Sunday, November 24, 2019

Review - A Lady of Hidden Intent

Original Title: A Lady of Hidden Intent
Series: Ladies of Liberty, #2
Author: Tracie Peterson
Published: March 1st, 2008

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

First of all, I must say, I liked this book a lot better than the first one in the series. It just happened to combine a lot of elements I love, like big beautiful dresses and designs, masquerade balls, and architecture. If a book has that, I’m in. Overall, I liked A Lady of Hidden Intent, and although it’s not my new favourite thing, I must say, I like Tracie Peterson’s writing style, and I wouldn’t discard her other books for future reads.

One thing I particularly liked about this book is that the characters (at least the two protagonists, Catherine and Carter) have defined personalities beyond the romance storyline, having distinct voices, and, most of all, true passions of their own. I say this because, more often than not, when there’s romance involved, both characters tend to lose all sense of self, their beloved becomes their world and the reason to live, and they forget about everything else. They don’t have interests, or any kind of thing that helps to separate their lives from the romance they are going through. And I’m glad to say, that doesn’t happen here. I loved Carter Danby’s interest and passion for architecture, in despite of his family’s selfishness and disdain for him and his Christian values, and how he doesn’t forget to live because of them. As for Catherine Newbury/Shay, our heroine, she sews and designs dresses because she has too, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t passionate about what she does. I loved how she put her ideas together with overflowing enthusiasm, and how that mingled with love when she agreed to design Winifred Danby’s wedding dress, immediately grabbing a pencil and starting to sketch it, with true happiness at what she was doing. It is wonderfully done. And, by the way, Tracie Peterson clearly did her research, both about architecture and dressmaking, the first one with the descriptions of the buildings and the accurate use of the technical terms, and the second, on how each piece and fabric are described correctly, in full detail, with the dress construction, and the process to sew it together. Well done!

Overall, the main characters are deep, they have believable motives to do what they do, and their attraction isn’t instant, there’s a certain slow burn quality around them. But it doesn’t last as long as I would have liked, some things happen a little too soon for my liking. As for the rest of the cast, my favourites were both Carter’s sister, Winifred, and her betrothed, Leander Arlington. They are not the deepest characters ever and I wish their part in the general plot had been bigger, but still, I saw some good things about their development (even if scarce). I liked how Winifred evolved, from being an obedient daughter under her mother’s thumb, wearing the type of dresses and colours she said, and talking very little, to a more outspoken woman, more confident, and happier, thanks to Catherine’s influence and interest in her as a person, and not only as a potential bride. As for Carter’s mother, I felt really sorry for her and how she tried to live pretending her life wasn’t a complete disaster, believing her daughter to be in a certain way, when one or two words from Catherine proved how wrong she was, and that it was all a question of perspective –and honesty. She’s one of those examples that show that, no matter what you have, if affection isn’t included, it’s the same as nothing. It was very sad how she suffered through her life without any kind of love from her husband, a man who lived in a permanent bad mood, and didn’t hide the fact that he had a mistress. There was no respect between them, and although she did the best she could (or at least, in the way she thought best) to attract his attention, and to pretend she didn’t need him, it didn’t work. So she turned her attention to other things to fill that void, wanting to be unique, with an arrogance that described itself when she asked Catherine not to use the fabric for her dress to make another for any other woman, as she wanted her guests to die of envy and admire her beauty, her wealth… Her entire life was her Christmas party, and that’s rather sad, don’t you think?

As for Carter’s father, I found his character to be very flat. He always angry or annoyed, he prefers Carter to be out of his way, and mostly because he disapproves of his lifestyle and the way he treats his wife. Same as his brother, Robin, who also keeps a [pregnant] mistress named Elsa, in despite of being married to a woman (Anne) who never appears in the entire book, and I ended up wondering where was she. But, anyway, being that way, both selfish, uncaring, self-absorbing, and unhappy people, they represent everything that is wrong about being a family. Carter doesn’t want to spend time with them, and he mostly loves his little sister, as she’s the only one who shares his Christian values and wants to do the right thing. I was very happy when she and Lee got engaged, because Winifred deserved to end up in a family like his, with loving, happy parents, and a home that is everything hers isn’t. Lee’s parents love their son and each other, they show affection, they are proud of Carter’s accomplishments as if he were a family member, they are everything the Danbys could never be.

As for the other characters, except Catherine’s father (because he is the origin of her motives and secrets), are mostly background noise. Like the other girls who live in the sewing house, especially Felicia, whose entire personality is complaining, being mean, and jealous of Catherine, because of her talent and her position. All her energy is devoted to the evil purpose of seeing Catherine sacked, and although, yes, she had some moments in which I wanted to punch her in the face, overall, I thought she was poorly written. She had great potential, and everything about her could have been better, even as the villain.

The romance was sweet and I liked Carter and Catherine together, especially considering how they started on that very first dance, and how Catherine was forced to grow up quickly in only five years. I liked that he didn’t recognize her right away, and also his persistence to find out who she was, after not being able to shake the feeling that he had seen her before. But, just as it happened in the previous book, too much telling ruined the chances to show some good moments. For example, at one point, Carter says:

It’s funny, but thinking of Catherine as a part of my future gives me quite a feeling of contentment. We scarcely know each other, yet I feel as if we’ve been somehow purposed for each other. Does that sound completely daft?

Yes, it does, Carter. You barely know the woman! This line makes it feel like a fairy tale, where insta-love is a must. And then, his sister answers:

Winifred shook her head.
‘Not at all. It sounds very romantic. I believe Catherine would make a wonderful wife for you.

I’m surprised of how fast they dive into the idea of marriage. It’s the first woman who is truly kind to Winifred, and she’s already marrying her off with her brother! Oh my God! *face palm* That was way too soon.

True, I got excited when Carter found out the truth about her, waiting for him to call her Miss Newbury when they meet again, but it wasn’t like that. I’m a little disappointed about that, but it’s not something I fully hate. It’s just that I would have liked to see it happening, to read about Catherine’s eyes wide opening at the surprise, and seeing how he did it all out of love, and helped her instead of judging her… But nop. And speaking of that, when Carter visits New York to find out about her and talk to people who may know the truth, at one point he’s talking to Captain Marlowe, and when he asks why it is so important to him to know about Catherine and her situation, he says:

You see, I’m losing my heart to Miss Newbury. I would like to help her in whatever way will set her free from the past and allow her to marry me.

Granted, it was romantic, but WAY TOO SOON. That honesty was beautiful but everything was happening too fast! It bothers me when the characters start thinking about marriage when they don’t really know each other that much.

He could help –he was certain of this. It would be his gift to Catherine… and maybe in turn it would free her heart from worry and allow her to fall in love with him.

Again, why are you TELLING me this? I want to see it! Show me! Show me how they fall in love instead of telling me about it, let me see their feelings, the physical response of their bodies, their hearts beating faster and the witty exchanges that make life impossible without one another! Please!

By the way, The only scene in which showing is well done is the one during the masquerade ball, in the description of Catherine’s wonderful dress, her feelings when Carter kisses her, and the whole situation in general. I loved it.

Anyway, moving on. I want to talk a little about Catherine’s father’s situation. He was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, around slave trade, and he spent five whole years in jail, while Catherine worked her hands off to save money and get him safely out. And it was good that after all they went through, there was no way they could go back, to the society they used to live in and their lifestyle, and they didn’t. I just thought that the way the whole thing was solved was a tiny bit miraculous. It just got fixed and there was not a lot of explanation about it.

And finally, my favourite quote:

I want to believe in a new thing, Lord. I want that more than anything. I want to forget the old things—the bad and ugly things that have sent me here. Please let me see your hand in all of this. Let me see the path through this wilderness.

I can completely relate to this, after a lot of things I’ve been through, and I’m completely sure many others can too. We all have situations in which we think this way, and I like how realistic it is.

So, in short, it’s a good book, better than the previous one, but not perfect, though. There are many things I would have loved to see rather than have them told to me, but still, it’s still a yes for Tracie Peterson and her books, and I just hope they get better and better with each page I turn.


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