Secrets of a Proper Lady

Victoria Alexander
2007, European Historical Romance (1850s [Victorian])
Avon, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0060882646
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Warm

Upon first reading a summary of this book, I admit to having low expectations; mistaken identity plots usually annoy me, and the plot seemed confusing and overly complicated. I was very wrong. Secrets of a Proper Lady is a funny, entertaining story.

Daniel Sinclair and Lady Cordelia Bannister’s respective fathers have made a business deal. Part of that deal is that their children will marry. Neither Daniel nor Cordelia expect nor want this match, but try to remain open-minded for their parents’ sake.

Lady Cordelia decides to seek out Daniel’s secretary, to inquire about his personality, habits, and preferences. However, at the last moment, she decides to hide her identity, and asks Mr. Lewis her questions as Cordelia’s cousin and companion, Miss Sarah Palmer. But Mr. Lewis isn’t who he seems, either…Daniel soon finds himself pretending to be his secretary, courting a beautiful, funny “Miss Palmer” under the guise of learning about her stout, Amazonian boss and his own betrothed.

The two begin to fall for each other, each questioning the marriage and their building relationship with a person so close to their intended. They also suffer from familial pressure, which forces them to choose between the person they might love, and the wishes of their families. However, when their identities come to light, it becomes a game of playful revenge and one-upmanship.

Mistaken identity storylines tend to irritate me because they are, almost invariably, contrived, forced, and illogical. This one, though, works. The scenario seemed plausible and fit in well with the plot.

The story is funny and sweet. It lacks unnecessary melodrama, and Cordelia and Daniel (for the most part) are mature and handle the situation well. They are intelligent, likable characters, and really seem to care for each other. Their struggle with the lies and difficulties that surround the relationship is bittersweet, though (as the reader knows) unnecessary.

However, for all the praise I’ve just given the book, there are lapses in all of these. There are moments that are overly-dramatic, or in which the characters act like idiots. Luckily for the reader, they are minor and do not detract from the book as a whole.

Secrets of a Proper Lady is the third in a series by Victoria Alexander. There is little mention beyond the prologue of the previous books, which means that not only is it a strong contribution to a series, it is also a strong stand-alone read.

-- Jane Granville

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