Lord of Secrets is the story of a young woman, Rosalie Whitwell, who’s spent most of her life sailing the globe with her father. When he suffers a fatal heart attack in the middle of the North Atlantic, she turns in her panic to a fellow passenger–the moody, mysterious Lord Deal.
Having witnessed his father’s suicide years before, David Linney, Marquess of Deal, has withdrawn from society, living the life of a recluse. Even so, he’s drawn to his pretty shipmate, like him the victim of family tragedy.
The end of the voyage spurs David to propose. But on their wedding night, Rosalie meets with an unwelcome surprise: her handsome husband is strangely unwilling to consummate the marriage. Is her own lack of allure to blame, or is there some other reason for David’s reluctance? To find the answer, Rosalie must unlock the secret of David’s past
Rating: A- for content and B- for narration
I reviewed Lord of Secrets for All About Romance in September, 2013 and gave it an A-. It’s well written and characterised and the story has some unusual elements for a historical romance that Ms. Everett treats with intelligence and sensitivity.
The eponymous Lord is David Linney, Marquis of Deal, a somewhat reclusive bachelor of thirty-one who came into his title aged ten after his father committed suicide. On a sea voyage from New York to London, he meets Miss Rosalie Whitwell and her cousin, Charles Templeton. Rosalie has travelled extensively over the past nine years with her father and while she yearns for a permanent home, and perhaps a family of her own someday, she is content to be her father’s companion and amanuensis.
It’s clear from the outset that while David is attracted to the lovely Rosalie, there is something holding him back from furthering his acquaintance with her – something he feels makes him completely unworthy of any relationship with an innocent young woman. When Lord Whitwell dies suddenly, it’s David who takes charge of the situation and makes all the necessary arrangements, which brings him unavoidably into closer contact with her and David finds he is unable, despite his best intentions, to keep his distance.
Their slowly growing friendship is beautifully written and reveals them to have various interests in common. It’s clear from their conversations that they are perfect for each other, even if they don’t know it yet, and it’s rather sweet when they bond over Lord Whitwell’s terrible puns. But his death has left Rosalie in an unenviable position. She has either to go to live with her uncle, a man with a very unsavoury reputation, or she must find paid employment. David tries not to become concerned, but the more he hears about her uncle, the less happy he is at the prospect of Rosalie living with him. Rosalie is pinning her hopes on becoming a ladies’ companion to the wealthy American, Mrs. Howard (who reminded me of Mrs. van Hopper in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca). But when that lady declines to employ her, it seems Rosalie has no other option but to turn to her uncle for a home. It’s at that point that David suddenly realises that he can solve Rosalie’s problem and provide the home and security she needs – and he proposes marriage. Rosalie, already halfway in love with the reticent, though handsome, lord, accepts.
She’s a thoroughly engaging heroine. Though young, she’s not at all missish or coquettish; she’s thoughtful and caring, having spent most of her life travelling with her father simply because she loved him and he loved to travel. She thinks that perhaps she can be useful to David, too, by encouraging him to come out of his shell, helping him to rebuild the relationships with his neighbours and by – eventually – giving him children and building a family of their own. But once they are married, David wants to retreat from her; he won’t consummate their marriage and gives Rosalie no explanation as to why.
Being a respectable virgin, Rosalie doesn’t have much idea about that side of marriage but she shows him affection and tries to encourage him, at first thinking that perhaps he’s not very experienced, or that his past sexual experiences have been unpleasant ones. But when she finally learns that David, in fact, has a reputation for being somewhat promiscuous, she begins to think that she must be the problem, and that he has bound himself to a woman he does not find at all attractive.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.