April 2008, European Historical Romance (1760s [Georgian] England)
Signet, $7.99, 432 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451224191 Part of a series
A Lady's Secret, Jo Beverley's newest, is a fun, "nun on the run" road romance set in her Georgian Malloren world. And yes, Rothgar makes an appearance.
Robin Fitzvitry, the Earl of Huntersdown, is returning to England after a visit to Versailles, when he sees a beautiful woman in a nun's habit swearing up a storm in Italian. Intrigued with the dichotomy, and always looking for entertainment, he offers her aid and winds up escorting her to England. There are other clues, besides the swearing, that tell Robin that Sister Immaculata isn't truly a nun, and suddenly the boring trip through the French countryside promises to provide more amusement than he'd hoped.
Petra d'Averio isn't a nun, though she has spent the last couple of years in a convent, but now her safe haven is no longer safe. Her mother has died, her half-brother has revealed her illegitimacy to Milanese society, and her ruthless suitor now sees her as fair game and has sent brutal thugs chasing after her, determined to bring her back and make her his mistress. Petra's only hope is to make it to England and her father - a man who had a wild romance with her mother while on his Grand Tour and who knows nothing of Petra's existence.
Robin and Petra have lots of adventures on the road, battling the elements, cruel pursuers and their attraction to each other. While there is plenty of real danger and several harrowing moments - all well-written and genuinely suspenseful - there are also fun and light-hearted moments as Robin and Petra get to know each other. They both keep certain details to themselves, but cannot hide their essential selves or their fascination with the other. And, while there is only one true love scene, there is plenty of pop and sizzle and sexual tension.
Robin reminded me in many ways of Cyn Malloren of My Lady Notorious - the same ability to find humor and amusement in most any situation, and a tendency to play the Knight Errant with the wherewithal to back it up with forceful action when required. It's a very attractive character type, but, as I say, one we've seen before from Beverley. Thankfully that doesn't significantly lessen my appreciation of Robin.
Petra is a more complex character. She has had to take life very seriously and has a hard time reconciling herself to Robin's constant bantering. She is also very good at taking care of herself and saves both herself and Robin more than once. She's a tough woman who is really kind of tired of having to be so tough. Letting Robin take care of her is a real struggle for her and I appreciated reading a strong heroine.
Not long after Robin and Petra reach England, things take a slight downturn and the action becomes a bit more predictable and convenient. But despite this, A Lady's Secret is an entertaining read, and a great addition to Beverley's Malloren canon.
-- Cheryl Sneed
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