published: 7th May 2019
Much to her father’s dismay Lady Louisa Kathryn Alice Present is quite solidly on the shelf. She shows no interest in finding a husband after three long seasons of, well, not particulalry trying.
She begins this season anew, somewhat jaded and uninterested in yet another season and the annoyance she’ll certainly face from her family when she remains with them, yet again.
But a single glance from one of the new set has her reeling— straight back into a potted palm.
Maitland Alice Elliot-Rigsby has trained to be the wife of a Duke…
Or perhaps a Viscount, an Earl at the very least. She has only her training — and a rather healthy dowry — to recommend her.
So when she catches the eye of a viscounts daughter her own mother is thrilled at the prospect.
Louisa hasn’t ever trusted anyone the way she trusts Maitland and it frightens her, but how will they survive a world in which the both of them must marry?
Galley provided by publisher
TWs: rape, homophobia, physical abuse, lesbian has sex with a man (consensual but uncomfortable)
I’m always on the lookout for f/f historical fiction, because if there’s anything I think is lacking it’s that. So, when I saw this book, I was very excited. I saw the content warning for sexual assault, and I was like, okay, but still hopeful. And then I read the book.
For me, this is one of those books that could have been so good, but just fell into some grim homophobic tropes. The potential was there! But it just wasn’t met.
The Lady and Her Secret Lover is about Louisa and Ellie, two members of the ton, whose mothers are pushing for them to find husbands, and soon. But neither of them are all that interested in marrying, and instead find companionship in each other.
What I Liked:
- There was an unambiguously happy ending! There was a found family with a polyamorous throuple (urgh that word)! They were finally left in peace!
- That was, unfortunately, about the sum total of what I liked.
What I Disliked, or Even Hated at Some Points:
- I’m gonna start with dislike and build up to hate in this.
- I wasn’t the biggest fan of the writing, to be honest. It was kind of ridiculous and purple-prosey, but if that had been the least of my issues I could have dealt with it.
- Instalove? I raise you love (and associated gushing) at first sight. As in, literally first sight. They had only met a total of four times when they started confessing their love for one another. Even when two people click most naturally, surely you’re not going to be confessing love after four meetings. It was all “oh she’s an angel”-this, “oh she’s so lovely I can’t speak”-that. It was tedious, to be honest. At a quarter in, they had met four times, kissed once, and already planned to run away and live as spinsters (seriously, if they had followed through with that plan, we’d all be a lot happier). This spanned about five days of the book.
- Louisa’s father has someone rape her (for god knows what reason, to check if she’s a virgin or something? I don’t know because I skimmed it). This is a genuine plot point. And a suspicious part of me wonders if this was some kind of corrective rape. Because, earlier, we get a hint that Louisa’s stepmother knows about her and Ellie, so is it such a huge jump to think maybe her father knows too? Either way, it was awful, but had it been given the due it deserved, then maybe it could have been less so. Instead, it’s relevant for a few chapters and then forgotten. Did you know that rape and sexual assault are among the traumatic events associated with the highest rates of PTSD? So to have Louisa seem to forget about this within a few days (granted she also gets beaten up by her father and sent to a home for reformed prostitutes – maybe it all blurred into one and she repressed it), smacks of it being not dealt with particularly well. But then again, we also get a three year time jump immediately afterwards, so don’t actually get to see any of Louisa. Maybe that’s it.
- Okay, this is the one that really gets me angry. Ellie is a lesbian. She shows no attraction towards men (in the text, she says she wouldn’t ever want to marry a man), she only only shows attraction towards Louisa. She’s a lesbian. She marries Hugh so that she and Louisa, and he, Charles and Amelia, can all live together without society being suspicious. There’s a wedding night. Ellie wants kids. Can you see where I’m going with this? Hugh and Ellie have sex. Now. If Ellie was bi, I’d have no problem with this. But Ellie is a lesbian. And, sure, it’s consensual, but it’s the most uncomfortable a sex scene has ever made me. Neither of them really want it. Amelia has to come in and turn Hugh on, so that he can actually get it up. Ellie literally talks about “close your eyes and think of England”. I saw someone refer to this scene as selfless. I would use the word sickening instead. Because it feels kind of violent, for lack of a better word, to have your lesbian character have sex with a man, no matter how consensual it is. And I know that this probably happened a lot in those days, but when you’re reading it in 2019 and the author has made this conscious decision? It’s bad, scoob. And that’s why I also added it into the content warnings.
So, overall, this book could have been so good. The found family? Letting lesbians get a happy ending? It had the potential. It just didn’t live up to it.