The Earl With the Secret Past
The Earl with the Secret Past by Janice Preston is a pretty standard second chance romance but it also features an element of a mystery and I enjoyed that part quite a bit.
Kitty, an earl’s daughter, begs architect apprentice Adam Monroe to run away with her and get her away from her father, but he refuses. She marries a different man two weeks later and both she and Adam go on with their lives.
Fifteen years later, they are back in each other’s orbits due to a family secret on Adam’s side. His mother tells him he is not the son of a simple sailor as he’s always thought but is rather the son and heir of a recently deceased earl. As such, Adam leaves his Edinburgh home determined to claim his birthright. The location of his English estate just happens to make him a new neighbor to Kitty and her family.
Kitty resolves to stay away from Adam but cannot when her stepson hires him to design and oversee the building of an addition onto the family home. Adam has a few ‘accidents’ that are explained away easily, but when they continue to happen, Adam and Kitty realize they aren’t accidents at all. They must discover who is trying to kill Adam while also dealing with their old and new feelings for each other.
I really struggle with second chance romances because they often follow the formula of the hero and heroine having a past misunderstanding they could have cleared up by having a simple conversation. They do not and are separated before being reunited, and their reconciliation almost always involves their continually having the same thoughts of regret. Much of this story is exactly like that. We are told ad nauseum that Kitty and Adam were once in love but it didn’t work out between them. Very few of their inner thoughts don’t revolve around their former feelings for each other, in fact. And it was very tiresome.
That being said, they do slowly begin to realize that in the fifteen years they’ve been apart, they have become different people and begin to fall in love with their current selves, so in that way the book was more like a brand new romance featuring two people who hadn’t known each other before. And that part of the romance was delightful.
The mystery was easily the best thing about this story. It fills the book with plenty of action so that it wasn’t focused solely on the romance, which lagged at times. Preston does a great job of casting enough doubt on each possible suspect so I couldn’t be sure who it was until the big reveal. But ultimately, The Earl with the Secret Past is a commonplace second chance romance saved from tedium by an intriguing mystery.