by Lynne Connolly, historical (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-214-5
I am not sure what Alluring Secrets are present in this story. It is not as if the heroine is having a happy tryst with the stable boy or something. Still, this story does have its share of allure.
Penelope Makepiece is infatuated with her friend's older brother Severus Granville. Never mind that he's this supposedly jaded rake, one of the thousands that flood the Romance Novel version of England in a way that will make even Noah quake with terror. She finds the poor stereotype too fascinating for words. The problem is, she can't just conquer the Ton and catch the Earl's eye. Penelope is very short-sighted, you see, and her family decides that she has to leave her glasses at home every time she shows up in public. As a result, she is known to be a clumsy cow, always tripping over things and what not.
The story begins when Penelope pays Sev's sister a visit at Swithland House. She gets to wear her spectacles and along the way manages to catch the eye of you-know-who. But she has another problem to deal with: her family is pushing her into a marriage with someone else.
This story is a familiar one, but what makes this story work for me is Ms Connolly going the extra mile to put me inside Penelope's head. Penelope may seem like a spineless doormat at the surface, but by the last page of this story, I am given a good look into the heroine's psyche and I have a good idea what makes her tick the way she does. Penelope is the most three-dimensional character in this story - Sev, alas, is a pretty typical hero who turns out to be more of a nice guy rather than the rake he is supposed to be - and it is always a pleasant experience to come across a heroine in a romance novel who can't be easily pigeon-holed into a one-word description.
What doesn't work for me - and this could be more about me than the story - is how depressingly familiar I find the overall premise of the story. The villain is so obvious from the moment this person shows up in the story, the whole "rake is best, the nice guy is such boring husband material" concept is pretty much the theme song for the genre, the... well, were not for the well-drawn heroine who is far from typical, this would have been a very clichéd historical romance. Maybe I have read too many formulaic historical romances and Alluring Secrets crosses my path at the wrong time, but I can't help wishing at the end of the day that Ms Connolly has given Penelope a more interesting story.
Still, I find Alluring Secrets is a pretty good spin on a familiar premise. I can't say that it works completely for me, but it's always nice to read a well-written historical romance where the author attempts to give me a little bit more than the usual dose of the formula.
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