Monday, December 2, 2019

Review - A Lady of Secret Devotion

Original Title: A Lady of Secret Devotion
Series: Ladies of Liberty, #3
Author: Tracie Peterson
Published: August 1st, 2008

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

One of the first things I noticed about this book’s general tone was that it was definitely going to be darker than the other two. Overall, I liked it, but not better than the previous ones. The books in the trilogy are pretty much on the same line, quality-wise.

One thing I noticed this book has –and the others don’t– is the number of relatable moments, in which I thought, “I’ve been there too”. Right as it starts, a few paragraphs into the first chapter, Cassandra Stover, sitting in a park, tired of searching for a job, became a relatable character, as it says:

She glanced heavenward at the wispy white clouds and tried to imagine she could hear God answering her with some profound wisdom that would change her life.

Christian or not, I believe it’s exactly how each of us feel at one point, our level of despair so great that we look up asking –anything, anyone– for the answer we so urgently need. I couldn’t write this review without quoting this part, simply because when I read it, I stopped for a moment, and thought about it. I didn’t want it to go unnoticed.

But after that, things just solved too fast. We are not two pages into this book, reading about Cassie’s unemployment and struggle, that it gets solved, and by no less than a woman who is a good person, offers the perfect position for her, and gets to love her as if she was her own daughter.

In general terms, I liked Cassie Stover. She’s a sweet, smart, resourceful woman who grew up quickly by necessity, who is not afraid to do whatever it takes to ensure her family is taken care of. She feels, hopes and fears the same way any person would, and that is well done. I think that, even though Catherine Newbury, from A Lady of Hidden Intent, was my favourite heroine in the trilogy, because of her passion for design and her determination, Cassie is definitely the next in line, because of the way she talks, and how she speaks her mind no matter what. But even so, there were some things she said that had me re-reading to make sure I had seen everything correctly, because I couldn’t believe her not to have the half a brain required to sort things out for herself. Look:

- At one point, Mark tells her his real reason to be in Philadelphia, which is not business, but catching the man who killed his friend, and she asks “If you are here to find his murderer, why not shout it to the world?

Oh, my God, Cassie, please, tell me you are joking. *face palm*. One thing is being naïve, and another, this stupid. I’m sorry, but no.

- Later, when Sebastian Jameston tells her she could own everything in her mother’s house as his wife/mistress, and she, of course, refuses, telling him she nor loves him or wants anything that belongs to him. And he says “Love? Who said anything about love? I hold no store in such fairy-tale ideals. I merely want you. I have no love for you.

True, it’s cruel, but also too obvious. I don’t think nor Cassie nor us need to be told that so literally. I think that after dealing for so long with Sebastian Jameston, Cassie should know better than to tell him she could never love him. Does she even thought he would care about something like that? After all, we are talking about a guy who had no qualms about killing someone.

And then:

- Cassie sends for the doctor because Mrs. Jameston is ill, and he suggests bed rest, after she fainted in an attempt to fulfil his son’s selfish demands. And Cassie says “Perhaps he’s thought us all rather silly, suggesting Mrs. Jameston remain in bed. If it comes from her doctor, surely he will listen.

*face palm* As I said before, one thing is being naïve, and another, completely dumb. At this stage of the game, I have to ask, do you really think he will care? Do you, really? Hasn’t he proved, over and over again, that he doesn’t give a damn about his mother, except to get money from her, and that the only thing he wants is for her to die once and for all so he can have access to everything? Come on, Cassie, don’t do this to me, or to yourself. I thought you were smarter than that. Have half a brain, and you’ll get there.

Ok, Mark Langford… I guess I have to talk about him. I liked him, but in a way or another I thought he could have been such a better character. I liked his attitude, how he smiled at Cassie from the very start, and the exchanges between the two, with ironies and funny lines. I also thought realistic how he felt towards God, how he felt forgotten by Him, having lost loved ones in unfair situations. I think it is relatable, and that sooner or later, we are all there at some point. I liked how he took the pretending game a little too far, falling in love with Cassie, although I have to say, it had a tiny bit of a cliché around it. The fake relationship that after a while is not so fake anymore, the kisses they share that are not just an act… Yes, we’ve seen this before. The only thing that felt out of place was the train accident, in which he lost his memory. It was like too big of a thing that came out of nowhere, and went out of the picture so easily, and I thought that perhaps, with a smaller, less complex incident, the author could have gotten to the same point. But then, it was well done how Tracie Peterson added God’s purpose to it, because, as far as Mark could remember his wife Ruth and his friend Richard, their connection to God, he would never have a genuine, personal experience with Him. So even though it’s not the best book ever, that part was good.

The romance, sadly, was not my favourite part. Just like in the other two books, the heroine thinks way too soon of the hero as husband material, and for me, that I enjoy a good slow-burn relationship, that is not the best way to go. Everything was happening too soon, before giving us the time to savour it and enjoy the build up of their romance. Although I enjoyed their conversations and how Cassie couldn’t refrain her tongue, having some of the funniest lines in the entire book, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t fully like it, and here are some examples of why:

- At one point, Mrs. Jameston teases Cassie about Mark, and she says: “I find his company… easy to bear.” Wow, calm down, you tiger. *eye roll* I get that it was meant to have this cute effect to make us giggle, but it didn’t work for me. Sorry.

- Later, it says “How wonderful it would be if she were married to Mark and had the right to let him hold her so intimately.

And then:

- “He was starting to have feelings for the woman—feelings that were vaguely familiar—feelings he’d vowed to never have again.

All these things they feel, how they fall in love, happened way too soon for my liking. And also, there was too much telling around their love story. At certain point, it says:

- “She was losing her heart to this stranger.

All I could think was “Don’t tell me this. Show me.

I guess now it’s time to talk about the villain, Sebastian Jameston, Cassie’s employer’s son. I didn’t like him, but sadly, not for the right reasons. I mean, the guy is hateful, and a piece of garbage, but other than that, he had no depth, and no personality. We know from the start that he is involved in some kind of shady business, around smuggling, but it never gets very clear what exactly his dealings are about, neither we get to know how he got involved in that world of crime, in the first place. Everything about him is plain obvious. His essence is being evil, selfish, greedy, lustful… Every bad quality is summed up in his character. It was the most evident thing in the world he was the one making his mother sick through poisoning her food. Hadn’t Robbie said he had in mind to alter her food, it would have been so much better, because it would have added to the mystery.

Some of Sebastian’s evil lines are:

- “There is always someone of a corrupt nature who is willing to see things my way.”.

- “I will have to find that price and pay it. Or perhaps just steal what I want, as I often do.”.

A more obvious and stereotypical villain, it never was. He talks to himself in those terms. It’s so cringy… And not subtle at all.

And, honestly, doing all that because of resentment towards a parent… It’s exaggerated, yes, but it doesn’t mean that it’s unrealistic. It happens in real life, there are many cases in which criminals are such because of neglecting parents. Sebastian Jameston is a psychopath and for that, I don’t think his mother is to blame. She may have done things wrong in the past, but it doesn’t justify his son trying to kill her, so I consider it the work of a mentally unstable person. I understand his anger, but nothing changes the fact that his character is pure evil, and that it could have been better written.

Ok, moving on.

One thing that definitely made me take a second look, and that I have to mention, is this line that Mark has:

- “A woman needs to know that she is safe and protected –that she’ll be provided and cared for.

Careful, Tracie Peterson! This kind of thing can’t be written just like that. I know this was published over ten years ago, and that such sentences may have been acceptable to certain people, and in certain time periods. But nowadays, I wouldn’t risk putting it in a book. Readers, right now, don’t react to this type of sentences the same way they would one or two decades ago. Not with the current feminist movement taking place all over the world, and considering that this trilogy is focused on women with their own opinions and mindsets, and the strength to change their lives and fend off for themselves. Mia Stanley, in A Lady of High Regard, is clearly a feminist –although she doesn’t literally say it–, and she stands up for women who are not in her same social station, but need help nonetheless. And after a heroine like that, this sentence really puzzled me, and mostly because Cassie does not contradict Mark… especially after she was raised almost entirely by her mother alone, a woman who proved to be perfectly capable of raising two children, and earning her keep, on her own, without the advantage of being “provided for” and “cared for” Mark speaks about.

And also, it’s weird that Cassie doesn’t have anything to say about it, given that we saw she has no qualms in answering Sebastian Jameston nor has the ability to refrain her tongue, being naturally ironic and sarcastic in her words.

And finally, my favourite quote:

I must fight against the regret that would see me defeated. I cannot change what has happened, but it needn’t separate me from a happy future.

I consider this a lesson for life, from Mrs. Jameston. Something to never forget.

Oh, and by the way, what’s the deal with naming people and animals after cities? Mrs. Jameston’s two deceased sons were named Bristol and Plymouth, and Mark’s horse is named Portland. Is there some sort of meaning or intention behind choosing these names? I ask because I have no idea.

Anyway, in short, I liked this book (and the trilogy), but in many ways I thought it could have been so much better, perhaps if each book had had more chapters. I liked Tracie Peterson’s style and characters, overall, and although I hope my next reads by her are better than these three, it’s a yes to her other books.

Fingers crossed!


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