|The Lady's Secret
by Joanna Chambers
London, 1810Joanna Chambers uses a true and tried trope for her debut historical romance novel The Lady's Secret, the one where the male protagonist falls in love with the cross-dressing heroine. Oh yes, you might say we've seen this done before, particularly in those old medievals where the girls attempted to hide waist-length hair and some impossible-to-hide female attributes. However, that's not what you'll find in this book at all, instead you'll find that Chambers makes some of those impossibilities possible and makes this trope her own with details, details, details.
Former actress Georgiana Knight always believed she and her brother were illegitimate—until they learn their parents were married, making them heirs to a great estate. To prove their claim, Georgy needs to find evidence of their union by infiltrating a ton house party as valet to Lord Nathaniel Harland. Though masquerading as a boy is a challenge, it pales in comparison to sharing such intimate quarters with the handsome, beguiling nobleman.
Nathan is also unsettled by Georgy's presence. First intrigued by his unusual valet, he's even more captivated when he discovers Georgy's charade. The desire the marriage-shy earl feels for his enigmatic employee has him hoping for much more than a master-servant relationship...
But will Nathan still want Georgy when he learns who she truly is? Or will their future be destroyed by someone who would do anything to prevent Georgy from uncovering the truth?
Georgiana grew up in a theater and works as a stagehand. She tried her hand as an actress, but stage fright kept her away from following in her mother's footsteps. However, these are skills that serve her well when the time comes for the biggest role of her life. Georgy and her brother Harry know they are the true heirs to the Earl of Dunsmore fortune and title, but before they can claim either proof that their dead parents were legally married must be found.
As Harry travels from parish to parish trying to find that proof, Georgy plans to take their investigation further by going through the Earl of Dunsmore's own home, hoping to find something there. Her plan is to pose as a servant but there are no openings. The opportunity presents itself when Lord Nathaniel Harland, who is in need of a personal valet, is heard to be invited to the Dunsmore's Christmas celebration. Georgy disguised as a valet applies and is hired for the position and the deception begins.
Now think of what it means to be a personal valet. It's not just dressing the man, it's performing all those personal, everyday tasks for him that create intimacy -- shaving, supervising his bath, bringing him breakfast in bed, taking care of him when he's sick, sharing his personal space and all the small intimate details that reveal the man behind the Lord. This is what Georgy shares with Nathan before he even realizes she is a woman.
The key words above are "intimate details." Joanna Chambers truly gives the reader that sense of intimacy between the two characters during this time. And details also take center stage when it comes to Georgy's masquerade. I admit that I kept looking for those moments when you say "aha! the girl gave herself away"... but no, in Georgy, Chambers creates a female character that truly fits her role perfectly. I'm not just talking about Georgy's physical attributes, but the way she carries herself as well. Chambers doesn't place her character in impossible situations either. I don't want to give away too many details or spoil it for the readers, but if you decide to read the book you'll know what I mean.
Besides the fact that the female in the story fits her role as a valet beautifully, one of the reasons this plot works so well is because the deception doesn't go on for too long, and once Georgy is discovered the romance really takes off. However, before she's discovered the intimate scenes serve to build up sensuality -- the head massage scene in particular comes to mind. Too good... just too good!
Nathan is not necessarily attracted to Georgy when she's the valet, but well... there's something about "George" that doesn't quite seem right to Nathan. Once Georgy is unmasked, all that intimacy makes for some excellent, sizzling sexual tension between Georgy and Nathan. I really liked this couple. It's all great fun!
The plot takes place in different settings: London, the Earl of Dunsmore's country home, and later on Nathan's own country estate. I loved the scenes in London and everything that happened at the Earl of Dunsmore's home. The Christmas get together for the servants was a wonderful scene. It's interesting experiencing a romance from both points of view at the same time: the upstairs and downstairs. My one quibble is the couple's behavior while they stayed at Nathan's country estate. As for the rest, well... for me the final resolutions to the conflicts were all satisfying in the end.
The Lady's Secret by Joanna Chambers is a historical romance that I'll remember for the way the intimate atmosphere heightened the romance between two great characters, and for a true and tried plot that stood out because the author really took her time with the details. I enjoyed Ms. Chambers debut novel from beginning to end and will definitely read her next book.
Category: Historical Romance
Publisher: Carina Press/November 7, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Visit Joanna Chambers here.