Night Secrets

Kat Martin
1999, Historical Romance (Regency England and America)
St. Martin's, $6.99, 342 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312970021

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Hot

Although I can't give it an unqualified recommendation, Night Secrets is an entertaining book. Unfortunately it includes one of my major pet peeves, a heroine who is much, much too young for the hero. As a result, I often squirmed, even as I was whizzing through it. It doesn't help that the hero takes advantage of the heroine's youth and idealistic devotion and does things so insensitive that you want to scream. Nevertheless, many readers who don't mind this kind of thing will probably enjoy the book since it is a fast and entertaining book.

As the story opens, Brandy Winters is working long hours in her father's seaport tavern in South Carolina. Marcus Delaine, captain of an English merchant ship visits often, as do his men. Brandy has been secretly in love with Marcus, who is an English Earl, since she was a child. One day, desperate to escape her life of drudgery, she stows away on Marcus's ship.

Brandy isn't found until the ship is three days out of port. Everyone reading this review knows what happens next. We've all read it. There's the lone beautiful virgin who must stay in the captain's cabin, the temptation of her nearness, the captain who has "been too long without a woman," the resistance to the attraction and the final giving in to temptation. Night Secrets has all that and more. One of the crew nearly rapes Brandy and Marcus must have him flogged. The crew comes down with a dangerous illness and Brandy nurses them back to health.

Kat Martin tells a lively story with a lot of entertaining shipboard atmosphere. The book would have been far better though, if Brandy had not been so young. The girl is only nineteen and she thinks like a nineteen year old. From the first, Brandy is "a little bit in love" with Marcus. She desperately wants him to make love to her and seems to have no idea of the consequences of that, beyond pregnancy. Marcus goes through the usual attacks of conscience as he considers making love to the girl and unlike heroes with qualms of conscience in many romances, I could see his point.

One thing that bothered me about the difference in age was the fact that Marcus had known Brandy as a child. There is nothing less romantic, in my estimation, than a hero who initially views the heroine as a child and then after getting a glimpse of her breasts, etc., suddenly sees her as a woman. Yuck. This might be a nineteen year old's idea of sexy but many of the more mature female readers, especially those with daughters, may be squirming.

Once the voyage is over, Marcus returns a heartbroken Brandy to her father. Brandy knew all along that Marcus, an Earl, was not going to marry a tavern serving maid and she also knew that he would not give up life at sea. But, of course, that doesn't solve the problem of her being in love. What happens after Marcus sails off without Brandy is too much of a spoiler to tell. Brandy does end up in England again, however, and, once again, Marcus leaves her. Given the circumstances (he owes her big time for saving his life) I was pretty angry with him for not taking Brandy along. Even more than that, I was angry with Marcus for using her. For that is exactly what Marcus does. He may tell himself that he is giving Brandy what she wants but there is just no getting around the fact that he makes love to her knowing that he has no plans to provide for her future, unless there is a pregnancy.

In spite of all of his faults, Marcus is a captivating hero. He is strong and commanding and does his best to protect Brandy on the ship. I understood why Brandy loved him. I just wasn't so sure of why he loved her.

Brandy is intelligent and feisty, yes, too feisty and terribly immature. She has a good heart though, and she shows her goodness in lots of ways by her kindness to the ship's crew and the huge sacrifices that she makes for Marcus. What bothered me was that in spite of Brandy's many virtues, Marcus seems primarily focused only on her physical ones. His background is so much more rich and sophisticated than Brandy's that in spite of her efforts to improve herself, I wondered what they would talk about once the passion died down.

Night Secrets is often fun, but the age difference between the hero and heroine, along with the thoughtlessness of the hero, made it only an average read. Brandy and Marcus are compelling characters however, and readers could do worse than read this book.

-- Robin Uncapher

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