The Secret Desires of a Governess
When I was in middle school oh so many years ago there was an extremely blue book that made its way from one backpack to another. The writing was horrible, the dialog excruciating, the plot all but nonexistent. But we children read it from cover to cover because it was filled with pages of raunchy sex. I haven’t thought about that book, called something like Horny Schoolmarm in the Old West, in years and years, until The Secret Desires of a Governess brought it all back again.
I’m sighing as I write this because I really, really wish that I could submit a review that reads “don’t waste your money” and leave it at that. But one-liners don’t cut it, so here goes. The Earl of Brendall, Elliott, is supposedly alone in his house with his sleeping child, when he hears footsteps passing his study door. Upon investigating, Elliott finds an extremely bedraggled and soaking wet young woman wandering the hallways of his massive home. When Elliott confronts the intruder, he decides that she’s a traveling prostitute of some sort and that he wants her, even though she’s not his type, being the type of woman who talks back. He swallows back his attraction when she informs him that she is his son’s new governess.
The governess, Abigail, actually Lady something or other, is furious that she has had to walk fifteen miles in the rain to get to the castle because no one made arrangements for her to be met with a carriage. It’s an inauspicious beginning for Abigail’s first post, but she decides to make the best of things and allows Elliott to lead her to a bedchamber, marveling at his ass while he climbs the stairs in front of her.
Bad things start to happen very quickly. Abigail is treated with hostility by the housekeeper. When Abigail goes back to the village to pick up the luggage she left there the day before, she finds that Elliott is despised by the villagers. A nasty old woman confronts Abigail and stabs her in the hand with a fingernail, hissing that the castle is haunted and that Elliott is a murderer. The little boy Abigail’s been hired to teach is all but feral and is soon found to be dyslexic. Because of the dyslexia, Abigail has to overcome the methods of teaching, including cruelty, used by previous governesses.
There are bright spots. Once Abigail wins his trust she develops a good relationship with her charge. She also develops a relationship with her charge’s daddy. Abigail and Elliot can’t keep their hands off each other even though both acknowledge that acting on their desires is a bad idea. The happy times don’t last long, as it quickly becomes apparent that something is very wrong at the castle and Abigail’s life is endangered.
With every page I turned, I could feel my blood pressure rising from the stress of reading this book. It pushed all my buttons. There are incidents of very bad grammar, such as “Her and Elliott”, yet, at one point Abigail supposedly restrains herself from correcting Elliot’s son’s grammar when what he said made perfect sense. Although, to be fair, I was reading an ARC and the grammar could be correct in the published version. The writing was choppy and uneven, very difficult to read, but managed to be boring at the same time. There were threads left dangling. Why did Abigail feel so strongly about leaving her sister’s home? She could have been living in the city, attending ton parties, but instead traveled into the wilds of Northumbria to be a servant? I never got that. Also, when the crazy woman in the village punctured Abigail’s skin with her nail, Abigail became woozy and sick. Was she poisoned? Was it voodoo? That’s never explained either. But these problems are relatively minor.
Here are the major problems. The mystery is no mystery, the secret villain is no secret, the hidden motivation is right out there for you to see. And the purple language! Quim, cunny, cunt – I’ll leave it at that. The attraction between the main characters is just about unbelievable. Abigail alternates between calling Elliott dishiveled, rude, brutish, even calling him a brute to his face, but then she can’t keep her eyes or her hands off of him. There’s a lot of “we shouldn’t,” “we can’t,” and then five minutes later he’s ripping the slit in her drawers to get at her.
Some people might find this book titillating because of the many, many pages of detailed sex scenes, but I found them tedious and unbelievable. They should call a spade a spade and just rename the book Horny Governess in the Cold North.