Lord of Secrets—Erica Ridley
Nora is a paid companion to her distant cousin Lady Roundtree, who has broken her leg. The only reason she took the position was to help support her younger brother and elderly grandparents in the country, where she usually lives. She's not used to the way that things are done in society. She's not great at reading and writing (she has dyslexia, though it's never stated that way) and so she draws little caricatures of society gatherings for her family back home. Little does she know, her brother started selling them to a publication, albeit anonymously, and the society she has depicted in these caricatures is not thrilled to see their laundry aired. Heath, a member of that society, is also known as something of a fixer. He is hired to track down the identity of the caricaturist. But he didn't expect to develop feelings for this new lower class girl and he definitely didn't expect her to be the person behind the pen.
Whew. I really got on a tear of requesting romance books from NetGalley. Honestly, I was just looking for some escapism, and historical fiction romance usually is great at that. Not as much this time around.
This is number 5 in the Rogues to Riches series. I hadn't read any of the others in the series, and the completionist in me is bummed by that, but the recovering completionist in me is quite pleased with this indication of progress.
Overall, this book was meh for me. Not bad, not great, just kind of meh. Which, honestly, equates to a bit unforgettable in the long run.
I appreciated that Nora wasn't a Mary Sue-style perfect heroine, though it did seem like the only thing keeping her from being that was this kind of shoehorned dyslexia. Now, I'm all for more characters in literature that have disabilities, but the fact that she had so much self-hatred about it (realistic for the time period but disappointing considering other "not realistic for the time period" moments) was not my favourite.
Although it was somewhat anachronistic or less prominent in history than it might seem from this novel, I loved how much Heath's sisters took Fleetwood Mac's advice to heart, and went their own ways. I know at least one of them is the subject of another book in the series, and I enjoyed the snippets that we got with his sisters so much that I'm actually interested in reading that book, even though this one was just whelming.
Alright, let's get into the things I found less than stellar. Insta love x100000000. Of all the tropes, this is among my three least favourite. They met once at a dance, he was nice to her, and immediately she's in love with him. As I noted on my Kindle, "Extreme, instant infatuation is a good start to every relationship."
I noticed a theme that is prevalent in historical romance which has always bothered me but which I haven't been able to hit on until this book. So often, the heroine is someone who shirks the expectations of society and does things differently, and that's why the hero falls in love with her. BECAUSE she's different. Which is basically just the old-timey version of "you're not like other girls." The heroes especially usually deride the other girls, the ones who are hunting for husbands. Like, what do you expect of them? They've been told their entire lives—by society, by their friends, by their families—that the entirety of their worth is wrapped up in who they are able to "catch" as a husband. You're really going to be an asshole about a girl who does what she's been told is the most important thing to do every day of her life? Ugh.
Honestly, the biggest obstacle to loving this book for me was that it seemed like nothing happened. The pacing was so terrible, and as a result, the passage of time was quite confusing. It almost felt like this had initially been planned as a novella and then had to be stretched into a novel-length piece. Not even character development was happening during that time, which might have been the only reason I would excuse such slow pacing. I got to 62% in, and made the note that it felt like nothing had happened. At 72% in, FINALLY a single kiss! Not another kiss until 90 PERCENT INTO THE BOOK. What even am I doing here?
As I mentioned, I would be interested in reading the final book in the series, Lord of Vice, which is about Heath's sister Bryony and a gaming hell owner Max. They were both introduced in this book, and immediately, as soon as Max was introduced, I made a note that I was CERTAIN he was going to get with one of Heath's sisters. And he does. I'm into it. I am a bit of a sucker for a rogue gaming hell owner story. There are surprisingly a lot of them.