Secrets of the Heart, by Candace Camp

>> Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Candace Camp has been around for ages, and some years ago I had the misfortune of reading two of her late 70s / early 80s books (Bonds of Love and Analise), which were the kind of old-school romances I detest. So, when I saw an interesting review of one of her latest books, Secrets of the Heart, I was a bit doubtful. However, I remembered that an early 90s book by her that I'd read (Rosewood) had been pretty nice, with no alpha mules in sight, so I decided to give it a try.

She never expected to love again . . .

On the eve of her wedding to Michael Trent, the Earl of Westhampton, Rachel Aincourt tried to elope with another man -- only to be unceremoniously returned to her fiance by her strong-willed father. Burdened by guilt and shame, Rachel felt she'd gotten what she deserved: a loveless marriage to a cold, enigmatic husband. She was wrong.

But fate had other plans

Behind Michael's proper demeanor lay a man who thrived on danger and intrigue -- and now he'd been drawn into one of Bow Street's toughest cases. When the crime turned into a murder that involved Rachel, Michael found a new way to employ his mastery of disguise: seducing the wife he secretly loved. But would he finally be able to win her heart . . . or would he destroy his last chance for happiness?
It was a good, very fast read. A B+.

At first, I wasn't too sure about the setup. I mean, we're talking here about a couple who's spent 7 years in an unsatisfying marriage, each thinking that the other had no interest in having a "real" marriage. I thought it would be all too easy for the protagonists to end up seeming stupid... However, the way Camp described the situation and the characters it sounded very plausible. It even felt natural, given the people Michael and Rachel were, that they found themselves in a situation neither wanted, but both felt powerless to change. And I don't thing it would have changed, if there hadn't been outside intervention.

I actually liked these characters, even though I sometimes found them frustrating. Rachel was a bit too passive at first, too prim and proper, but the change she experienced during the book made me like her better. And I loved her reaction when she found out that she was being tricked!

Michael I really loved. He was definitely my kind of hero. I love stories about unrequited love on the part of the hero (I have a double standard that way) and this one was very much one of those. And maybe I'm sick, but I loved reading about his anguish and his doubts, the way he wanted Rachel but was constrained by his idea of what would be kind and honourable from approaching her. But when he was finally able to get near her, posing as "James", wow!!!

There were only 2 things that I didn't like about this book. Number 1 was the suspense subplot, which I thought was overly complicated and too far-fetched. The only good thing about it was that it showed how Michael was perfectly willing to accept Rachel as a partner in an ivestigation. He respected her intelligence and wasn't foolishly overprotective.

Number 2, was all the backstory information dump in the beginning of the book. I enjoyed the flashbacks to what had happened between Rachel and Michael in the past, but all the info about the 2 couples from the first 2 books of the trilogy was very boring and unnecessary, only there to show loyal readers how their beloved characters from other books are doing. If done unobtrusively, that's ok with me, but here it wasn't skillfully done. It was too heavy-handed, with much more info than we needed.

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