Here we have three intertwining stories. First there are the traitors searching for some English smugglers willing to secure a cargo of spying Frenchmen. Then there is the courtship between Anna Marsh and Lord Rutherford, and finally there is Anna’s brother Harry, presumed dead, but very much alive in spite of the amnesia he suffered from the trauma of being shipwrecked. Together they interconnect to create a fascinating story filled with love, angst, intrigue, and betrayal.
The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh by Ella Quinn begins where Book 1 of the Marriage Game series (The Seduction of Lady Phoebe) ends, at the wedding of Marcus and Phoebe, two characters that are referred to throughout the book. It’s the end of October 1814 and Sebastian, Baron Rutherford, has decided it is time to marry the girl who lives “next door”. Anna, who adores her Sebastian, is miffed that he has ignored her since her come out, using his courtship of her best friend Phoebe as an excuse not to marry. When she overhears Rutherford tell Marcus he is looking for a comfortable, biddable wife, she realizes her personality does not fit the profile. She is intelligent, adventurous, industrious, and used to having her way, not at all the compliant wife that Sebastian described. So when the Baron proposes, Anna, unsure if he loves her or she is just a convenient childhood friend, rejects him. Sebastian, realizing he has taken her for granted, begins to woo her in earnest. Anna decides to be herself, so that he, too, will realize they won’t suit, but the more time they spend together, the more they realize that theirs is a love for keeps. Once Anna agrees to wed, the horny duo can’t keep their hands off of each other, finding all sorts of locations to fulfill their desires. Luckily the wedding date of November 30th is only a few weeks away.
In the meantime, Harry Marsh is on his way home, stopping off in London where he meets friends who help him regain bits and pieces of his memory. It is the beautiful Emeline Spencer-Jones (Emma) from the West Indies who assists Harry the most. They are both traveling towards London and Harry always seems to be around with his gentlemanly assistance in times of crisis, such as with a broken wheel or a pesky, bothersome ruffian. Emma is sympathetic to his plight and encourages him, correctly advising that his memory will return once he is in familiar surroundings. Harry’s eventual arrival home is a pleasant shock to everyone (cook faints).
Finally, Harry, Anna, and Sebastian work together to assist the home office in intercepting the illegal “cargo” and capturing the Englishman who has been working for the French. Intermediary Georges finds himself in a difficult situation when he discovers that one of the packages is his childhood friend and neighbor, Madeleine, who should have been back home safe in France. Their adventure begins where this book ends in the novella, Madeleine’s Christmas Wish.
Although there are a lot of characters and events in this story, at times it drags. After a while, even the most avid romantic gets sick of sex scene after sex scene. The conversation is often stilted and mundane despite the excitement in the plot. However, the reader can’t help but be fond of all the players, the various protagonists and the additional subplots involving their family members. This is not a quick read, but a worthwhile book to explore, despite the fact that most of the story takes place in Kent, not London, and there are no fancy entertainments except the various weddings. Definitely a different sort of Regency Romance.
Three and a half stars.