Friday, September 4, 2015

'A Noble Masquerade' by Kristi Ann Hunter


Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother's old school friend, a duke--with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she's heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother's new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men--one she's never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda's heart is far from all that's at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.


Sometimes, all I feel like is a light-hearted, amusing romance with a bit of action and some heartfelt moments. That is exactly what I got. For some reason, the Regency Era is the ideal time period to fit the bill. Maybe it's because it was such an age of extremes. While war raged with France right across the channel, an elegant facade was always kept in place on the home front.

I can relate to the heroine, Lady Miranda Hawthorne, as my well-meaning mother used to tutor me on socially acceptable behaviour until I didn't know if I was coming or going. In Lady Miranda's case, it was all to do with 'being a lady.' At least we no longer live in a time period when the expression, 'Be yourself,' was light years away. Miranda provides many moments of comedy, as she's free-spirited and spontaneous but has to rein it in. Even though she's memorised all the right moves, we always know her true self isn't far beneath the surface.

There is lots she has to keep secret, including the fact that she's been writing to her brother's school friend, the Duke of Marshington, since she was eight years old. They are more like journal entries, as she never actually posts them to the boy, even though she's heard rumours that he might be a kindred spirit. The idea of him is enough to help her pour out her heart. When her brother's handsome new valet catches her eye, Miranda mentions those feelings in her letters too. That's about the time when one of her letters accidentally makes it way to the Duke of Marshington for real!

We might imagine that women of her era and station (who couldn't even prepare a cup of tea) lived wonderful lives, but working hard at being ladies of leisure was a 24 hour job I would have found hard to take on. A lady can't even show the world such an unnatural weakness as sneezing if she is to be taken seriously. You can't help wishing a happy ending for her, and I found the hero very swoon-worthy and a perfect match for her. He's had a sad childhood, but is still resourceful and heroic. His sense of humour probably helped a lot.

I hope the future novels in this series focus on members of her family, and especially her two entertaining brothers. I'm sure their stories would be great.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for my review copy.

4.5 stars.

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