willaful's Reviews > The Lady's Secret

The Lady's Secret by Joanna Chambers
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Nov 03, 11

bookshelves: dandy-clotheshorse-metrosexual, impersonation-masquerade-deceit, a-matter-of-class, sexy-beta, starchy-hero-gets-unstarched, chick-in-pants-dude-in-skirts
Recommended for: fans of character driven historical romance
Read from October 31 to November 02, 2011, read count: 1

4 1/2 stars. You know those romance tropes that make you internally go, “oh God no” whenever you see them in a blurb? Everyone has different ones, of course, but chicks in pants is one of mine. Strangely enough, in the right hands those tropes sometimes make the best books -- Heyer’s The Masqueraders is a long time favorite of mine, and now there’s The Lady’s Secret, which also makes a chick in pants utterly sublime.

Like her actress mother, Georgiana works in a theatre, but is too prone to stage fright to act. But when an opportunity arises to seek the truth about her and her brother’s parentage, Georgy has the skills necessary to take on an unnerving role, that of a male valet to the Earl of Harland. Perhaps the most unnerving part of the job is how fascinated she becomes with her employer, discovering that servants are “uniquely placed to observe certain truths,” and that there’s a different person behind the Earl’s fashionable facade:

“Life as a valet wasn’t so very different from her life in the theatre. In the theatre, she dressed the actors according to their parts. Dressing Harland in his exquisite clothes was much the same. The naked man she saw each morning started the day silent and introspective. But as he donned his civilized clothing, he gradually began to assume the mantle of the Earl of Harland.”

In a book primarily about masquerades -- Georgiana in the role of a male valet, Nathan more metaphorically in the role of a cool, supercilious lord -- one of the most striking features of this book is its feeling of authenticity. Carefully crafted details bring even the most minor settings and characters to life: I could believe in Georgy and Nathan because I could believe in the worlds they lived in. (And as an aside, can I mention how pleasant it is to read about secondary characters who are obviously not sequel bait, but just exist as part of the story?)

And then, there’s a certain reality to their roles as well. Georgina is good at her job, and makes excellent use of the male freedom to employ her body and her strength, and Nathan, without even thinking about it -- without consciously believing he deserves it -- accepts the privileges of being a lord. He is somewhat startled when Georgy points out that in his household, he’s like the sun in the sky: “Everything here revolves around you--your wishes, your desires.” (I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more follow-up to this aspect of his character and what it might mean for their relationship.

The day-to-day aspects of Georgy’s role as a servant are one of the most interesting parts of the book, and come to be one of the most sensual. Intimately caring for a man she’s very attracted to -- dressing him, shaving him, massaging his face when he has a headache -- makes for a delicious torture to read about. And quietly competent Georgy becomes fascinating to Nathan as well, both before and after he realizes that she’s not a man.

I loved these characters -- so rich, so compelling, without a lot of flash or drama. Especially Nathan, who’s a classic example of still waters running deep. The plotting is occasionally a little clunky, but overall the book is astonishingly polished for a debut author. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who loves an intelligent, well told historical romance -- whether or not you love chicks in pants.

(reviewed from e-arc received from netGalley)
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Reading Progress

11/01/2011
10.0% "Was so hard to put this down last night... nothing dramatic has happened, it's just very compelling in a quiet way."
11/02/2011 page 249
91.54% "So close to the end and I have to go to stupid dance class!"

Comments (showing 1-5)




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Jill I was also impressed with this debut willaful and gave it 4.5 stars.


message 4: by seton (new) - added it

seton Oh j'adore chicks in pants. Hope my library will have this. *fingers crossed*


message 3: by Keri (new) - added it

Keri I am intrigued!


Anna (Bobs Her Hair) I was having a hard time with the chicks in pants trope and flashing back to my times with Johanna Lindsay's books. Anyway, your review has me interested. Thanks! Will give it a try.


willaful Hard to think of an author less like Johanna Lindsay. :-)


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