From the Blurb:
For Ella Quinn’s bachelors, courtship is all about gamesmanship, until the right woman shows them how much they have to learn…
Since she was a young girl, Anna Marsh has dreamed of Sebastian, Baron Rutherford asking for her hand in marriage. But that was in another life when her brother Harry was alive, before she vowed to secretly continue the work he valiantly died for. Now as Sebastian finally courts Anna, she must thwart his advances. Were he to discover her secret, he would never deem her a suitable wife...
Sebastian has always known Anna would become his wife someday. He expects few obstacles, but when she dissuades him at every turn he soon realizes there is much more to this intriguing woman. Somehow he must prove to her that they are meant to be together. But first he must unravel the seductive mystery that is Miss Anna Marsh…
Anna Marsh has been in love with Sebastian since she was a little girl, but now she's all grown up she doesn't believe he would ever allow her to be the headstrong and independent woman she is determined to be, should they ever get married. Sebastian, however, is determined to prove her wrong, but first he'll have to learn what it means to date an independent woman. Meanwhile, Harry Marsh is just beginning to get his memories back, after two years suffering from amnesia during which his family believed him to be dead. On his return home he meets the delightful Emma, who helps remind him who he is.
The romance between Anna and Sebastian is very passionate. They have always been in love and through the novel it is just a matter of them proving to each other that they would be a suitable marriage match. For the most part, it is about Anna teaching Sebastian that he needs to learn that she isn't a woman who can be controlled. I liked that side of their romance, as while Sebastian was passionately protective, he had to learn that Anna could look after herself. Unfortunately, I didn't totally feel like I got to know who they were as individuals. I think this often happens when the hero and heroine of a romance already know and love each other at the start of a book, and it seems to be hard to get around.
While Anna and Sebastian's romance is ostensibly the main storyline of this novel, it is really only the beginning. We also have the romance of Harry and Emma, which was actually my favorite storyline, so much so that I wish it had been the main one. Harry is just getting back his memory after a shipwreck, and getting over the loss of his wife who he had met since, when he decides to return home and meets fellow traveler Emma. He defends her from a stalker, but soon realizes that she can defend herself after she prevents the stalker from attacking her with her own knife wielding tactics. He falls in love knowing that she is a capable woman, perhaps even falls in love because of this knowledge. Unlike Sebastian, he seems to have more confidence in both Emma and his sister Anna's capabilities and doesn't require a lesson in female competence, which made me love him the most. He is hesitant to commit to Emma, however, until he feels that he has totally regained his memory and knowledge of his self - so we also get a bit more about who he really is as a result. Plus, Emma is kick-ass for much of the story, though this weirdly diminishes a little once they get home.
On top of these two romances, The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh also includes a romance storyline following Sebastian's mother, a romance between Anna and Harry's estranged parents, and another quite strange storyline between Georges and Madeline, who come into the smuggling/suspense angle of this novel. Honestly, it was too many romances in one book. While I liked the double romance story line with Anna and Sebastian, and Harry and Emma, especially because I enjoyed the friendly dynamic between the four together, the rest became over the top and unnecessary. I don't love stories that jump around with too many perspectives and this one was a classic case of a good romance being made less by too many extraneous characters and storylines that could have just as easily been cut.
As a side note, there is a sort of suspense element to this historical romance, with the characters being involved in smuggling and spying, but it isn't too significant. This might disappoint some people who are looking for historical suspense, but I could have done without this part of the story altogether, as there was too much going on anyway.
The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh is a historical romance which beautifully captures the romance between two couples, and includes some awesome, strong heroines, but which suffers somewhat from extra unnecessary storylines. I'm looking forward to reading more from Ella Quinn, with the hope for some more focused plot lines to go along with her passionate romance and strong heroines.
The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh by Ella Quinn was published by Kensington Books on November 7, 2013 and is available from Amazon and Book Depository.
This book was given to Love Reading Romance in exchange for an honest review.