Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Secret Nights - Anita Mills

Set amid the glittering decadence of Regency England, Anita Mills' new historical is a passionate tale of deceit and desire. Elise Rand, the only child of a wealthy merchant, convinces brilliant and ambitious barrister Patrick Hamilton to defend her father on a murder charge. But Patrick's kisses draw her into an emotional vortex.

I've been looking forward to read other books by Mills after greatly enjoying her medieval series but I'm afraid this one did not please me at all.

Elise Rand is a Cit's daughter, she doesn't move in the same circles as the ton ladies but she has no problems with that. She is busy fighting for social reform and helping the ones less fortunate than she is. Through her father, Bat Rand a self made man that became rich making bricks; she meets Patrick Hamilton, a famous barrister. Bat seems to think he will need a barrister in the future so he invites Patrick to dinner and offers him money for future services, he also throws Elise at him but Patrick is nearly engaged to Lord Dunster's daughter despite finding Elise very attractive.

The dynamic in Elise and Patrick's relationship changes when her father commits murder. Now, we know he did it right from the very beginning, Patrick suspects it but Elise has no clue, she believes her father innocent. Due to Bat Rand's lack of cooperation Patrick refuses to defend him and he ends up manipulating Elise to offer herself to Patrick so he will defend him despite his refusal to tell him the truth.

And that's when it all began to go terribly wrong for me. Elise was a nice girl, a proper girl; would she really offer herself as payment? I had my doubts especially because her father was not a nice man that, I thought, would inspire such filial devotion. And then there was Patrick, would he accept such an exchange? He was a good man in the sense that he tried to defend those less fortunate than him whose poverty would lead them to the gallows or to hang just because the judge thought that that was the best way to end up crime even if the accused had only stolen a loaf of bread. I didn't buy that Patrick would accept her offer because of his character but also because I did not feel that there was much chemistry between them from the beginning. So I was quite surprised when he accepted and proceeded to take advantage immediately.

My view of their relationship was immediately coloured by this lack of belief and the other big thing that annoyed me till the end is that Elise never found out that her father was a murderer, an abuser of women and was, in fact, the complete opposite of the things she fought for. While she fought to give prostitutes a better life, he believed the women were not even human anymore so their deaths really were no crime. I really thought Elise should be informed of this and Patrick could have told her. Usually bad guys in romance land are villains who oppose the main character's relationship. Not so, in this book, the villain was what brought them together but to be honest I would have preferred it not to happen this way. Oh and I guessed fairly early what was behind Elise's previous fiancé's murder. That she sacrifices so much for someone who harmed her so much really made feel uncomfortable.

What I did like in the story was it's portrayal of London. After seeing Garrow's Law it is not difficult to imagine the poverty, the vice, the unfairness that that society was and yes Patrick Hamilton seemed a bit inspired in William Garrow. This is why I'm giving it a 3 instead of a 2, and because Mills knows how to write, she just didn't write a story I believed in.

Grade: 3/5


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