Dark Seduction

Deadly Affairs

Deadly Illusions

Deadly Pleasure

A Lady at Last

Perfect Secrets

The Rival

The Third Heiress

Secrets by Brenda Joyce
(Avon, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0380-77139-4
This is one of those books that needed to be condensed. There was a major amount of superfluous whining from both characters along with rather drawn out scenarios involving secrets that the reader knew but the characters were oblivious. There was a good story in here, but it was lost in such a mess that it was difficult to enjoy. Secrets made the reader wish there really were more that was secret.

Regina Shelton is an heiress from England visiting California in 1899. When on a train from Texas to San Francisco, she jumps off the train during a robbery. Don’t ask why…it was never explained why she felt the need to jump when no one else did. But I digress. The scene shifts to later in the day when she is found, conscious but with a bump on her head and multiple bruises on her body. Her rescuer is handsome and definitely a ranchero. He calls her Elizabeth and that is when she discovers that she has no memory…she doesn’t know her name, her past or her future. The man explains that she is Elizabeth Sinclair, the affianced woman for his brother James. So off they go to Templeton followed by a trip to the ranch, Miramar.

Slade Delanza rescued Elizabeth thinking it was his duty to his deceased brother James. Slade is the middle son of Rick Delanza. James was the perfect heir, Slade the renegade who left at fourteen and only recently returned and Edward, the youngest, a carefree man who is just coming into his majority. There is a lot of family history involving Slade’s mother who left when Slade was only fourteen months old. He was essentially raised by the housekeeper, who both he and James considered their mother. Edward is the result of wife number 3, who is still there. Victoria is a scheming selfish woman who wants Edward to have it all.

Elizabeth Sinclair is the daughter of an old friend of Rick’s, and she was betrothed to James for five years. The plan is for her to marry into the family, bringing much needed money to help Miramar survive. Without the money, the bank will foreclose and the land that has been in the family for generations will be gone. Slade is now the heir apparent and is expected to convince Elizabeth to marry and do so quickly.

Since Elizabeth/Regina has fallen for Slade, she does reluctantly agree to this plan, despite misgivings galore and Slade’s apparent anger at the whole situation. This is especially aggravating to this reader when Regina regains her memory two days before the wedding and doesn’t tell anyone. After all, she loves Slade and is sure once married, he will show he loves her too.

Needless to say, Slade’s misgivings have to do with marrying a woman who loved his brother and doesn’t even remember him. How can he marry her and make love to her when she will hate him once she remembers the love of her life? But sense doesn’t often enter into reality. I liked Slade to a point, primarily because he does recognize pitfalls when they are coming at him. But needless to say, they marry, they split up after a big fight and we are now into the next part of the book which could be subtitled “Are we ever going to just talk and figure things out or will be always jump to the wrong conclusions and spend our time outside of the bedroom fighting?” This section lasts interminably with complications such as Regina’s family, Slade’s friends from San Francisco and misinterpretations galore.

Sometimes when reading, a story can be convoluted but with strong characters, some of the action can be forgiven. In this case, Slade was redeemable, but even he was so hard headed at times that he acted childishly, storming off rather than working things out. Regina was a strong willed woman who stood up to her father, than dissolved in tears when confronted with a little anger from Slade. And the whining the two did in their heads to justify their childish actions led me to dislike them on and off throughout the story. It is hard to root for someone who one doesn’t respect.

By the time the ending came, I was thrilled. Not because the two finally came to their senses, but because the story was finally over. I don’t think I have ever read Brenda Joyce before and sadly, Secrets won’t make me run out and read any of her others.

--Shirley Lyons

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