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There are secrets we take to the grave... and some we just take to bed. If Lady Isobel Maitland is caught even speaking to an incorrigible rogue like the Marquess of Blackwood, she stands to lose everything she holds dear. Strict rules in her husband's will ensure that if she remarries or even forms friendships her mother-in-law does not approve of, then she will never s There are secrets we take to the grave... and some we just take to bed. If Lady Isobel Maitland is caught even speaking to an incorrigible rogue like the Marquess of Blackwood, she stands to lose everything she holds dear. Strict rules in her husband's will ensure that if she remarries or even forms friendships her mother-in-law does not approve of, then she will never see her young son again. But one night, in a dark garden at a masquerade ball, Isobel gives in to temptation, and lets an innocent flirtation turn into seduction. Phineas Archer, the notorious Marquess of Blackwood, may hold the reputation as the worst rake in London, but as a spy for the crown, he merely plays the role of a fool to learn the most closely guarded secrets of the ton. As a new threat to England's success in the war against Napoleon emerges, Phineas must foil a plot to kidnap the exiled Bourbon heir to the French crown. Every clue seems to lead to his mysterious lover, but while Phineas can spot trouble a mile off, and see through the cleverest of disguises, he cannot find any trace of his elusive femme fatale. No man alive would imagine the prim widow Maitland could be his dream lover. But behind the mask and the secrets, Isobel is everything Phineas has ever desired....


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There are secrets we take to the grave... and some we just take to bed. If Lady Isobel Maitland is caught even speaking to an incorrigible rogue like the Marquess of Blackwood, she stands to lose everything she holds dear. Strict rules in her husband's will ensure that if she remarries or even forms friendships her mother-in-law does not approve of, then she will never s There are secrets we take to the grave... and some we just take to bed. If Lady Isobel Maitland is caught even speaking to an incorrigible rogue like the Marquess of Blackwood, she stands to lose everything she holds dear. Strict rules in her husband's will ensure that if she remarries or even forms friendships her mother-in-law does not approve of, then she will never see her young son again. But one night, in a dark garden at a masquerade ball, Isobel gives in to temptation, and lets an innocent flirtation turn into seduction. Phineas Archer, the notorious Marquess of Blackwood, may hold the reputation as the worst rake in London, but as a spy for the crown, he merely plays the role of a fool to learn the most closely guarded secrets of the ton. As a new threat to England's success in the war against Napoleon emerges, Phineas must foil a plot to kidnap the exiled Bourbon heir to the French crown. Every clue seems to lead to his mysterious lover, but while Phineas can spot trouble a mile off, and see through the cleverest of disguises, he cannot find any trace of his elusive femme fatale. No man alive would imagine the prim widow Maitland could be his dream lover. But behind the mask and the secrets, Isobel is everything Phineas has ever desired....

30 review for Secrets of a Proper Countess

  1. 5 out of 5

    Booklover1335

    If Lady Isobel Maitland is caught even speaking to an incorrigible rogue like the Marquess of Blackwood, she stands to lose everything she holds dear. Strict rules in her husband's will ensure that if she remarries or even forms friendships her mother-in-law does not approve of, then she will never see her young son again. But one night, in a dark garden at a masquerade ball, Isobel gives in to temptation, and lets an innocent flirtation turn into seduction. Phineas Archer, the notorious Marquess If Lady Isobel Maitland is caught even speaking to an incorrigible rogue like the Marquess of Blackwood, she stands to lose everything she holds dear. Strict rules in her husband's will ensure that if she remarries or even forms friendships her mother-in-law does not approve of, then she will never see her young son again. But one night, in a dark garden at a masquerade ball, Isobel gives in to temptation, and lets an innocent flirtation turn into seduction. Phineas Archer, the notorious Marquess of Blackwood, may hold the reputation as the worst rake in London, but as a spy for the crown, he merely plays the role of a fool to learn the most closely guarded secrets of the ton. As a new threat to England's success in the war against Napoleon emerges, Phineas must foil a plot to kidnap the exiled Bourbon heir to the French crown. Every clue seems to lead to his mysterious lover, but while Phineas can spot trouble a mile off, and see through the cleverest of disguises, he cannot find any trace of his elusive femme fatale. No man alive would imagine the prim widow Maitland could be his dream lover. But behind the mask and the secrets, Isobel is everything Phineas has ever desired.... My Musings: Secrets of a Proper Countess is the debut historical romance by author Lecia Cornwall. The story revolves around a not so merry widow, Lady Isobel Maitland, who lives under the protection and dominance of her late husband’s family who uses her son as emotional blackmail to keep her and her money under their absolute control. Our heroine was married at a young age to a man and family that despised her and her heritage, but coveted the money that she could bring to the union. The only joy to come from the marriage was Isobel’s young son whom she loves dearly, yet lives in constant fear of losing. She is strong, yet demure out of necessity than by nature, and is constantly trying to live down her mother’s notorious behavior, as well as come to terms with her own mother’s abandonment at a young and tender age. Every aspect of her life is ruled by her dead husband and her in-laws...how she dresses, who she is allowed to socialize with, and it goes without saying that she is forbidden to form any new attachments, have love affairs, or consider marriage again in fear of never being able to see her son again. However, the one thing that her in-laws can’t control are her thoughts and her secret desires, and she secretly desires the worst rake in London. Our hero, Phineas Archer, the Marquess of Blackwood is from an illustrious family and is in line to inherit a dukedom. He is in his prime, and his grandfather feels that he has had enough time to sow his wild oats, and it is now time to retire his Rake status and start a family. But he has secrets of his own; he is an agent for the Crown and his Rake persona is not who he feels he truly is and longs to just be "himself" with someone therefore he has decided to retire from being a spy after one last assignment. Secrets of a Proper Countess has a great set of characters, including the heroine and the numerous villains, whom you just love to hate. I especially thought that the character of Isobel was well written. You could feel her despair, her desire, and desperation to break free if only for a few stolen passionate moments. I just wish that I felt that I knew as much about the hero as I felt I knew about the heroine. A hero can make or break a romance for me and Phineas Archer was, in my opinion, a bit of a quandary. The reader is told that he is an agent of the crown and that he often plays a “role” while in the presence of the ton that is different than his own personality. However, I didn’t feel that the persona that he presented to the Ton was any different than the person he was when he was with Isobel, whom he was supposedly himself with, which was a problem for me. Really, the whole agent of the Crown aspect of the story didn’t really work for me. If this would have been a story about a Rake, a Widow, and a deviously and really vile controlling in-laws, I think I would have liked Secrets of a Proper Countess much much more than I did in the end. Not to say that I didn’t like it, just that I felt it would have been a better story without the distraction of the plot involving the kidnapping of the French King. For instance, Phineas plays an agent of the crown, yet he spends more time trying to discover the identity of his secret lover, than uncovering the plot involving the King. He assumes that the two are connected, but on very circumstantial evidence which made him seen almost amateurish in his agent skills. He takes most things at face value, and something that left me somewhat baffled was his discovery of a will during a reconnaissance mission at Isobel’s home that could have set Isobel free without the fear of losing her son early on in the story yet he doesn’t reveal it or confront her about this until the very end. of the story. He has no real reason to hide the information, especially when she refuses to marry him for fear of retribution from her family. You would have thought that he would have revealed this information to her, so that she could keep her son and be with him without retribution, but he doesn’t. It left me very confused, because you realize that he had to have known this earlier, because what good agent would steal important looking documents and not read them at the first opportunity, so why does he do nothing until the point where it no longer matters? Of course it fits better in the plot this way, with the King kidnapping, but otherwise I thought it made him seem like an incompetent agent, as well as an unconcerned, and less than caring lover. He always seem to accept things at face value and never once questions Isobel as to why she just doesn’t lead her own life regardless of what her family by marriage believes since she is a supposedly wealthy widow. It made his relationship with her seem very superficial. about lust and mutual desire, than caring and falling in love with Isobel. As you can see I had some issues with Phineas as a hero worthy of the risks and sacrifices Isobel should suffer if their relationship were to be discovered. Another aspect to the story that I wish would have been explored more was Isobel’s relationship with her mother. Her mother left her at a very young age to be with her lover and is led to believe by her father and her in-laws that she left her daughter without looking back and never trying to contact her. Isobel fears becoming her mother, who was infamous for her lusty behavior, and vows to be a good mother to her son...something that she doesn’t feel she had from her own mother. This history played a major part in who she has become, the choices that she has made, and how she presents herself to the Ton. During the course of the story Isobel discovers that her mother didn’t completely abandon her like she was led to believe. Her feelings are somewhat resolved, but I wish I would have known definitively if Isobel and her mother were able to reconcile after so many years apart. There was a hint in the story that her mother may have already died, but I was never quite sure so this part of the story felt a little bit unfinished. Since it played such a large part in her development I expected this discover to have a larger impact than it did. I mentioned earlier in the review that The Secrets of a Proper Countess has a great cast of villainous characters...and it does, almost too many of them, but in the end they all get what they deserve. Matter of fact their fate is all tied up in a pretty, almost over the top, bow. However, I do feel that a more fitting ending to her in-laws would have been public humiliation and the poverty that they feared that led to their greedy and possessive behavior, but that’s just me and my vigilante justice :) I also feel though that this would have allowed Isobel to finally confront her mother in law with all of the terrible things that she did to suppress and manipulate Isobel all for her own gain and greed. Because Isobel didn’t get her moment of glory and triumph in a face to face confrontation with her mother in law, in essence owning her passions and personality and claiming all that is hers, I felt she was shortchanged and that her mother-in-law’s demise was too unsatisfying. Overall, I felt that The Secrets of a Proper Countess had amazing potential, and had a heroine that I absolutely loved. She was complex and presented with situations that seemed insurmountable. It had really vile villains that I thought were so deliciously bad you couldn’t believe all that they went to the lengths that they did. But as I said before, the hero usually makes or breaks the story for me. And in this book I didn’t think Phineas was worthy of his task as an agent of the Crown, nor was he worthy of Isobel and the chances she took to be with him. He was lackluster for me. Add in the subplot with the kidnapping of the King which I thought could have been left out to the benefit of the story and it made a potentially great story, into one that disappointed me in a few important ways. However, it appears that I am in the minority with my criticisms of the story, because the book has received fairly positive reviews. If you’ve read The Secrets of a Proper Countess I would love to know your thoughts. Ratings: Overall: 3.5 stars (Though it appears that I am in the minority with my criticisms since most other reviews give this book 4-5 stars....maybe I was in a nitpicky mood when reading it) Sensuality level: 3.25 stars (a few passionate, but brief encounters. pretty straight forward sexin' that is sure to satisfy some, and leave others wanting more)

  2. 4 out of 5

    ♥ℳelody

    I didn't even look at the blurb. That cover is stunning. 😍 I didn't even look at the blurb. That cover is stunning. 😍

  3. 4 out of 5

    Daphne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I bought this novel based on the reviews on All About Romance (where it got a B) and The Romance Reader (where it got 5 out of 5 hearts), so I had great expectations. The novel has a promising plot: a beautiful, lively, and intelligent heroine who is forced to hide her looks and her personality to be allowed to remain with her child and a hero who is handsome, intelligent, and who sacrifices his own reputation in order to serve his country. I was engaged by their developing relationship even whe I bought this novel based on the reviews on All About Romance (where it got a B) and The Romance Reader (where it got 5 out of 5 hearts), so I had great expectations. The novel has a promising plot: a beautiful, lively, and intelligent heroine who is forced to hide her looks and her personality to be allowed to remain with her child and a hero who is handsome, intelligent, and who sacrifices his own reputation in order to serve his country. I was engaged by their developing relationship even when I became impatient with his slowness in recognizing her as his secret lover; however halfway through the book my impatience turned to disappointment and by the last 100 pages to anger. I will detail the worst offenses below and I warn that there may be some SPOILERS ahead: 1.A minor offense that was very irritating was the use of the hero's title as a sentence all through the book (in italics and sometimes with exclamation marks): Blackwood! 2. The evilness of three secondary characters is described with a heaviness that hits the reader over the head repeatedly and painfully: Isobel's mother-in-law and brother-in-law are over the top: ugly, fat, EEEVIIIL, stupid, bad mannered, deranged, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever (the mother-in-law is so eeeviiil that she suggested that her second son should kill the eldest (presumably because he had become complacent and she wanted to attain more riches and social standing) and she is even willing to kill her own grandson herself). The mother-in-law's companion is also eeeviiil, mad, hateful, wrinkled, and unattractive. 3. Marianne, the hero's sister, is an airhead who does not stop talking. I think that her character is meant to be endearing and funny, but her actions are so stupid and ill timed that I wanted to kill her. She is too stupid to live, insensitive, oblivious, and inane. When she is trapped with Isobel and in danger of being killed, her thoughts turn to making herself presentable and pretty for her husband when he inevitably rescues her, even though Isobel is in agony because she doesn't know if her son is dead or alive. 4. Phineas, the hero, is supposed to be the most clever and resourceful spy of England, yet he comes across as unbelievably inept and slow. When he finally comes to a realization it is because it would have been impossible for anyone not to get it. This is true about his finally recognizing Isobel as his secret lover and at other points related to the conspiracy he is supposed to stop. 5. The book is 371 pages long, but the relationship between Isobel and Phineas' does not develop beyond the sexual aspect. They lust, lust, lust for each other (sometimes at the most inappropriate and inopportune times), but they don't really get to know each other, because their lust never allows them to finish a conversation. Their sexual encounters are supposed to be hot and steamy, but I found them rushed, awkward, and underwhelming. On a side note, Isobel believes that she could lose any contact with her son if she misbehaves in any way or is involved in a scandal, yet she has intercourse several times and NOT ONCE expresses any concern about becoming pregnant. What?! 6. I detest coincidences and contrivances used as resources to move the plot ahead, and sadly the author abuses them abundantly. 7. As I mentioned above, the book is 371 pages long, yet the ending is rushed. The last hundred pages drag endlessly and unnecessarily in the resolution of the conspiracy. All this does is highlight the ineptness of the hero and the author's shortcomings in describing the action elements of the story. Due to this, the final moments between Isobel and Phineas are limited and unsatisfying. The anticipated final love scene, in a bed and naked at last (they never saw each other naked before), takes place off stage and we are only told about it. To summarize, the plot, the hero, and the heroine were promising; the writing was acceptable and showed potential. Sadly, the author lost her way and the story turned into a bad play with too much melodrama and not enough character development, depth, and coherence. Regretfully, I am not inclined to give this author a second chance.

  4. 5 out of 5

    SidneyKay

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. What a great adventure!!! Debut author Lecia Cornwall has written a winner!!! The plot of Secrets of a Proper Countess is an old one, traitors, spies, hidden identities, a heroine wanting excitement...but the writing in this book is above the norm and we even have some unexpected curves in the road. I have to say right up front that book was full of well-written, three dimensional characters, even the villains. And we are allowed to see their flaws, which is a nice change from the omnipresent wise What a great adventure!!! Debut author Lecia Cornwall has written a winner!!! The plot of Secrets of a Proper Countess is an old one, traitors, spies, hidden identities, a heroine wanting excitement...but the writing in this book is above the norm and we even have some unexpected curves in the road. I have to say right up front that book was full of well-written, three dimensional characters, even the villains. And we are allowed to see their flaws, which is a nice change from the omnipresent wise best friends/matchmakers/older brothers in other books. In fact, some of those flaws made for some very amusing scenes later on in the book, one in particular had me chuckling...and I congratulate Ms. Cornwall on her great visual comedy writing. I loved both the heroine, Isobel and the hero, Phineas. By the way, great name for a hero! Now, normally I don't care for disguise stories, but this one sucked me right in. And, let me tell you I felt terribly sorry for the heroine, and the dilemma she found herself in...and this is one of the tense parts of the book...how was her dilemma going to be solved? And you are going to hate her family! Phineas was one of those rakes that doesn't see it coming, his character wasn't written quite as strongly as Isobel's, however I just loved him. A quibble approaches. I had a small problem with the love story part of the book. The sex was mighty steamy and the lead couple could not keep their hands off of each other, at least when Isobel was in disguise. However, I didn't quite see why they fell in love with each other. Minor quibble. While we are on the subject of minor quibble...authors, be careful with slang. The term "getting laid" was used. It popped right out at me from the pages and for a moment (only a moment) I wondered if we were visiting Sex in the City instead of a Regency ballroom. However, I was enjoying the book so much, I continued to read. I did go back after I was finished with the book to check it out. I couldn't find too much on it, except that it probably wasn't used to signify having sex, until the 1930's in America. Yes, there are references in the Bible to "lie with her/him", and even if that is from the same family of words, it wasn't used as such until later. At least according to my sources. However, who knows, maybe some rake did say it in the 1800's...who's to say. There were also moments of "if I'd have written this, I'd have done that"...but that's just me and then it would be my book not Ms. Cornwall's. S-o-o, I could not put this book down! I stayed up really late reading Secrets of a Proper Countess!!! It was fast-paced, with humor, adventure, villains, suspense and likable characters. Oh, it's not perfect and there was what could have become a TSTL moment, however, it turned into a nail-biting adventure...and I have to say welcome Ms. Cornwall, job well done!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura Navarre

    In Lecia Cornwall’s charming debut, the elegant ballroom setting of Regency England may be familiar, but Cornwall’s unusually poignant heroine is anything but. Widowed countess Isobel Maitland is a virtual prisoner in her London townhouse, trapped by the terms of her husband’s will that transferred to her odious mother-in-law both Isobel’s fortune and the guardianship of her beloved son. Consequently, the Dowager Countess Honoria queens it over the Maitland household. If Isobel dares to emerge f In Lecia Cornwall’s charming debut, the elegant ballroom setting of Regency England may be familiar, but Cornwall’s unusually poignant heroine is anything but. Widowed countess Isobel Maitland is a virtual prisoner in her London townhouse, trapped by the terms of her husband’s will that transferred to her odious mother-in-law both Isobel’s fortune and the guardianship of her beloved son. Consequently, the Dowager Countess Honoria queens it over the Maitland household. If Isobel dares to emerge from mourning, remarry or even form a friendship that isn’t blessed by Honoria, Isobel will lose all remaining access to her boy and be branded a public disgrace—just like her notorious mother, “Charlotte the Harlot,” who allegedly abandoned Isobel for a foreign lover. Enter Phineas Archer, the Marquess of Blackwood, an infamous rake secretly working to unmask a traitor for the Crown. The last thing Phineas can afford is a distraction, but he can’t seem to stop hunting the masked courtesan he encountered at a masquerade in an hour of unforgettable passion. Phineas has never dreamed dowdy widow Isobel Maitland is his mysterious lover, who hides the allure of a temptress behind her drab mourning gowns. Nor does Phineas realize it’s Isobel’s mother-in-law who is behind a traitorous plot to snatch the exiled French king from his English sanctuary and return him to France for the guillotine’s cruel judgment. When Isobel is unmasked at last, all evidence points to her as the villain Phineas is seeking. Then Isobel’s passionate rebellion against the family tyranny plunges both her and her son into mortal danger—unless Phineas can unmask the true villain in time. It is Isobel’s very real Purgatory of isolation and despair, coupled with her determination to protect her son as her own mother failed to do for her, that give this story its powerful, poignant punch. Phineas is a smart, capable hero who rises to the occasion when danger threatens Isobel, and the sexual chemistry between the pair is undeniable. Honoria and her weak-willed brute of a son get what they deserve, and a set of delightful secondary characters in the Archer family lends further appeal and sparkle to this sometimes somber tale. But it’s Isobel’s quiet search for the truth behind her mother’s seeming abandonment, her selfless resolve to protect her child, and her gradual embrace of her own sensuality that lend this story its unique and memorable flair. Combining the tender sentiment of Mary Balogh with the menace and suspense of Amanda Quick, Lecia Cornwall’s sensual Regency-set romance is a rare treat. Happy reading! Laura Navarre www.LauraNavarre.com Desire has never been so dangerous.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A man who's been playing the rake for so long, he wonders if he still remembers who he really is, and a widow trapped by the love of her child and the cruel terms of her dead husband's will into a family that controls her-- and despises her-- utterly. This is another I wished for a three-and-a-half star rating... plot-wise, there's not a lot to push this book above the typical "English spy playing the rake, falling for a possible suspect" story. It's been done, and I think that aspect of the plot A man who's been playing the rake for so long, he wonders if he still remembers who he really is, and a widow trapped by the love of her child and the cruel terms of her dead husband's will into a family that controls her-- and despises her-- utterly. This is another I wished for a three-and-a-half star rating... plot-wise, there's not a lot to push this book above the typical "English spy playing the rake, falling for a possible suspect" story. It's been done, and I think that aspect of the plot *could* have been done much better. The spy plot was an inconstant thread-- too much in the background (I thought) for much of the book, only to leap out in full flower at the very end as a convenient crisis for heroine and hero to survive. (Honestly, the details of the treasonous plot seemed waaay too convoluted at the end, there, for how much attention they'd been given in plot development). Isobel, however, pulls this book up above average. She's a really intriguing character, and her inner struggles over her desires (oh! her desires!), her unsavory past, her bitter present, and the love of her innocent child are really heartbreaking at times. Essentially, two generations of jealousies and scandals hold her prisoner, and much as she resents her present circumstances, she also fears repeating her mother's mistakes. Her friends constantly misunderstand her situation, but she deeply fears the consequences of setting them straight. To live as she did for so many years and NOT crack is a testament to the strength of her character. What's even more horrifying is how believable it was-- the English legal system cared so little for the rights of women in those days that her situation was sadly realistic. And then, of course, there's Blackwood. I loved the flirting between him and his mystery lover, his frustration over not being able to FIND her (particularly when she was right under his nose-- the bit with the mole, when he finally figured it out, was delightful), the passion of the sex scenes (on the one hand, speedy; on the other, a testament to just how far gone this "practiced lover" really is over this woman). I would have enjoyed getting into his head a bit more, maybe a little more background on how he'd gotten ito this line of work, more of a crisis of conscience over bedding (and falling in love with) a possible spy. But I also appreciated his slow tumble into love, and that he wasn't stupid about recognizing it-- recognizing how important Isobel had become to him, measured against his duty. This was a debut novel... I'm rather looking forward to more from this author (with hopefully a bit more polish, as she grows in her writing).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steamywindows♥♫

    I gave this a 4/5 because I very much liked the premise of the story, writing and the main characters. A few things kind of took away from the book, but can be over looked if you keep in mind this is the author's debut novel. The plot was a bit uneven, and the use of chapter division was a bit distracting. I liked the unique characters and the fact that Phineas was certain he would know his secret paramour instantly but absolutely gaffed at cluing into her identity. I thought this was rather wel I gave this a 4/5 because I very much liked the premise of the story, writing and the main characters. A few things kind of took away from the book, but can be over looked if you keep in mind this is the author's debut novel. The plot was a bit uneven, and the use of chapter division was a bit distracting. I liked the unique characters and the fact that Phineas was certain he would know his secret paramour instantly but absolutely gaffed at cluing into her identity. I thought this was rather well done as he is supposed to be a spy with exceptional skill at observation but misreads Isobel due to the stereotyped image she actively (although not willingly) presents. The villains were a bit cliched; one dimension-ally greedy although it did seem the author made an attempt to round this out with a bit of jealousy. Some of the relationships morphed out of nowhere. For example Marianne instantly took Isobel for her BFF (and I mean that with it's modern connotation). The most significant issue for me was I couldn't see why the h and H fell in love, certainly the case was made for "fell in lust". There were hot intimate scenes right from the opening chapter and I will never eat a cherry without thinking of the scene in the conservatory. Lecia Cornwall is definitely a new author to watch and I look forward to her next work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kara-karina

    3.5/5 Quoting fabulous Smart Bitches, Trashy Books "This is a case of Magic Wang meeting Magic HooHa" :) The two main characters meet at the masquerade where they have passionate sex, and after that she runs away leaving her shoe behind (hint *cinderella*) and they both can't stop thinking about each other. The author writes fabulously well, the book is really easy to read and is enjoyable, but my God! There were some moments of *too stupid to live* that made me scream in frustration. He is a spy f 3.5/5 Quoting fabulous Smart Bitches, Trashy Books "This is a case of Magic Wang meeting Magic HooHa" :) The two main characters meet at the masquerade where they have passionate sex, and after that she runs away leaving her shoe behind (hint *cinderella*) and they both can't stop thinking about each other. The author writes fabulously well, the book is really easy to read and is enjoyable, but my God! There were some moments of *too stupid to live* that made me scream in frustration. He is a spy for god's sake! Why can't he be clever? Instead emotions run high, and nobody thinks things through before acting. And don't start me on Adam who proved to be extremely thick-headed and had emotional sensitivity of i don't know what... a log, maybe? He wasn't overly concerned with Phineas feelings or even when his own wife was in danger. Marianna was irritatingly blind and pushy to the point of it not being funny, and the countess herself... where do I start? Why couldn't she tell anyone about the will? I just couldn't understand the reasoning behind her silence when she could find help among her powerful, influential friends. I'm a big sucker for spy historical romances, and although Lecia Cornwall writes really well, the characters were not to my liking. Apart from that, do read the book and judge for yourself :)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Karla

    This debut book is hard to rate. The writing and characters in this story were very good. I liked the voice and style of the author. Also the romance was well done. Because I consider those elements to be essential I'm giving this four stars. However I found the traitors plot a bit weak. There was a lot of action in the last half of the book which was enjoyable. I just had trouble believing the motivation of the villains. Still, a very good debut and I'm looking forward to her next book. This debut book is hard to rate. The writing and characters in this story were very good. I liked the voice and style of the author. Also the romance was well done. Because I consider those elements to be essential I'm giving this four stars. However I found the traitors plot a bit weak. There was a lot of action in the last half of the book which was enjoyable. I just had trouble believing the motivation of the villains. Still, a very good debut and I'm looking forward to her next book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Luz

    10 stars for this incredible book This book was so steamy and hot from the beginning. The angst throughout the book was so good. I couldn’t wait for Phineas to discover who his mystery lover was. If you don’t like steamy explicit love scenes this book is not for you! But for someone like me who LOVES books full of angst and extreme steam, this book is for you!!!!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Vane

    3.5 STARS

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    I really liked this book. I think it is very well written especially for debut novel. 4.5

  13. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    My only complaint with this book is that I feel like Phineas and Isobel should have gotten to know each other better, maybe talked some more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fangirl Musings

    When considering my reaction to this book, in general, overall, I'd have to say enjoyment was found. At the end of the story, I admit freely I was fascinated by the characters. I found the plot to be readable. The dialogue was believable. The external drama was interesting, and well written. But, there were some issues. From the beginning of the novel, to the end, I found the leading characters in the story to be very much grounded in reality. One of my biggest criticisms of a book forms itself w When considering my reaction to this book, in general, overall, I'd have to say enjoyment was found. At the end of the story, I admit freely I was fascinated by the characters. I found the plot to be readable. The dialogue was believable. The external drama was interesting, and well written. But, there were some issues. From the beginning of the novel, to the end, I found the leading characters in the story to be very much grounded in reality. One of my biggest criticisms of a book forms itself when the people within a story are flat and without life. In Secrets of a Proper Countess, while I have other criticisms, this is not one of such. Both Blackwood and Isobel are given distinct personalities which form themselves very well, and allow for the sense that these two are real people, with real feelings. However, with compliment comes criticism. Firstly, while the above holds true for the hero and heroine, it does not hold so for the secondary characters. Along with the two antagonists of the book, whose on screen viciousness is only truly depicted at the end of the book, thereby making them seem less of a threat throughout the story, I likewise found the secondary protagonists, Adam and Marianne, to be TSTL. The Too Stupid To Live designation holds more for Marianne, considering her actions and out-of-place reactions to her predicament with Isobel at the story's close made her seem vapid, which drastically contradicted the tone of the story the author was so obviously trying to create. Adam, though, was more of a placeholder character for Blackwood, seeming to play the External Doubt for him in a very awkward and spastic way. The plot of Secrets of a Proper Countess holds as much merit as criticism. The story did fascinate me, however, since the high drama finality of the book was unexpected. Largely, Isobel's struggles throughout the story focuses on her internal conflict in coping with the role she plays in her family, specifically with her in-laws. The danger she courts by dallying with Blackwood plays out more like suspense, rather than true conflict, since it is largely emotionally based. All changes dramatically by the end of the story, the nature of the story transforming from internal to a very hard-hitting external conflict. Which, sadly, didn't lend itself well to the story. This is so because, frankly, the author handled such transformation by not handling it. Instead of threading the transformation throughout the story, providing intrigue with drama and suspense, Cornwall instead decided to slap the reader with this change by giving us an 89 page climax! Yep, that's right. Very, very heavy grit-your-teeth, squint-your-face-because-you're-kept-in-a-constant-state-of-Holy-Shit-What-Now?! is elongated over an absurd amount of time. Starting on page 274, and not ceasing until page 363, the fate of the primary characters are unknown for a ridiculous amount of time. While high-drama is okay for a climax, and almost expected, really, it is not okay when it is used simultaneously for a story's turning point, as well as its closing Final Problem. Big, big no-no for me. Aside from drawing out the drama to an unnecessary degree, Cornwall also disappointed me in another big area; the romance. Fundamentally, I am reading a romance, and with that fundamental reality comes the fact that while I enjoy danger, intrigue and mystery as much as the next reader, I still want my romance. One of my biggest criticisms of this book is the fact that the hero and heroine go from Lusty Pants to Love-Lovey with no emotional framework in between. Frankly, there was so much plot to this book that such rudely shoved itself in between the romantic development Isobel and Blackwood needed in order to make their romance and HEA believable. Such development was so nonexistent that, by the time the couple was proclaiming Love-Lovey-Loveness, I was excessively irritated because it came across as painfully dull, and fake. What's more, the hero considered Isobel to be a traitor and murderer not a few pages prior to deciding that he loved her! Our gallant hero instead claimed it was Adam's fault for making him doubt Isobel!!! (Yes, three exclamation marks were indeed necessary.) So, yeah, big problem, there. So, overall, this book? Yep. Its got issues, big issues. However, at no time was I so disgusted with the story that my hands ever itched to throw it against the nearest wall. Likewise, regardless of the Big No-Nos within, the novel was entirely readable. I did connect with the characters, despite wishing they'd connect more with one another. I did enjoy the plot, despite feeling as though it's conclusion was longer the President Bush's presidential term. And, overall, I did like this book, Big No-Nos aside. But, as with any novel, if it's written well enough, it can endure in spite of itself.

  15. 5 out of 5

    kris

    This was better than expected, considering the mess that was How to Deceive a Duke. The story felt much better woven than the other, and while the plot did descend into melodramatic farce, there were elements of this that I actually enjoyed. HOWEVER: 1. I am 110% done with the "parent abandons child and through no fault of their own, fails to communicate their ever-lasting love and devotion, and POOF, all feelings of abandonment and despair disappear!" trope. 2. Which, that trope really didn't eve This was better than expected, considering the mess that was How to Deceive a Duke. The story felt much better woven than the other, and while the plot did descend into melodramatic farce, there were elements of this that I actually enjoyed. HOWEVER: 1. I am 110% done with the "parent abandons child and through no fault of their own, fails to communicate their ever-lasting love and devotion, and POOF, all feelings of abandonment and despair disappear!" trope. 2. Which, that trope really didn't even belong in this novel at all? It's not like Isobel doesn't have enough going on for her: evil mother-in-law, evil brother-in-law, her child being held hostage for her good behavior, her naughty secret passions, a smuggling plot, etc. Her mother issues were a strange secondary thread easily waved away when she finds a bunch of old letters. Which, Marianne reading everything she gets her hands on was delightful. So nosy. 3. This book was strangely dark? Like, I have no problem with ~realism in romance. But, at one point, the villains of the piece are plotting to kill the heroine and so they lock her up in her room and arrange for someone to come and take her away. But before that can happen, she escapes and the evil companion who hoards secrets gets knocked out and left behind. So then the hired kidnapper shows up! And the servants show him to the room with the unconscious companion! And he takes her away! Which is FINE, until Isobel shows up at the climax location and everyone is like 'AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD IN A DITCH SOMEWHERE BY NOW?' and it was just kind of like!! What a reaction! Basically, the companion is dead and that's how you find out!! And a similar 'accidental-but-not-really-because-it's-an-evil-plot' death occurs when the evil mother-in-law climbs into a carriage she's rigged for DEATH, and she gets a line near the end that's basically like "OH YEAH, SHE'S DEAD TOO: CARRIAGE ACCIDENT. HOW SAD. NOT." It was just kind of startling! Like, I wasn't expecting such hard-hitting justice!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ada

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is the second book I've read from Lecia Cornwall and unfortunately, I didn't realize I read them out of order. While I haven't seen them listed as a series, The Price of Temptation comes chronologically following Secrets of a Proper Countess when discussing events that pertain to Price of Temptation. That aside, I thought this book was ok. Isobel is a character you can't help feeling sorry for as she's doing her best to follow the strict rules her mother-in-law set out for her all in hopes o This is the second book I've read from Lecia Cornwall and unfortunately, I didn't realize I read them out of order. While I haven't seen them listed as a series, The Price of Temptation comes chronologically following Secrets of a Proper Countess when discussing events that pertain to Price of Temptation. That aside, I thought this book was ok. Isobel is a character you can't help feeling sorry for as she's doing her best to follow the strict rules her mother-in-law set out for her all in hopes of not losing her child. She meets Phineas Archer, a rake of the ton and secretly, a government agent. He uses his persona of a rakehell to gain information. The story itself was pretty good but Phineas' sister, Marianne, befriends Isobel and she truly is annoying. I don't believe that Marianne and her Duke (Adam) had their own book and had there been one, I might be more accustomed to her character but she's nosy, interfering and domineering throughout the book. I'm guessing she was written to help Isobel and Phin but it seems she just makes things worse and them covers it up by compounding the situation. I really would have liked this book way more had her character had more redeeming qualities. Having said that, the villains of this book, Isobel's mother-in-law, Honoria and brother-in-law, Charles were just dastardly and we get our first glimpse of Phillip Renshaw who appears in Price of Temptation. I would recommend these books but make sure you read them in order!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dls

    I was really disappointed in this book. It had a very weak plot (way too many villains); the heroine was terribly inconsistent ("I will do anything for my child" as she does the one thing guaranteed, supposedly, to lose him); she was apparently totally ignorant of any rights (surely if she already owned property before the marriage it was held in trust and she had a legal advisor? Even if she didn't, couldn't she get one?); and it was completely unbelievable that the hero failed to recognize her I was really disappointed in this book. It had a very weak plot (way too many villains); the heroine was terribly inconsistent ("I will do anything for my child" as she does the one thing guaranteed, supposedly, to lose him); she was apparently totally ignorant of any rights (surely if she already owned property before the marriage it was held in trust and she had a legal advisor? Even if she didn't, couldn't she get one?); and it was completely unbelievable that the hero failed to recognize her for as long as he did.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cherie

    Debut! This was a debut! I'm trying to figure out what makes a good book for me because I've had several DNFs lately and by tried and true authors and then this one knocks my socks off. It started out with a sexual encounter at a masquerade and a search like Cinderella and developed into a thriller. There were secrets, misunderstandings, and assumptions. Often these lead to ridiculous story lines but were used in just the right amounts to support the story. I'm keeping my copy. Debut! This was a debut! I'm trying to figure out what makes a good book for me because I've had several DNFs lately and by tried and true authors and then this one knocks my socks off. It started out with a sexual encounter at a masquerade and a search like Cinderella and developed into a thriller. There were secrets, misunderstandings, and assumptions. Often these lead to ridiculous story lines but were used in just the right amounts to support the story. I'm keeping my copy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Very much enjoyed this. I'd have given it 5 stars if it weren't for how dense everyone was to catch on that Honoria was the "mastermind" and Isobel was innocent. These men are supposed to be masters of subterfuge, and yet they cannot see what is perfectly obvious in this situation? It strains credibility. Very much enjoyed this. I'd have given it 5 stars if it weren't for how dense everyone was to catch on that Honoria was the "mastermind" and Isobel was innocent. These men are supposed to be masters of subterfuge, and yet they cannot see what is perfectly obvious in this situation? It strains credibility.

  20. 4 out of 5

    TJ

    For a complete review, visit Affaire de Coeur magazine, hard copy or online at: http://affairedecoeur.com/ - March 2011 issue. For a complete review, visit Affaire de Coeur magazine, hard copy or online at: http://affairedecoeur.com/ - March 2011 issue.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Witty dialogue throughout makes this a delightful read. It just irks me so much that these characters have such communication issues! Why can't Isobel tell Blackwood about her family's threats? Witty dialogue throughout makes this a delightful read. It just irks me so much that these characters have such communication issues! Why can't Isobel tell Blackwood about her family's threats?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    It took me several days to finish this book. It just didn't hold my attention. It took me several days to finish this book. It just didn't hold my attention.

  23. 5 out of 5

    suzi

    It was okay. I like some parts of the heroine but I just can't get over the fact that, to me, the hero was more important than her child (even if she says otherwise). also, Adam is such an asshole. It was okay. I like some parts of the heroine but I just can't get over the fact that, to me, the hero was more important than her child (even if she says otherwise). also, Adam is such an asshole.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    I want to give this book a higher star rating. Really, I do! I like the premise, but there were just so many little things that continued to irk me, and I have a hard time looking past those elements. Here’s what I liked: *SPOILERS* The Plot I actually enjoyed the premise of the story. The widow who is controlled by her husband’s family and the smuggling and kidnapping plot actually worked for me. What frustrated me: The Naivety of the Characters Isobel and Phineas seemed to never understand one anot I want to give this book a higher star rating. Really, I do! I like the premise, but there were just so many little things that continued to irk me, and I have a hard time looking past those elements. Here’s what I liked: *SPOILERS* The Plot I actually enjoyed the premise of the story. The widow who is controlled by her husband’s family and the smuggling and kidnapping plot actually worked for me. What frustrated me: The Naivety of the Characters Isobel and Phineas seemed to never understand one another. They constantly questioned the others motives. However, there were times were we saw a breakthrough and it was like, oh they know now! But then for the sake of the story continuing, they would go back to being clueless about one another. For instance, Isobel tells Phineas she’s worried for her sons life but then he can’t seem to guess why she is so concerned about being caught with him. Also, when Honoria runs Isobel down so harshly while Phineas and Isobel hide after sneaking away, he felt bad for her at the time but never questioned her stepmothers treatment after that. I just found their inability to understand anything very frustrating. And Isobel refused to tell anyone anything so that slinky added to the frustration. The Villains The villains were good-like truly evil human beings, but at times it just felt like it was a bit much. Maybe it seemed this way because no matter how bad they were, no one else caught on. Like when the companion was so rude to Isobel, it was hinted that Phineas and his sister were appalled at the time, but then they never questioned it later. Like, they forgot about it. Phineas’ sister Marianne’s character really bothered me. She seemed to always have good intentions but she was so much of an airhead, she just bothered me. She couldn’t catch on to the issue with her matchmaking. She never actually listened to Isobel when she was talking to her, and when they were trapped, she was more concerned with her appearance than anything else while Isobel was worried they’d be killed and that her son already was. As a mother, I just though that was irrational of Marianne. Marianne’s husband I can’t remember his name but it really irritated me at the end when he wouldn’t go with Phineas to rescue the girls because “[he] wouldn’t compromise the mission for anyone, not even [his] wife.” Knowing what they did about the Maitland’s by the time they’d arrived, I just cannot imagine why securing Marianne’s safety wouldn’t have been his top priority? He seemed so unconcerned with her. Then again, she was annoying, so maybe that’s why.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kit Aab

    Is this the result of my keto mood or was the book really that bad? Read on, dear reader, and you will find out. Or maybe you won't. At least this isn't a 'novel' and I am not an 'author'. Lots of other reviewers have addressed the story in detail, so I will focus on feeling the feelings this book engendered. (view spoiler)[In brief, early 1800s, woman meets spy man at a masquerade party and they instantly bone. They do this multiple times. Because, love, obviously. Nothing says love like a boner Is this the result of my keto mood or was the book really that bad? Read on, dear reader, and you will find out. Or maybe you won't. At least this isn't a 'novel' and I am not an 'author'. Lots of other reviewers have addressed the story in detail, so I will focus on feeling the feelings this book engendered. (view spoiler)[In brief, early 1800s, woman meets spy man at a masquerade party and they instantly bone. They do this multiple times. Because, love, obviously. Nothing says love like a boner. Ace spy man cannot recognize boned woman without mask slash slutty costume (she inherited from Mama, who she thought had left her and run off with her own bone man). By the time he does figure out who she is, the doo doo has hit the fan and it is nearing the end of the book, or he might have never known. (hide spoiler)] What on earth did I just read? People, I just read about TSTL main and supporting characters doing a lot of terribly stupid things. Yes, in a major first, ALL of the adult characters are in this category. All of them. With a big, fat, capital ESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Pacing sucks, story sucks, even the description of random boning sucks. Spies are inept, women are inept, men are inept, caricatures are the norm and even those are done ineptly. In an attempt to be fair, since this is apparently the author's first published book, I started another book written by this author. Lo and behold, for about 70% of the book it looked like she had redeemed herself. Hallelujah! I was happy I didn't have to be the harridan who only logs into Goodreads to write complaining reviews. Then the suck began in that one too. I think the author mistakenly believes she is writing wonderful comedic scenes, but everyone comes off as TSTL, including the painfully contrived situations (if a situation could be a person, ergo TSTL). Now I am here, spewing bad reviews, when all I want to be is good. The end.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan Ross

    I have a bias against heroes or heroines that let other people bully them so I didn't particularly like Isobel. She is bullied by her mother-in-law and brother-in-law and believes that, if she goes out of the lines of propriety (according to them), they can take away her son. Yet she has hot sex with a man she barely knows. Umm. What does she think would happen if she got pregnant? Blackwood is a spy and yet he can't see what is right in front of his face. I could understand that if he was a regu I have a bias against heroes or heroines that let other people bully them so I didn't particularly like Isobel. She is bullied by her mother-in-law and brother-in-law and believes that, if she goes out of the lines of propriety (according to them), they can take away her son. Yet she has hot sex with a man she barely knows. Umm. What does she think would happen if she got pregnant? Blackwood is a spy and yet he can't see what is right in front of his face. I could understand that if he was a regular person, but he is trained to notice what others do not. I didn't particularly like any of the characters but the story was still okay.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary Gramlich

    SECRETS of a PROPER COUNTESS written by Lecia Cornwall 03/11- HarperCollins Publishers, Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages We all hide behind masks and fear what will happen when I remove it? Isobel Maitland, the Countess of Ashdown hid behind drab clothing, the lifestyle of a respectable widow and a demure composure to protect everything she cared about. Her husband left her life in control of his family and their goal was to take it and her son away. Isobel did as she was commanded but on this one SECRETS of a PROPER COUNTESS written by Lecia Cornwall 03/11- HarperCollins Publishers, Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages We all hide behind masks and fear what will happen when I remove it? Isobel Maitland, the Countess of Ashdown hid behind drab clothing, the lifestyle of a respectable widow and a demure composure to protect everything she cared about. Her husband left her life in control of his family and their goal was to take it and her son away. Isobel did as she was commanded but on this one night she hid behind a mask at a costume ball feeling free for the first time and wanting to explore her passionate side. She always dressed respectable on the exterior but underneath was the passion Isobel trying to get out. Isobel was going to have an adventure on this night that would shock everyone if they knew and the person she was going to have this illicit time was Phineas Archer, The Marquess of Blackwood the perfect rake and rogue about London. She could not have a scandal of any kind but Phin was too tempting and just for one night she could let go and be free of commitment and burdens. Phineas was more than willing to let his reputation take over with the woman whose name he didn’t know. One night was enough for Isobel but one night was not enough for him and as he searches for this woman that has caught his heart and soul he would never have suspected it could be plain, ordinary Isobel because she kept herself away from society and hidden from view. Phineas it turns out is also so much more than the lifestyle he carries on with. He is pretending to be a shiftless man only to fulfill his work for his country and never before has he doubted himself and what he was doing as correct but that woman must be found and not to solve a mystery but to lay beside him in a nice, comfortable bed with his arms around her. But will Phin be able to find out who his mystery woman is? Isobel does everything she can to prevent being discovered but a random friendship with Phin’s sister creates another set of problems as it seems she now can’t keep him out of her life or her house. If he does find out that she is his mystery woman what will happen to Isobel knowing that everything she cares about will be taken from her. Isobel also suspects there is more than one kind of trouble abounding in her home with her in-laws but she can’t figure out what it is. They lied about her husband’s death and the more secrets she reveals the more concerned she is for her son’s safety. This debut book from Lecia Cornwall is a wonderful, romantic and compelling story. With strong characters built around a story that is reality based for women in this time period she showcases Isobel as she hides her passion behind the mask of a widow. Add to that Phineas and his rake behavior you have two amazing characters with so many stories to tell about their life after the book ends. Ms. Cornwall has done just that divinely.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Book Binge

    When Lady Isobel’s husband died his will stated that she had to keep her reputation spotless at all times or her son, the current Earl would be taken from her permanently by his brother and mother. It also gave all control of her money and properties to her in-laws. Isobel is miserable and wants nothing more to be as far from her in-laws as possible but for the sake of her son she stays and deals with the humiliation that is piled on her regularly. One night at a masked ball she breaks through he When Lady Isobel’s husband died his will stated that she had to keep her reputation spotless at all times or her son, the current Earl would be taken from her permanently by his brother and mother. It also gave all control of her money and properties to her in-laws. Isobel is miserable and wants nothing more to be as far from her in-laws as possible but for the sake of her son she stays and deals with the humiliation that is piled on her regularly. One night at a masked ball she breaks through her invisible bonds and not only flirts with the Marquess of Blackwood, and a known rake, but ends up having sex with him. He is smitten by the masked lady and though he introduces himself she does not, only giving him a fake name. Even though they meet as Countess and Marquess later he doesn’t see beyond the dowdy clothes and hairstyle she is forced to wear to recognize her as his secret lover. The Marquess isn’t who he says he is either. He acts the rake but really wants nothing more than to live a quiet life. He’s a spy for the crown and his brother-in-law is the slave driver that keeps him in the business when he wants to leave. When the Marquess finally figures out that Isobel is his secret lover he doesn’t know if she’s hiding more than her identity. He thinks she may be hiding the fact that she’s a smuggler and a traitor to king and country. I think there were things about each of the main characters that I liked and disliked. I liked Isobel and her love for her son and her willingness to suffer her in-laws for him, but I found it strange that she would take a chance like having a secret liaison with a man in a garden, at a ball, where she could have been caught by anyone, quite strange. She knew what would happen yet did it anyway. I really could understand her wanting to break free, I could, but knowing the consequences made me look at things a little differently. I also liked Phineas, the Marquess as well. He seemed like such a strong character but then he wouldn’t stand up to his brother-in-law until the end. I really would have liked for him to been a little more forthright in his dealings with Adam (who I really didn’t care for at all). Isobel’s brother-in-law and mother-in-law were nasty people. I didn’t like them at all and that was a good thing. I like when an author makes people truly evil – because if I really hate them it means that they were written well. lol I have to say that the first two chapters of the book really had my attention and I wanted nothing more than to get back to the book when forced to put it down. However as the book went on I was less enthralled with it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good book but it just lacked that umph that the first two chapters had given me. I do look forward to reading more from Ms. Cornwall when future books are released. Rating: 3.75 out of 5 This review was originally posted on Book Binge by Tracy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tracie

    A strong 3.5 This book had some good buzz so I had to read it. I also liked the blurb about it. This is a strong showing from a debut author. This was definitely a page turner for me and I stayed up until 4 am to finish it. I wanted to love this book but in the end I strongly liked it. (view spoiler)[What worked for me: The opening 2 chapters really grabbed my attention. The h/h meet and are almost immediately having sex. I liked Isobel and I wanted her to have some fun. She was stuck with the in-la A strong 3.5 This book had some good buzz so I had to read it. I also liked the blurb about it. This is a strong showing from a debut author. This was definitely a page turner for me and I stayed up until 4 am to finish it. I wanted to love this book but in the end I strongly liked it. (view spoiler)[What worked for me: The opening 2 chapters really grabbed my attention. The h/h meet and are almost immediately having sex. I liked Isobel and I wanted her to have some fun. She was stuck with the in-laws from hell. I bought the attraction to Phineas. I could also feel her struggles between doing what was best for her son and her secret desires. I enjoyed the sub-plot about the traitors and the French king. It kept me engaged to see what would happen next. I thoroughly loved Marianne. She had me laughing out loud when she started talking about finding Isobel a lover. I would love to have a friend like her in my life. I liked the cast of characters, evil in-laws and all. They really brought the story to life. What didn't work so well for me: I liked the spy angle but at times I actually think that overtook the romance plot of the book or got in the way of the h/h getting to know each other better. Sadly because of the above mentioned, I'm not so sure that I bought the love story between the h/h. Sure they were attracted to each other. That was proven in the first 2 chapters. Other than sex and a growing love I'm not sure if it actually got to that point by the HEA. For most of the book, Phineas didn't even know that Isobel was his masked lady so he didn't even like her. I thought Adam was an a$$hat of the first degree. Poor Marianne was saddled with him. He was supposed to be Phineas' friend and BIL but he just kept pushing him into doing what he didn't want. I could do without friends like that. I won't even get to the ending where he wouldn't go in to save Marianne even if it he thought she was going to die. And she was the love of his life? I also thought there was some unnecessary back story added that I think was supposed to help explain some stuff but in the end it just left me with more questions. Edmond? I know that he was Adam's brother, saved Phineas when his grandfather kicked him out, and was Marianne's fiance. Edmond died and Marianne got stuck with Adam (although she actually loved him). Huh? I don't know why I needed to know all of this detail because it didn't add much to that actual story. I didn't understand Honoria's obsession with Isobel's mother at the end of the book. And with that also the Duke's acceptance of Isobel because of her mother. It just seemed out of character. (hide spoiler)] Despite a few gripes I did enjoy the book and look forward to this author's next work.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Phineas is a marquess with a carefully cultivated bad reputation and some closely held secrets, but really wants to be loved for himself. Isobel is a widowed countess who is in a sticky situation because her past allows her dead husband's family to manipulate her shamelessly. Masquerades, misunderstandings and mysteries abound, but true love and luck prevail in the end. There's some standard-issue Napoleonic spy stuff in here, definitely not as good as some, but it won't make you gouge your eyes Phineas is a marquess with a carefully cultivated bad reputation and some closely held secrets, but really wants to be loved for himself. Isobel is a widowed countess who is in a sticky situation because her past allows her dead husband's family to manipulate her shamelessly. Masquerades, misunderstandings and mysteries abound, but true love and luck prevail in the end. There's some standard-issue Napoleonic spy stuff in here, definitely not as good as some, but it won't make you gouge your eyes out (unless you're a history student, of course, in which case why DO you do this to yourself? Read contemporaries instead!) I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, for a debut author it's fairly solid, will stand on its own as a standalone, is not crammed with characters destined to be the leads in sequels (something you rarely see any more,) and I rather liked all the leads. On the other hand, Isobel and her bestie has some serious TSTL moments. I can forgive Isobel most of it due to her background, but there were moments when I wanted to drown well-meaning Marianne in a ditch. I think the plot got overly bogged down at the end with too much happening at once an not being handled quite cleanly enough, and there was a supernatural-ish aspect shoehorned in at the end that I really disliked and am choosing to ignore. So. Do I recommend this? I'm not sure. I'd probably advise taking it out of the library or seeing if you can get a discounted paper copy as opposed to getting nailed for the full Agency ebook price if you're interested. I'll probably take a crack at the next book the author puts out to see how she's progressing, because I do think she has potential - she's just not there yet.

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