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REVIEW: Alluring Secrets by Lynne Connolly

Dear Mrs. Connolly,

alluring-secrets“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.”

~Jayne

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.

15 Comments

  1. jmc
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 07:03:19

    Thanks for this review, Jayne. It’s enough to make me find my copy of the ebook — it has languished, unopened, on my hard drive since the book was purchased. Must bump it up in the TBR “pile”.

  2. Jayne
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 07:07:54

    Then you’ll be just in time for when the last book in the series, “Tantalizing Secrets,” is released Feb 24th. And, at least for me, finding an ebook is a whole lot easier than finding print copies of books used to be. [g]

  3. Lynne Connolly
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 07:15:59

    Love, love, love this review. Because you’ve read it, and you like it. Sooo, in return, a few secrets.
    I wrote this story a few years ago, just before I wrote my first contemporary, and I think if I were to rewrite it, I’d tone it down a bit and definitely redo the villain. Now I think I’d write a man tormented by his family’s demands to provide an heir and distorted by the society he was brought up in.
    Angie made me write and redo this, and she checked every word, to make sure there were no anachronisms. I tell you, she’s a marvel.
    The house in the story was based on Longleat. Gorgeous, grand place, but hard to imagine actually living there.
    Met By Chance, with its more assertive heroine, Perdita, was actually written fairly recently, and I think it shows. For a few years I was obsessed with the Cinderella trope, but with the contemporaries I had to write more assertive heroines, and surprise surprise, I liked it.
    They didn’t stop for lunch as such, they stopped to change the horses, definitely necessary on a trip like this, and went inside for a meal while they were being sorted out. It would mean changing the tack and ensuring the original horses were sent back where they came from, after a rest. Should have made that clearer. But I love the idea of “A Swithland.” This story is set pre-sandwich, so that was a problem! And if you’ve seen my DH down a pint, you’d know it can be done in five minutes flat.
    The swordfight I had the help of a modern fencing master to get the weapons and the acts right. He liked the dirty play, said it was more realistic!
    The abduction – yes, it could have happened. There are two things here – the legality of the action and the scandal. Too much scandal and it would have been curtains anyway. So once at sea, Penny could have been done for. Actually, the 1754 Marriage Act was specifically drawn up to prevent such abductions. Heiresses were being abducted and/or tricked into marriage all over the place up till then, and the White Papers proposing the Act mention them as a prime reason to regularise the marriage. When the Act was passed, people who didn’t understand its import still tried to abduct heiresses or elope with them but their families at least had some redress.
    Anyway, thanks for a super review. I’m thinking of doing Antonia’s story. She just seemed like an interesting character to go with. With her beloved brother happily married, what are her plans? She won’t want to gooseberry for the rest of her life.

  4. Jayne
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 08:20:29

    I wrote this story a few years ago, just before I wrote my first contemporary, and I think if I were to rewrite it, I'd tone it down a bit and definitely redo the villain. Now I think I'd write a man tormented by his family's demands to provide an heir and distorted by the society he was brought up in.
    Angie made me write and redo this, and she checked every word, to make sure there were no anachronisms. I tell you, she's a marvel.

    Now that I could believe. I’m afraid that now he just comes off as a bit of a loony.

    The house in the story was based on Longleat. Gorgeous, grand place, but hard to imagine actually living there.

    Just googled images of Longleat. Wow. I sat looking at it trying to imagine the infantry regiment of maids needed just to keep the windows nice and shiney. There was also a color coded diagram of the maze!

    Met By Chance, with its more assertive heroine, Perdita, was actually written fairly recently, and I think it shows. For a few years I was obsessed with the Cinderella trope, but with the contemporaries I had to write more assertive heroines, and surprise surprise, I liked it.

    Ah…I see. Perdita is much more confident and now that you’ve told me the writing timeline, it makes much more sense that Penny isn’t.

    They didn't stop for lunch as such, they stopped to change the horses, definitely necessary on a trip like this, and went inside for a meal while they were being sorted out. It would mean changing the tack and ensuring the original horses were sent back where they came from, after a rest. Should have made that clearer. But I love the idea of “A Swithland.” This story is set pre-sandwich, so that was a problem! And if you've seen my DH down a pint, you'd know it can be done in five minutes flat.

    LOL. The sororities at my college used to have chugging contests. Not quite a pint down at a time but those who were good at it could slam back some beer.

    The swordfight I had the help of a modern fencing master to get the weapons and the acts right. He liked the dirty play, said it was more realistic!

    Oh, cool. Does he do much of this sort of thing?

    The abduction – yes, it could have happened. There are two things here – the legality of the action and the scandal. Too much scandal and it would have been curtains anyway. So once at sea, Penny could have been done for. Actually, the 1754 Marriage Act was specifically drawn up to prevent such abductions. Heiresses were being abducted and/or tricked into marriage all over the place up till then, and the White Papers proposing the Act mention them as a prime reason to regularise the marriage. When the Act was passed, people who didn't understand its import still tried to abduct heiresses or elope with them but their families at least had some redress.

    Hmmm, I was just wondering if it ever actually had been tried. I guess nothing would stand between some villains and the chance at a nice, tidy fortune. It also explains the absolute insistence on chaperons for the young ladies.

    Anyway, thanks for a super review. I'm thinking of doing Antonia's story. She just seemed like an interesting character to go with. With her beloved brother happily married, what are her plans? She won't want to gooseberry for the rest of her life.

    Yes, yes. I was hoping Antonia might get her HEA. She sounds like she could be a handful for any man to deal with.

  5. Lucinda Betts
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 08:28:06

    Nice review! Looks like a lovely book!

  6. Moth
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 11:19:05

    I don’t know about anyone else, but as a Harry Potter fan I’d have a hard time getting over the name “Severus” for the hero, the association is too strong in my mind.

  7. Jane A
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 11:26:58

    I loved this book and gave it an A in my notes. I rather like the Cinderella type stories and that is probably why it worked so well for me. OTOH I liked Perdita very much, also.
    Lynne, I’m so looking forward to future books from you!

  8. GrowlyCub
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 12:50:05

    Moth, my secret twin! :)

    I thought the same thing, but the book sounds very intriguing! I guess we could change the name in the file? :)

  9. Lynne Connolly
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 13:38:33

    I don't know about anyone else, but as a Harry Potter fan I'd have a hard time getting over the name “Severus” for the hero, the association is too strong in my mind.

    I had no idea. I don’t read Harry Potter, although my children are avid fans! But that’s the beauty of ebooks, you can call him what you like! How about “Robert” or “Christopher,” or maybe “Phineas.”

  10. jmc
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 15:27:48

    Moth and GrowlyCub,

    Actually, the name Severus is why the ebook has been languishing on my hard drive since it was purchased. The blurb intrigued me, but when I tried reading it right after buying, I kept getting images of Snape (mmm, Alan Rickman) in my head.

  11. ldb
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 17:58:09

    But my problem isn’t with the name as I haven’t read Harry Potter, it’s the guy in the coverart, he reminds me of John Black who’s on Days of our Lives.

  12. rigmarole
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 18:02:12

    Yeah, I have a hard time with any Severus who is not Severus Snape.

  13. Lori
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 19:06:36

    Then you'll be just in time for when the last book in the series, “Tantalizing Secrets,” is released Feb 24th.

    Thanks! I’ve loved the first two, and have been dying to know when Peter’s story was coming out. Too lazy to go look it up whenever the thought comes to me. I agree, given his… proclivities?… I hope he gets an incredibly interesting story that doesn’t just sweep his history under the table. Can’t wait for it. Putting this on my radar for later this month.

  14. Jayne
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 19:33:20

    I agree, given his… proclivities?… I hope he gets an incredibly interesting story that doesn't just sweep his history under the table.

    Totally agree with you here, Lori. It’s always so disappointing when the very things that interested me about a secondary character disappear when that character takes center stage in his/her own book.

  15. Heather H
    Aug 30, 2009 @ 21:32:50

    I love that the author of this book wrote in. How cool is that? Last week I read her Richard and Rose Book 1 (free on my ipod touch) and then tonight I bought the second in the series. Then I decided to find out what else she has written. Up popped this review. Great review!

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