by Heather Cullman, historical (2004)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21091-3
Secrets is not an exceptionally good or bad book in any way. It is just a thoroughly dull book that will appeal more towards readers that enjoy reading about a dim-witted nitwit woman spending the whole book going "Ohmigosh he is so hot! I luv him! But I am not good enough for him! MY LIFE SUX!" The amnesiac hero trying to piece his life together may be mildly interesting, but this is yet another book that flies out the window and down into the drain thanks to a singularly dull heroine that acts like a besotted teenager bent on being too melodramatic in her quest for martyrhood.
Bethany Harwood is in love with the mysterious amnesiac man her brother Gideon rescued and brought back to England from India. This man, "Christian English", is of course gorgeous. Christian (so-named because his slave captors in India called him "Christian" or "English", ergo, "Christian English") likes Bethany just as much when he's not having nightmares of being molested by Evil Gay Indians, although that woman is too self-absorbed in telling herself that nobody loves her to notice. Or care. Bethany, you see, has been seduced and dumped by a man before and her experiences lead her to believe that she can never bear any man a child again. You can easily predict how she is going to behave in the next 330 pages, and yes, she gets pregnant in the epilogue after wasting pages to whine about her supposed infertility, so all in all, Bethany is a waste of time in every sense of that phrase.
A party brings Christian into contact with a fellow aristocrat that recognizes him. Christian turns out to be Alexander Edward Christian Moncreiffe, Lord Northwick. There is a moment of distraction when this guest, a middle-aged father of a debutante, brings up in full hearing of the party guests that he has seen Christian naked before and there's a birthmark on Christian's butt. Christian says, oh no! He can't be Lord Northwick then because he has never seen that birthmark on his butt when he was, er, looking at his butt in the privacy of his room, I guess. I put the book down, stand up, and try to look at my own butt. Despite craning my neck and turning my head back as far as I can, I can't see my butt - it's more like my thigh rather than my butt. And what the heck is Christian doing trying to study his own butt anyway? Then ohmigosh, Gideon comes in to say that Christian does have that birthmark - apparently it's located "far too high" on Christian's butt to see without a mirror. And oh my goodness, what the heck is Gideon doing looking "far too high" at Christian's butt? He says that he was nursing Christian. Oh, so that's what they call it nowadays, sheesh.
Christian departs from his butt-admiration society gathering for London, leaving behind Bethany, literally in tears, to rediscover his old life. Bethany's matchmaking family members arrange for her to go after Christian, but Bethany, being Bethany, starts wailing and moaning that she is not worthy and more, even after Christian proposes to her. I don't understand why so many authors like to put idiot women like Bethany in their stories. Bethany is really tedious because when she's not throwing pity-parties about why she can't be loved, she's running away from Christian because she knows she can't be loved and she's not good for him. Her "happier" moments see her sighing and fantasizing about how hot Christian is, a pointlessly dull reminiscence that predictably marks the start of yet another pity party session. If she comes off like a vapid boyband fangirl in private, she's just as vapid when she's with Christian. After Christian tells her the experiences he underwent in India, her reaction is to cry and tell him that his experiences are so "sad". The gulf in emotional maturity between the hero and the heroine is more like a chasm. How can any man not get bored by this creature after a few hours in her company is beyond me.
Christian isn't a bad hero, far from it. He has potential to be interesting, especially when he realizes that he was a dissolute rake in the past and now he is aghast at what he was. It will be fascinating character study if the author shows more of him trying to reconcile the man he is today - the man shaped by his experiences in India - with the rake that he couldn't remember being. Unfortunately, Secrets has him instead spending his time mollycoddling that irritating bimbo Bethany. He is a pretty romantic guy - he even accepts Bethany's supposed inability to provide him with an heir with grace that marks him as a really dreamy beta hero. He says the right things and he is willing to go the extra mile for Bethany. Does Bethany appreciate that? Does the Pope stock up on Viagra?
Bethany is a whiny and immature heroine that dominates the entire story with her pathetic sobbing, weeping, and whining, and she effectively kills any chance of Christian exploring more of his life to make the story even remotely interesting. I am willing to give Secrets the pass-go card because I like the hero, but the high-maintenance bimbo heroine really need to die slowly and painfully.
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