London's Best Kept Secret
London’s Best Kept Secret began as a C read, but rose to a B because the story improved after a lagging start. Then the hero revealed he’d done something unforgivable – which everyone forgave him for – and the grade took a nosedive. I’d try another of Anabelle Bryant’s books, but this one is too flawed to recommend.
The story begins with Charlotte and Jeremy Lockhart stuck in a holding pattern, because they’ve been married ten months and have yet to share a bed. They treat each other like strangers, but secretly long for more.
Although Charlotte doesn’t know it, Jeremy is extremely guilty about something he did to obtain her hand in marriage, which is why he has never so much as kissed her. Charlotte practises the piano and spends time with her best friend, obviously the heroine of the previous book in the series, while Jeremy either broods in his study or hangs out at White’s.
We’re told he “somehow” fell in love with her before they had even exchanged a single word. Insta-love is a trope that doesn’t work for me, and here’s why. Even after ten months, when Jeremy’s best friend asks him what he knows of Charlotte, all he can say is that she likes to play the piano. And yet “somehow” he adores her.
So the book was solidly in C territory at this point. But then Jeremy finally decides to give his wife roses and have some conversation with her, which leads to a kiss. Charlotte hopes for intimacy, because even if he’s unsatisfied with her after that, at least she might have a baby.
Unconditional love and a relationship free of judgment were gifts a child could offer.
Poor Charlotte. She has never heard of teenagers.
Once Jeremy and Charlotte stop vacillating, Ms. Bryant stokes the sexual tension high and this part of the story was a great deal of fun. There are continued hints that Jeremy has a dark secret, but the sex scenes were a delightful romp. I also liked Jeremy’s capable secretary. No matter what the situation, the secretary quotes words of wisdom from his late father on the topic, until Jeremy thinks the father says more from beyond the grave than he did while among the living.
Unfortunately, now we get to the part that sank the ship. So, spoilers ahead.
Jeremy, as I mentioned earlier, took one look at Charlotte and adored her. However, despite being a handsome rich viscount, he didn’t feel he could compete with the other men he’d heard were interested in her. Therefore, he secretly bought up the businesses Charlotte’s father had invested in, and then ruined them. Once he had her family teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, he offered to give them the money they needed in exchange for Charlotte’s hand.
Now that’s amore.
Of course the inevitable happens. So here is a choice selection of Jeremy’s excuses for his behavior :
“I never meant to harm anyone.”
“Can you put yourself in my place for a moment?”
“I admit, I became obsessed. I needed you. Is that an unforgivable sin?”
Even worse, when Charlotte says that what he did was appalling and deceitful, her best friend replies, “Imagine how much he wanted you, then.” What’s so wonderful about being wanted by someone willing to hurt innocent people? And cruel, underhanded manipulation isn’t evidence of love. It’s just evidence that the person in question will stoop to cruel, underhanded manipulation.
Finally Charlotte comes around, because as she says,
“[Jeremy] has shown me kindness. He has a thoughtful nature.” The unexpected roses, visit to the gallery of instruments and his bone-melting kisses were testament to that.”
Yes, I always associate bone-melting kisses with kindness.
There were some memorable turns of phrase and lively descriptions in this book, as well as those enjoyable sex scenes. But a hero who behaves in a way even he admits is despicable needs to do something equally powerful to redeem himself, rather than spending half his time defending himself and the other half wallowing in the misery he’s caused. I can’t rate London’s Best Kept Secret any higher than a D+.