An unexpected passion ignites as secrets are exposed in Sophie Barnes's captivating Regency-set romance
Despite the diversions offered at Thorncliff Manor, former spy James, the Earl of Woodford, has one purpose in staying there. He must find an encoded book that exposes a conspiracy within the British aristocracy. And he must do so without revealing his purpose to the clever, tempting Chloe Heartly. The lady has a knack for appearing wherever it is least convenient. In the library. In the salon. And, especially, in his arms . . .
Somewhere within Thorncliff's labyrinth of rooms lies the journal Chloe desperately seeks. When she realizes the brooding, handsome earl is hunting the same quarry, Chloe enters into an uneasy partnership. But in the face of public danger and enemies hiding in plain sight, both must decide how much they're willing to risk to solve the mysteries of the heart.
Barnes's second Secrets at Thorncliff Manor just-post-Regency romance (after Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires) follows James, who is an earl and a spy, and Chloe, a well-born widow whose husband abused her, as they search the aforementioned manor for a book in which evil antimonarchical conspirators called the Electors have for some reason decided to write a list of their members. James must learn that he cannot devote his life entirely to espionage, Chloe must learn to come out from under the shadow of trauma, and the reader, unfortunately, fails to learn why a conspiracy against a Hanoverian monarch is being run by the soi-disant Electors when one of the hereditary titles of the Hanoverian dynasty was Elector of Hanover. The book's Electors are anarchists or something similar it's never made clear. This historical blunder is only one symptom of the general muddiness, inconsistent characterization, melodramatic plot, and tangled verbiage throughout the novel. There is a distinct sense that the characters are continually ducking into secret passages and secluded rooms solely in order to avoid bumping into the first book's plot, as otherwise one manor, no matter how sumptuous, simply would not be large enough.
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A good mystery novel
Though this was more mystery than romance, it was still a great book. The storyline was so different and very refreshing from other historical stories.
watch a spy unravel clues with a greenhorn accomplice.
3.5 Stars – rounded
I think I first discovered Sophie Barnes through her Kingsborough Ball series, and after reading and enjoying the first in her Thorncliff Manor series, I knew I would read The Earl’s Complete Surrender. This book combines mystery, romance and a bit of atmosphere to bring the story to fruition. James, an Earl, is a former spy, but at Thorncliff to find a particular book that contains evidence of a conspiracy within the aristos. Chloe is just a year into widowhood, not particularly comfortable in a return to society, but also desperate to find a particular journal.
Both of these characters are more unusual than common in historical romance: Both are bookish, logical and quieter people, although they come to those traits for different reasons. While it would be logical to find a book in the library, as the two search that particular room and try to hide their own reasons, the moments for them to interact give a tentative and testing feel to their romance.
As with the first in this series, Barnes has built secondary characters and the setting nicely, giving the couple a ‘star billing’ while not necessarily diving headfirst into the romance. In fact, the romance in this story is often sent to the back burner in lieu of the mystery, as danger levels increase and the two combine forces, more than a bit reluctantly, to find the book.
Slowly we are given bits of both Chloe and James’ backstories and history, all the better to help us understand their reluctant attitudes toward relationships. This is a story that allows the connection to build slowly, and while I found that the ‘big OH” moment that solidified their connection with vivid and visceral chemistry never really rose to the levels I hoped for, the path and build of their connection was solid and well-defined. Not as sexy or exciting as some, but certainly a relationship that is built on solid foundations, if not explosively passionate.
Certainly a solid book in the series, with a touch of hesitation and restraint in the chemistry of the lead couple that kept the romance secondary to the threads of mystery and grand plots as we watch a spy unravel clues with a greenhorn accomplice.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The Earl's Complete Surrender
It was lovely.... Wonderful story... Very enjoyable.