Friday, March 22, 2013

Advanced Review: Lord of Secrets by Alyssa Everett (3 stars, historical)

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Thoughts After Reading:
I consider Alyssa Everett's Ruined by Rumor to be one of the most enjoyable novels I have ever read: it is the perfect blend of a tender, semi-innocent romance and a very authentic historical writing style, in my opinion. So when I saw she was releasing another book, I was quite eager to get my hands on it. Everett's latest story - Lord of Secrets - turned out to be not at all what I was expecting. It is a novel that could be easily divided into three parts. The first part was actually very reminiscent of Ruined by Rumor, incorporating humor and warmth into endearing interactions between two fully fleshed out characters. I found the middle part of the novel to be significantly more disappointing, essentially a standard marriage-of-convenience plotline with considerable angst on both sides because the hero is unwilling to divulge his secrets (this leads to misunderstandings... surprise, surprise). It was the final part of the book that was my least favorite, however, with an intense and very dark unveiling of the hero's past that essentially amounts to child molestation.

The basic storyline begins with a ship that both the hero and heroine are traveling on, going from America to England. The heroine has spent nearly a decade traveling the world with her father. She is a young woman who is all that is sweet and compassionate, and sometimes a bit too naive for her own good. The hero, meanwhile, tries to present a very aloof facade to the world. The two protagonists begin to interact only once the heroine's father dies unexpectedly, and the hero - against his better judgement - finds himself comforting and talking with the heroine. Realizing the heroine's future is bleak, he offers her marriage before he can talk himself out of it. As the marriage approaches, and well into the marriage, the hero has frequent attacks of conscience. He internalizes a considerable amount of shame for the actions he has participated in from the past, and does not wish to consummate the marriage until he confesses everything to the heroine. Conversely, he treasures the innocent trust the heroine gifts him with and finds himself unable to destroy her perception of him. This nonsensical behavior causes the heroine to doubt her own attractiveness and become uncertain of the hero's affections, a misunderstanding that persists for a good portion of the novel. Over time, the heroine helps the hero overcome his problems of isolating himself. She is devastated when he finally reveals his secrets, undergoing character growth as her naive ideals are shattered. The couple eventually form some resemblance of a HEA in the aftermath.

The largest issue I had with the novel is that I was never quite sure what to make of the hero's backstory. Part of his tortured history made sense: he has always been a sensitive person, but - thanks to the negligent care of his uncle - equates feelings to weakness, which is why he prefers being stoic and isolated. But the implications of the hero's sexual abuse confused me.  On one hand, the sexual desires his aunt exploited are quite natural for a boy undergoing puberty. On the other hand, however, he seemed to feel a great deal of shame for having sex with his married aunt and then later with his considerable womanizing. If he believed it to be so morally wrong, then why was he unable to resist in his teens and then later again as an adult? I decided not to look at it too closely, because the last thing I want to do is accidentally trivialize the molestation of a young boy.  I can only assume he suffered psychological trauma as a result of his aunt's abuse.

I gave Alyssa Everett's Lord of Secrets three stars because it is - I'm fairly certain - a very well written novel. In addition to the normal elements of romance and history, the book tackles complicated issues of molestation and shame that eventually leads to the hero being redeemed by love. And I'm sure there's some message to be learned in the character development that the heroine undergoes, as she trades her idealistic views of love and marriage for a more realistic, yet harsher, world. I cannot give the book more than three stars, however, because by the end I wished I had never started reading the novel... it wasn't my kind of story at all. I don't want to read about the heroine being forced to sacrifice her naive optimism, or learning that love can't quite conquer all. I don't want to read about a screwed up hero who - despite everything he's dealt with  in regards to his father - is still considering suicide until the final resolution. I don't want the last 10% of a book to switch from graphically describing the hero's sexual abuse to immediately exploring the only love scene with the heroine. I'm more of an implausible fairy tale ending kind of guy, which Lord of Secrets definitely was not. Oh well.

*I received a free review copy of this book.


  1. Chris~ I hate when books make you feel like you shouldn't have started. I hope you find a book that gives that feel good feeling. I love fairytale ends too. I always say its because I'm a Disney child. Love Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and so forth.

    1. Thanks Melody :). Yea, it just makes me feel like I've wasted all the time I put into the book. And I'm worse off than when I started, because now I'm annoyed at the book ^^. Haha, could be - I'm a fan of Disney as well.

      - Chris

    2. When it's a book that I didn't really connect with I tend to skim hopes that I will connect. Then I don't I'm like ugh, what do I do. My philosophy is everyone has different taste and opinion, and at should be respected.

    3. That sounds like a good philosophy :).


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