This is the first time I've heard of Jennifer Haymore, and had I known what to expect I most likely would have passed the opportunity to read her work. This isn't going to be a positive review.
The title is misleading. There really weren't that many secrets this accidental duchess had and the ones there were, were revealed quite quickly and without in a timely fashion. His secrets too.
There really should be a series warning for all unsuspecting readers. Not that I was one of them. I knew I was jumping in in the middle of a series, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was the extensive character gallery I was expected to familiarise myself with immediately. To this moment I wouldn't be able to name and place all the important side characters. I barely remember the main characters, but that has more to do with the poor characterisations or lack there of. More about that later.
From the very start I realised that Haymore's writing style wasn't for me. I happen to think there's a difference between detailed and florid-one of which is good and the other one isn't-I thought she crossed that line, although, it did get slightly better when action overtook the moment.
Speaking of things that were better than expected, the sex scenes were a positive surprise. Despite the fact that the her happiness was dependent on his orgasm, there was nothing too awkward or unintentionally hilarious. I found these scenes quite titillating, which is a first in a professionally published work for a while.
Having said that, I still think there was more passion between Max and his rival Fenwicke than there ever was between Max and Olivia. That's because of the characterisations. Max and Olivia both felt so flat and uninteresting in comparison that over the top evil Fenwicke appeared to the only three dimensional character in the book. I could have handled the brutality and the abuse described, had it been properly addressed and not been reduced to a mere plot device. Fenwicke was nothing more than a ploy to create drama and angst where none was needed as the relationship between Max and Olivia had its existing inner tensions.
What's worse, neither Fenwicke or his victims were addressed with enough care or attention, but they were quickly dismissed as their part in the storyline expired.
I could dwell on the idiocy of the two main characters exhibited throughout and especially towards the end of this book, but suffice to say that there's a reason why I shelved this book under the too-stupid-to-live category. I'm not just talking about the contradiction between a gentleman willing to seduce a virgin but reluctant to fight dirty when being attacked by a mob, I'm talking about the lack of pure survival instinct. He'd rather beat up a man in his weakened state than run to save her life.
I'm aware that my generation nor that the one of my parents'-or their parents'-invented sex, but to read about sisters-one of which is an unmarried virgin-talk about contraception sounded too modern to fit the time to me. There was also another instance, when Olivia was asking Max to give her space , that felt out of place in this historical setting.
Also as detail orientated as the author is, I was surprised how easily Olivia could wolf down her meal despite the injury to her throat.
**I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.**