June 2008, European Historical Romance (1820s England)
Dell, $6.99, 400 pages, Amazon ASIN 0440243955 Part of a series
In terms of character development, not many writers surpass Madeline Hunter. True to form, the characters in Secrets of Surrender are well developed and complicated. Normally, Iím a character-driven reader, but the characters werenít enough to keep me from feeling that there was a lack of action, which detracted from this book. It is a good book Ė yet, itís missing something.
Mr. Kyle Bradwell is an extremely successful man, considering his circumstances. Born a collierís son, he gains the notice of the Earl of Cottington, who becomes his benefactor. After he completes his education, he returns to England to pursue land development and earns a considerable reputation, attracting many investors...until he is swindled by Timothy Longworth. He and several others, including Lord Norbury, who just happens to be the earlís son, are out to get Longworth and settle the score. Yet, circumstances make him reassess his need for justice.
Roselyn Longworth, sister of Timothy, is a woman with few choices. Her familyís reputation is ruined by her brotherís actions and she sees no better opportunities within reach except to become Lord Norburyís mistress. He considers her part of his revenge against her brother and is bent on her public humiliation. To achieve this, he decides to auction her to the highest bidder at one of his notorious parties. Luckily for Roselyn, Kyle arrives at Norburyís to settle a business deal just in time. Although she thinks he has ulterior motives, he becomes her knight in shining armor.
Roselyn fears her ruin will taint her family and as a result secludes herself at her family estate where she is a social outcast in the local community. With flimsy excuses, Kyle continues to seek her out for her company and her beauty. As the relationship develops, the primary concern is saving Roselynís reputation, but they also deal with class differences, his competition with Norbury, and her infamous brother.
While the characters are rich in detail, moments in which the momentum drags plague the book. Most of the conflict is resolved through conversation, which I normally enjoy, however, it didn't feel as if it were enough here. Still, I appreciate how the characters develop throughout the course of the story. Kyle begins as a character no longer able to identify even with himself, but he is eventually able to get back on his original course and find himself again. Roselyn, who begins as a totally self-centered character, grows into a character who is more concerned about the needs of those around her. Despite her growth, it feels as though Kyle gets the short end of the stick and that he deserves more. I never really felt a compelling connection between the couple until the end of the novel.
Secrets of Surrender will strongly satisfy those readers looking for characters rich in depth and profound social considerations. But those who also require equally strong pacing and a less amorphous resolution of conflict may find Hunter's latest lacking. In the end, it earns a qualified recommendation.
-- Heather Brooks
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