8!” moment of revelation come too late?
While I’m not quite as nearsighted as Penelope, I’ve had times when I didn’t have my glasses or contact lenses in and couldn’t see squat. I feel for the poor dear – what with her relations who think it unbecoming, for whatever reasons, for her to wear her spectacles and her poorly adjusted lens strengths. Her delight in finally being able to see properly ought to have told her family what they’d put her through. Sev’s varied optical prezzies to her – I love the diamond edged ones – showed how much he was growing to care for her.
You include a little bit of Severus’s hobby/interest but I would like to have seen more. Perhaps a quiet, closing scene of Penny and Sev up at night, sitting in his mini-observatory, happily charting Venus together.
Jan has mentioned and I think I have too, how your books give such a wonderful feel for the period. Instead of just a catalogue of the various articles of clothing worn at the time, we see how the wearer felt in them. How the stays constricted and how the heat felt through all the layers of batting and boning. How a woman had to plan her sitting movements while wearing her side hoops. And when Penny rescues the kitten, how difficult it would be to move and maneuver and even get back upright in all of it.
Most of the action takes place in a Stately Home. A very stately home, indeed. Even though Penny has spent a good deal of time there and knows it rather well, there are still times she gets turned around and whole areas of the house she’s never seen. I enjoyed your trick of using the paying visitors to allow the housekeeper to describe some of the state rooms to us, the readers. And Sev’s impish dance with the matron shows the decent man he is.
Like the R&R series, Penny is more a mouse to Sev’s glorious peacock. He’s sought after, titled, rich, good looking, has some rakish qualities. She’s quiet, retiring, not in the forefront of their upper class world. His growing affection then love for her lights her inner candle so by the end of the story, she glows in his presence. He breaks his role of haughty lord to show, in little but telling ways, how much he feels for her so that society can see that these two will have that rarity in this world – the love match.
Unlike the Richard and Rose series, Penelope is no gentry interloper into this aristocratic world. Though I don’t recall you mentioning her father’s rank, he must at least be a Baron or Viscount. But while she’s a member of this societal class, her poor vision and retiring manner have, in effect, set her apart from her peers. In Antonia she has a best friend who knows and understands her. And while I appreciate watching her stepping up, clothing wise, to her new position, I like that she’s not all that sure she wants to become an arbiter of fashion, thus changing the nature of who she still is.
Yet, while I like watching what has come to be a trademark pairing from you of hero and heroine in a Georgian setting, by the same token, I feel I’ve read it before. I know you like to show a quiet heroine finding love with a flashy hero but just once, I’d love to see a heroine with a little more confidence in herself and a hero a tad more unsure of himself from your pen.
And then there’s the villain of the story. Right from the start, I knew we were in for trouble with this one. And my feeling was justified in more ways than one. Yes, he was nothing but villainous with, I thought, little depth of character, but also the sudden switch in gears of the story felt wrong. Here we’d had a gentle houseparty plot, a quiet, well mannered story which suddenly turns into an action adventure. “WTF?” I thought. “Where did this come from?” And then the villain turned out to be one of those annoying “just won’t shut up and die” types. I hate those types.
I was also mystified by something during the rescue. Here we have Sev and his best friend, riding vente a terre after his abducted fiancee with the villain having at least a 10 hour lead time on them and they stop for lunch. Yes, I can see the need to stop and inquire whether or not a coach has passed that way and I can even see the need for sustenance to sustain them while they gallop hell for leather. But not stopping long enough to eat a pigeon pie and down some pints. Had I been Sev, the culinary concoction eaten by so many today would not be known as the “sandwich” but rather as the “swithland” after the man who refused to take the time away from his pursuit to eat a proper sit down meal.
But I also must ask, since you base so much of your plots on actual events of the time, did this type of abduction actually occur? I know that it was common in the seventeenth century to abduct an heiress and force a marriage but did anyone ever try to sail off with one?
I will admit to looking forward to the last book in this series about Peter the politician. From things you hinted at in the first book, Peter isn’t particular about with whom he takes his pleasure in London. Could be interesting. In the meantime, B- for “Alluring Secrets.”