The Bonny Bride

Border Bride

The Carpetbagger's Wife

The Elusive Bride

A Gentleman of Substance

My Lord Protector

The Wedding Wager

Whitefeather's Woman

Lady Lyte’s Little Secret
by Deborah Hale
(Harl. Historical #639, $5.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29239-2
Lady Lyte’s little secret is she’s pregnant. (I’m not giving away anything. This is revealed early in the book.) Childless during the years of her marriage while her late husband fathered numerous illegitimate children, Felicity had believed herself barren. Her husband had married her for the wealth she brought to their union but scorned her for her family’s trade background. Her own family had little regard for her because she was not a son. Consequently, she suffers from that modern ailment: low self-esteem.

For reasons that are never fully explained, Felicity decided to engage in a love affair and chose Hawthorn Greenwood as her lover. He seemed quiet and unassuming and safe for a discreet affair. When she realized she was pregnant, she chose to end the relationship without further explanation. She intends to sell her house in Bath and raise the child in a quiet corner of the country.

Thorn arrives unexpectedly at her residence. Felicity’s nephew Oliver Armitage and Thorn’s sister Ivy have eloped. (An earlier story revealed that Oliver and Ivy eloped only because they regretted Felicity and Thorn had parted and wanted to force the two into each other’s company.) Both intend to track down the young couple and prevent the marriage. After discussion, Felicity and Thorn agree to pool their resources and follow the pair north. As they travel, they discover the depths of their feelings, but Felicity’s secret stands between them.

As I was reading Lady Lyte’s Little Secret, I had that strong this-must-be-a-sequel feeling. I felt certain that a previous novel must have dealt with the hero’s sister. It does only it’s the other sister. Numerous references are made to the hero’s married sister Rosemary and the difficulties along the way to happily ever after so I was surprised to discover that this book is contemporaneous to the romance of Oliver and Ivy, featured in the novella, “Cupid Goes to Gretna” in the Love Match anthology.

Lady Lyte’s Little Secret is a pleasant enough tale with not one but two likeable couples, but it has a serious flaw - its length. It’s unfortunate that Lady Lyte’ Little Secret wasn’t also a novella like its predecessor because there isn’t enough story to sustain a full-length book. As Felicity and Thorn travel from place to place, the story advances at a snail’s pace. Time after time I wanted to yell at the heroine, “Tell him now!” but she wasn’t listening. Of course, if she’d told him soon after she’d discovered her little secret, there wouldn’t have been a book at all, but even so Felicity’s persistent silence becomes annoying after a while.

Thorn has his own classic hang-up. His father had run through the family fortune leaving him with a pile of debts. Thorn doesn’t want to be perceived as marrying Felicity for her fortune. Just as he’s beginning to adjust to the idea that there are worse things than marrying a rich woman he announces he can’t possibly marry a woman who couldn’t give him children. “Tell him now!” I thought, but there’s that self-esteem problem.

Considering that I rather liked the hero and heroine, it sure was easy to become exasperated with both of them.

I found the book’s frequently slow pace aggravating, but the winning characters go a long way towards redeeming Lady Lyte’s Little Secret. Readers who don’t mind a slow-moving story may find this a good choice.

--Lesley Dunlap

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