Secrets of a Wedding Night

Valerie Bowman
October 2012, European Historical Romance (1816 England)
St. Martins, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 1250008956

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

While reading Secrets of a Wedding Night, I kept thinking about jigsaw puzzles. A good story can be a lot like a good jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are tiny, the seams nearly invisible, and the image fluid. When a puzzle is done well, you have to look closely to see the individual pieces. This book is not like that. While the book isn't bad, per se, its pieces are obvious and sometimes a bit forced, so the overall image is marred by the lines.

Lily, Lady Merrill, was widowed shortly after her marriage to a man twice her age. She didn't want to marry him, but was coerced after she was abandoned by the man she loved, Devon Morgan, Marquis of Colton. Five years later he is engaged to a young debutante. Until, that is, his fiancé ends the betrothal after she receives a pamphlet titled Secrets of a Wedding Night, which discusses the horrors of the marital bed.

Lily is rumored to be the author, but no one knows for sure. The one rumor about her that isn't true is that she is wealthy. While her husband left a fortune behind, he left it all to his heir who gives Lily a paltry allowance, and thus she and her sister must scrape and scrimp to keep up appearances.

Devon, meanwhile, believes Lily jilted him because he wasn't wealthy, and is still bitter about the rejection. And now that she is (indirectly) responsible for the dissolution of his betrothal, he is seeking revenge, in the form of seduction.

This book has a few tropes and plot points that I know are deal breakers for a lot of readers. If virgin widows send you running, then don't bother with this book. If Big Misunderstandings make you throw the book against the wall, then this one isn't for you either. I don't have any particular issue with these plot lines, but if you're going to write something so cliché, at least make it relevant and interesting. In this book, these plotlines were neither.

While the protagonists had chemistry together, individually I wasn’t as much of a fan. Lily was elusive; I couldn’t quite get a handle on her character, and she seemed a bit inconsistent in her characterization. Devon, on the other hand, was a stronger character but did something so controlling toward the end of the book, he lost most of his credibility – and then the author made it worse by trying to put a romantic spin on it. Besides, the “seduction as revenge” bit doesn’t work for me at all. It’s manipulative and uses sex as a form of violence, which is never okay.

This book was just a collection of shopworn plot devices and clichés, which individually were okay if uninspired. Together, though, it caused a lot of eye rolling. This is a debut novel, and the author has some potential as the writing was sometimes quite clever. Unfortunately, the story lacked subtlety and originality.

-- Jane Granville

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