The Lady of Secrets
Ballantine Books / December 11, 2012 / $10.20 print, $9.99 digital
Queen Catherine de Medici is dead, and for Meg Wolfe—successor in a line of legendary healers and mystics known as “daughters of the earth”—it is a time of new beginnings. She strives to be ordinary, invisible in the mists of Faire Isle, and is determined to put the terrifying days of a wicked mother and turbulent childhood behind her. But soon a summons from King James will rekindle a menacing power from the past, bringing haunting visions of a nightmare already unfolding—and a shattering mystery steeped in magic that will determine a destiny from which she cannot hide.
Meg’s task: Save the king from the most insidious form of treachery, invisible to those who do not possess Meg’s extraordinary gifts. But as Meg discovers, there are more sinister motivations at play in the king’s world. Torn between two very different men whose motives and secrets are tied inexorably to her own fate, Meg learns that she can no longer trust anyone or anything—not even her own heart.
In Susan Carroll's The Lady of Secrets, we finally get the story of Margaret Wolfe, whom we first met in The Silver Rose (published in 2006), when she was a young girl with extraordinary powers, being manipulated by her evil mother. Many years have past and the former Silver Rose is now Margaret Wolfe, Lady of Faire Isle, striving to live a quiet unobtrusive existence.
Meg's quiet existence comes to an abrupt end when she meets two men while she is trying to help a young girl who claims to be cursed. Naturally, here is where things start to get interesting. We know that Meg is our heroine, but which of these two men is the hero?
The first man she sees is Sir Patrick Graham.
He was of no more than medium height, his figure far from imposing, but something in his self-assured manner gave him the appearance of being taller. A fine looking man, Meg could not help noting. Some might even have said a beautiful one…
He sounds like a hero, doesn't he? And Meg sounds as though she might think he is one when she sees him.
But, the first one she actually meets is Dr. Armagil Blackwood, who is traveling with Sir Patrick. And when she does meet him, he is drunk and ostensibly trying to bleed the girl who claims to be cursed.
A red stain spread across Blackwood's cheekbones. “I may have consumed a little burgundy, but I am sober enough to know what needs to be done.
Their gazes locked in a silent battle of will. Meg stared deep into his eyes and it felt like falling into the depts. Of a well. She had never encountered an expression so dark, so cold, so empty.
Okay, he doesn't much sound like a hero here, but he certainly does sound intriguing, particularly to Meg, who, when she looks into his eyes, is reminded of the evil gaze of her blind mother.
As the story unfolds, Meg, along with her cousin who is traveling with her, agrees to accompany the two men to London where King James allegedly needs his own curse removed. During the trip, Meg gets to know both men better, but is still not sure she really knows either of them.
Unlike the unkempt Blackwood, every article of Graham's clothing was neat and clean. The only thing at all out of place was a singe gold-tipped curl that persisted in straying across the man's forehead, but only added to his charm.
Yet it wasn't his physical appearance that Meg found attractive, but his courteous manner, his gravity, the melancholy in his gaze that tugged at something in her own heart. When he smiled, it didn't reach his eyes, but not in the chilling manner she had observed in cold, calculating men.
Meg is definitely interested in this melancholy man, but the wry humor she discovers beneath Blackwood's unkempt exterior is also fascinating. When he learns that his actions had inadvertently bruised her the previous night, he apologizes.
”Sorry. I didn't mean—I was just—“
”Drunk? Men frequently use that to explain away loutish behavior. A poor excuse in my opinion.“
”Mine too. That is why I never use it.“
”Then what excuse do you offer?“
”That I am an ass."
Meg studied him, trying to decide if he was in jest or in earnest. His expression was solemn, but a hint of wry humor touched his lips. She had to bite back an unexpected urge to smile.
So we have two very different potential heroes: One handsome with a grave, courteous manner and sad eyes and one more rugged and a little unkempt with an undercurrent of humor. Which one is it? I am not going to tell you much more about Meg and these two men. I very much enjoyed trying to figure it out and watching the progress of both the relationships. I don't want to deprive you of that privilege.
Myretta is a founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.