Synopsis: Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother's old school friend, a duke--with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she's heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother's new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned. When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men--one she's never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda's heart is far from all that's at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love. (from the online description)
Review: *THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS* I was sadly disappointed in this story. The premised sounded so interesting! But, it just fell flat. The center of heroine's, Miranda, internal conflict was her "longing to be bold and carefree" but she's a lady and has to act like one. But I never felt like she actually could be bold. So, she wants to cry or laugh whenever she feels like it, but can't, because she's a lady. How is that bold? It seemed Miranda often confused boldness with good manners. She wanted to be rude or emotional when the situation was better served by self-control - and then complained about being stifled. Compared to other stories I've read with "bold" female characters, Miranda felt tame and boring. And that whole her-trust-in-men-is-ruined thing? The author never explained that, just tossed it in when it seemed to move the plot along. It seemed like a more interesting point of character for the heroine, but one that was only used to create a plot point and not something that actually defined the character. Which is a pity. It's been done before, but the idea of a rich girl learning that most men only want her for her money can be used to give the heroine depth. But Hunter uses it poorly and vaguely, and added into all the other cliches, makes the story of jumble of hacked ideas.
As for the hero, he seemed dull. There is allusions to a cruel childhood and some unpleasant family relations, but it felt like that was added to give him the cliched tragic past. It had little to do with his character or behavior. As for the villain - meh. The butler did it? Really? And it was his cousin - whom, according to the hero, they grew up like brothers and had all the same privilege and whose life he saved and then, wham! Suddenly, cousin is an evil guy? It made no sense.
Also, a lot of the hero/heroine interaction seemed contrived. Lost in the woods together? Lame. They had little chemistry and no humor. The hero is desperate to marry heroine, she asks for three days to decided, then he doesn't show up to hear her answer and doesn't seem worried about it. If he was so desperate for her answer, how come he seemed not to care about missing their appointment. Often their interaction felt vague and shallow and cliched. I never really felt any struggle - and the letter thing - which sounded interesting in the blurb - was rather stupid and short lived, and felt forced. The duke sent the letter to himself? Stupid. It would have made better sense to have someone else mail the letter to the duke. I'd rather hoped for more of the story to center on the letters. Oh, and the Marlow-valet is actually the Duke thing - boring. Another cliched plot device - the heroine falls in love with the lowly servant - but, oh look, he's actually a fabulously wealthy duke!
The secondary characters also felt contrived. Convenient best friends in both town and country. Older brothers who are perfect and protective, in particular the one who showed up out-of-nowhere. The pretty popular younger sister and the strict mother - these are cookie-cutter characters. The mother seemed to also be chiding Miranda but never the younger sister, and not in a "mom's favorite" sort of way, but in a "author needed a plot device" sort of way.
There also seemed to be too many other plot devices - the evil aunt, the mysterious spy, the collection of criminals-turned-loyal-servants, the kidnapping and rescues - in the end, it was just jumbled and vague and not interesting.
My last complaint is the God-Faith thing. That was just tossed in there randomly, with out order or believability. Half the time, I didn't realize she was actually praying - I thought she was just using God's name as an exclamation! The author's use of scripture and prayer as the thing that kept Miranda strong seems like a good idea, but it came off cheap. Miranda never actually struggled with her faith or doubt in God, and the things she was praying about seemed...trite. Yes, not getting married can be painful. But she's a wealthy, rich, much-loved young woman who - what? Didn't have the strength to make it through her oh-so-hard life? If she's read the bible that much, she would have picked up the idea of gratitude and stopped being such a twit about her circumstances.
Hunter has the makings of a fine author. But she wants more practice. This book has too many early-write mistakes. Compared with books produced by some of the current greats - of even, okay - romance authors,it's clear that Hunter needs to step-up her game to make her work less cliched and more interesting.
Prude Note: This is a CLEAN book - meaning, other than a few heated kisses, there is nothing sexual mentioned or described in the story.
Note: I received this book free at part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion
Bookmarks: 5 of 10
Date Finished: 7-8-2015