If Secrets was a movie, it most emphatically wouldn’t be Shakespeare in Love, but something more along the lines of Kate and Leopold. There are pleasures to be had, to be sure, but ultimately, there is simply nothing here that will imprint itself on either your heart or your memory.
Rescued from slavery in the near east by the hero of the author’s Scandal, Christian English – a name he adopted from the terms his former masters used to identify him – can’t remember either who he is or where he comes from. The only outward clues to his identity are his upper class speech and noble good looks, both of which surely mark him as a member of the aristocracy.
Living in a cottage on the estate of rescuer Gideon Harwood, Christian finds himself more than a little drawn to Gideon’s younger sister Bethany. But with deep scars (both physical and mental) from his horrific experiences, no knowledge of his past, and no idea if he is married or not, Christian won’t allow himself to act on – or even really admit to himself – his feelings for the young woman.
Bethany, contentedly living with her younger sister Bliss in the country home of Gideon and his wife, shares both Gideon’s feelings and his reticence to act upon them. Left impoverished while her brother made his fortune in a far corner of the world and with a younger sister to care for, Bethany was forced to make some hard decisions in order to survive – decisions that result in her firm belief that she will never be able to marry.
But, not surprisingly, Christian is about to discover his true identity. And, when he does, the wedge between commoner Bethany and the high born Christian seem to be deeper than ever.
This is one of those tough reviews to write because, while there’s nothing really wrong here, there’s also nothing in this book’s 342 pages that raise it above the level of an average read. Bethany isn’t exasperating or TSTL, but she also isn’t unique or especially interesting. She’s – I don’t know – simply lackluster. Christian’s character fares slightly better since his amnesia leads him to take a voyage of discovery into this past. The young man he discovers he might have been isn’t someone he likes very much and the author does a good job of conveying both his confusion and his heartfelt regret over actions and behavior that he can’t even remember.
What it all comes down to for me is this: Though I finished the book just yesterday, I’m hard pressed to remember anything about it, either good or bad. And that leads me to my ultimate bottom line: There are worse books out there, as we’ve all discovered the hard way, but there are also ones more readily deserving of both your valuable time and money. If you’re a voracious reader who must read every historical set in the Regency, Secrets could fit the bill. If your time and money are more limited, I’d suggest you look elsewhere.