Lord of Secrets
Carina / March 25, 2013 / $2.99 digital
Rosalie Whitwell has spent most of her life sailing the globe with her adventurous father, dreaming of the day she can settle in one place long enough to have a home and family of her own. When her father suffers a fatal heart attack in the middle of the North Atlantic, Rosalie turns in her panic to a fellow passenger—the cool, reclusive Lord Deal.
For years David Linney, Marquess of Deal, has avoided the society of others. Even so, he's drawn to his lovely shipmate, like him the victim of family tragedy.
As the voyage nears its end, Lord Deal is compelled to propose. But on their wedding night, Rosalie gets an unwelcome surprise: her handsome husband is strangely reluctant to consummate the marriage. Does she fall short of her groom's expectations? Or is he hiding a secret past that only she can unlock?
Alyssa Everett’s Lord of Secrets is a story for those who enjoy reading about a good old-fashioned convoluted Marriage of Convenience. The marriage’s success teeters upon the hero’s fear of true intimacy, and upon the heroine’s ability to ask for what she wants. In a way, the entire conflict rides upon the much-maligned “Big Misunderstanding,” about the hero’s past, but Everett makes the trope interesting by adding layers of complexity. It isn’t an accident that Rosalie and David don’t uncover the main problem immediately; both of them are afraid to speak, for different reasons, and their fear turns what might have been a simple issue into a tangled mess.
I particularly admired how Everett used characterization as the basis for how the main conflict played out. Both characters have strengths that, in certain situations, turn out to be weaknesses, and vice versa. I was reminded of some of Mary Balogh’s older Regencies.
Like most women of her era, Rosalie was brought up to serve others rather than herself. When someone helps her instead, she’s not entirely sure how to react. Her personality is focused on reaching out, even when it comes to her personal relationships.
“…I like taking care of people.” That last part, at least, was no fib. If her father hadn’t needed her to look after him, she might have spent the past nine years of her life as she’d spent the previous two—alone and all but forgotten in Miss Stark’s boarding school, where the rooms grew so cold in the Yorkshire winters, the water froze in the washbasins. And before that, what if she’d been too young to look after her mother in her last year? How many fewer memories of her would she have now? Besides, if you took care of people, they tended to want you in their lives.
David, however, is an aristocrat. He’s used to having things done for him, and for feeling responsible for his actions; in fact, he feels a bit too much responsibility, to the extent that he tries to protect Rosalie from his own desires.
They must think him cold and proud. Well, let them think what they liked as long as it satisfied their curiosity. He would rather his fellow passengers dismiss him as haughty than question what other reason he might have to keep to himself. At thirty-one years of age, he preferred a private, predictable and largely uncomplicated existence. He moved in a well-established pattern, spending most of the year in London and removing to his country seat, Lyningthorp, when Parliament recessed. He dined at only one club, nodded to a limited number of acquaintances and scrupulously avoided the company of marriageable females.
Conflict arises when Rosalie and David become interested in each other, and he decides unilaterally that his duty to care for her outweighs their need (and mutual desire) to become emotionally intimate.
“Why do you avoid society? At first I supposed you simply didn’t care for the company on board, but I’m told you have a reputation for keeping to yourself even in England. Do you really prefer to be alone?”
…“I’ve found that the fewer people one has in one’s life, the fewer problems and worries one encounters.”
“I suppose that’s true, but it also means one has fewer friends and fewer happy memories to share. That seems a rather unrewarding way to go through life.”
He gazed out over the water. “I’m sure there are worse fates.”
In the same way he avoids society, David feels he can avoid Rosalie, despite marrying her. He’s afraid, however, to tell her his reasons for this behavior, though he makes attempts. Rosalie, in turn, feels the burden is entirely on her to make the marriage work. t isn’t until she realizes both of them must contribute, and acts to make that happen, that they’re able to break through their stalemate. It’s a difficult journey, and an absorbing read.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Alyssa Everett's Lord of Secrets (out March 25):
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War One-set Spice Brief is titled “Under Her Uniform” and is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter:@victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.