Miss Serena’s Secret by Carolyn Miller (+ The Reveries Reader Group!)
Today we have a review of one of the most confusing books I have ever read, Miss Serena’s Secret. I loved it and hated it and loved it. However, I’ve attempted to organize my thoughts in time to post this review on the US release day! Huzzah!
Now before we go any further, let me tell you about how we’re going to manage the reviews on this blog. You know I’ve got a lot of books to read and review as I’ve mentioned before. This is quite stressful.
But … when something is stressful, the best thing in the world is to take it one task – or in this case, one book – at a time! Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the Reveries Reader Group, a way to be accountable for your weekly reading and reviewing. More about that at the end of this post!
Title: Miss Serena’s Secret
Author: Carolyn Miller
Series: Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope, #2 (Read my review of #1 here.)
Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Setting: English countryside/London
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Source: from Netgalley (in exchange for honest review)
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Miss Serena’s Secret by Carolyn Miller
With devastating scars in her past, Serena Winthrop is sure no man can be trusted—especially not men like the far-too-smooth Viscount Charmichael. His reputation as a charmer and a gambler is everything she despises. And the young artist makes sure that this disreputable heir to an Earldom knows of her deep disapproval whenever they encounter one another.
Henry, Lord Carmichael, is perfectly aware of his charms to the women of the ton. He’s gambled with plenty of their hearts as easily as he does their husband’s money—it’s all in good fun to him. But lately he’s been wondering if there’s more to life—and confronting the idea that his actions might not prove worthy of the admirable wives his friends have found.
When Serena’s brother-in-law asks his best friend to protect his young ward, Henry promises to be on his best behavior and not woo her. But the more he learns of her, the more he realizes she might be his best reason for changing his character. Then the lady’s art leads her to London infamy. Now Henry must choose between the life mapped out for him as the Earl apparent, and the love of his life. And Serena’s secret may mean the end of his titled family line.
The second in a new series by internationally popular author Carolyn Miller is full of the same rich historical detail and evocative writing that readers enjoyed, and familiar characters make appearances here. The witty banter will continue to draw in fans of Jane Austen, Sarah Ladd, and Julie Klassen.
I’ll give the author credit for this: even when the book was finished, I still had no idea what Miss Serena’s secret was. I’m still in the dark. What exactly is the title referencing …?
More on that later, but for now let me just say this was a book I enjoyed immensely, was disgusted with when I thought about it afterwards, and have now come to the point where I’m like, “That was fantastic … except for [insert several different issues].”
I’ll dig into each of these issues in the book – as well as present the (many!) things I enjoyed about it. You can decide whether it’s worth reading as best you can for yourself.
This is where the book really failed.
I’m sorry, Ms. Miller, but I just can’t let you get away with this uncommented! I love your books, I need to read more and more of them, but I must say where the plot failed in the eyes of this particular reader. The book was “in exchange for an honest review,” after all. So here’s your honesty.
Much of the plot was based around the idea that Serena had a big secret that she can’t reveal no matter what. As I said in the intro, I still have no idea what the secret was meant to be.
We’re heading into spoiler realm, peoples. Fasten your seatbelts and please skim forward to the next section (Characters) unless you’ve read the book!
I was a bit confused about what happened in Serena’s backstory with the evil guy, Mr. Goode (take a moment to appreciate the irony).
I thought for the entire book that she’d been raped/forced to have sex with him … and the whole time I was like, “Girl. Why didn’t you just scream? Are you telling me there was no one in hearing of the art room in a private girls’ school for posh ladies when only a man and a girl were alone in there??? BAD SCHOOL! How do they even have a remotely good reputation!?!?”
By the way, Serena, having your reputation destroyed is preferable to being raped. #priorities
But towards the end, Catherine literally says, “She’s innocent” after Harry asks if they know Serena is infertile BECAUSE of this incident – which by the way, Harry, wouldn’t be a good gauge, but whatever. I guess he’s a guy who doesn’t know anything about all that, so I’ll let that slide.
Which means there was no sex, right? So what are we whining about? A kiss and maybe a little inappropriate touching??? Which is wrong and bad
(and that guy is such a creep help why did that stupid school be so stupid) … but it’s not exactly life-stopping?
Get used to having innuendo slung your way if you’re hanging out with creeps and are reasonable attractive. Just sayin’.
I can see how that would lead to you distrusting men, yes, so back story as far as THAT particular reaction makes sense, but not necessarily to the same level of scandal and whatnot, especially since apparently you weren’t caught (???), and your brother-in-law hushed it up anyway, so it’s not a big damage to anyone?
JUST DON’T TELL RANDOM PEOPLE, SERENA, AND EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY!!!
And you absolutely HAVE to tell your future husband that this occurred? And what happened to stop Mr. Creepy from going further? Did someone interrupt? I wish I knew, but I really have no clue whatsoever.
I think the author was probably trying to be vague for the sake of cleanliness (we’ll talk about the “cleanliness,” by the way, later), which I appreciate to the depths of my innocent Christian country soul. But there’s a difference between clean fiction and fiction that doesn’t explain, y’know … what actually happened.
Please explain the events in your novel, or it doesn’t matter because nothing happened. Novels = things happening in an orderly manner. So put the things happening in and make them orderly. Or it’s not a novel.
(Dear Ms. Miller, if you care to explain this to me in the comments, I will accept your word as fact and edit my review to include your thoughts on the subject. I won’t be offended. I know it’s a big no-no for authors to comment on reviews, and I encourage that, but I don’t mind. Really, let me know, and I’ll add it to the review so readers can see!)
[Special Place Just In Case Carolyn Miller Wants To Make A Comment On This Review Because I Think There Is Probably A Serious Explanation For This Plot Hole, And I Want To See It So Bad.]
OKAY, I WANT A MAN PRETTY MUCH JUST LIKE HARRY IN THAT HE CARES ABOUT HIS FAMILY AND HE WANTS TO BE GOOD AND HE’S GROWING IN GOD AND REALLY TALKING TO HIM AND IT’S JUST SO AWESOME EXCUSE ME WHILE I FAN MY CHEEKS.
Seriously, though, Harry was probably one of the most realistic, most fun, most charming, most intriguing heroes I’ve read in a while. He was just loads of HARRY, that being the only way I can truly describe him.
Serena wasn’t so bad either. I actually like cold-as-ice characters. Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey and my own Georgiana Farjon (Once a Stratton) and Isobel Selle (The Dressmaker’s Secret and Ivy Introspective) are prime examples.
Of course, what makes these characters brilliant is the fact that they usually have a reason for being this way.
Mary was mostly due to personality, but she became sooo much worse after the tragic events of Season 3 (*soft sobbing*). Georgiana lost her mother at a young age and then her father to his grief. Isobel also lost her mother and had the incredible weight of running a girl’s school (a much better one than the one Serena attended *coughs*) put on her shoulders at eighteen.
For Serena, that was supposedly her secret … but …? As I explained above (in the spoiler section of the plot section, haha), this doesn’t really hold out. So she didn’t make much sense to me.
I loved the angle with Serena’s art. That whole bit was quite interesting, and I really enjoyed it quite thoroughly. Everything about it was just so refreshing and interesting. (Apparently I don’t have dibs on the “drawing your love interest for therapy” angle, though. *Alice and I both pout*)
Melanie, Ellie, and Tom are all the best and deserve medals. I want to hug them all. Well, I want to hug Ellie and Tom all the time. Melanie was a witch for that one scene, but I forgave her. 😉
It was also fantastic to see the hero and heroine of the last novel, too. 🙂
Let me just comment really quickly on a couple points.
- Did Harry and Serena every discuss the fact that Harry has apparently have multiple dalliances?
- Please talk about this some time, you two.
- And don’t paint it as Serena being “suspicious” or “judgmental.”
- They need to talk this out and then move on.
- But you can’t move on unless you talk.
- Basically, not a fan of this reformed rake thingy.
- (Let’s write more books about pure guys who still have struggles but are still relatively pure. Because rakes are not cool; rakes are immoral.)
- There are other symptoms of pregnancy other than throwing up all over the place.
- Just sayin’.
- I’ve done tons of research (don’t ask), and some women DON’T throw up all over the place!
- My mother never really did. *shrugs*
- Also, it has gotten to the point that if anyone in a novel throws up, EVER, I assume they are pregnant.
- You don’t just “have the flu” in a novel. Flus only exist as things to think you have when you’re really pregnant.
- EVERYTHING ABOUT THE CHARACTERS’ CHRISTIANITY! YESSS!
- Ms. Miller is a genius of Christian character arcs.
- This whole book would have a genius theme except for that one thing about Serena’s arc not making sense which I’ve already ranted about way too much.
- Someone fire Ellie’s nanny.
- Also, blaming Serena, even if you’re mad, makes no sense.
- The nanny is the one who is being paid to watch your little brat, Melanie. Get it right this time.
- Everyone in this book talks about Serena being infertile a ton towards the end.
- It gets annoying after the third time it’s mentioned. Like, “Yes, I know, you already told me. I’m not an idiot.”
- Also, I call nonsense on some random doctor’s one opinion being the deciding factor in this.
- I mean, she’s still a virgin, medical science really sucked back then (like, really bad), and God can make miracles regardless.
- DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP! (The ship being #Searry. *cracks up at my own joke*)
I tried to think of something intelligence to say about the setting, but I couldn’t. There wasn’t really anything to say.
No noticeable historical inaccuracies – if there were, I was too distracted by Serena’s secret to notice them, haha – and the dialogue, descriptions, etc. all seemed well in tune with the time period, etc.
So I’ll just give up trying to be intelligence in this section and say, “Well done, Ms. Miller!”
The author has a style that reminds me a bit of Kristi Ann Hunter. That, my friend, is a huge compliment!
I deeply enjoyed it, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book for this reason alone! And … *coughs* I am so attached to the characters and storyline that it’s not even funny. If the next book does not come out soon, I may implode.
Sexual: some guy touches Serena and slings lots of innuendo at her then we cut out (and its insinuated that more happened – but it doesn’t???). Serena worries about her reputation and whatnot.
Serena thinks about Harry’s past dalliances in a Greek temple. Harry thinks about Harry’s past dalliances in a Greek temple. I assume there were dalliances elsewhere, but WE’RE FOCUSING ON THE TEMPLE, Y’ALL! (Did I mention that Harry has probably had intimate relationships with several women in a Greek temple???) (Just in case you didn’t pick that up the first three times, LET ME SAY IT AGAIN. HARRY –)
That whole bit could’ve been cut out, thanks.
Mentions of “enjoying your wife” and whatnot. Please stop. I don’t need to know. Only two people need to be involved in your private relationship with your spouse. I’m not one of them.
This is really bugging me right now for some reason. I’d better stop.
Other: multiple mentions of infertility, conception, trying to have a baby, whether or not someone can have a baby, baby-making (should also go in Sexual, but whatever), pregnancy, etc.
The epilogue, a parody: They’re trying for a baby. Or didn’t you pick that up? It wasn’t kinda implied? Maybe if we mention it one more time …
I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to think about Harry’s “seed” swimming around inside Serena. No, I’m not making this up. The exact quote was:
“Tiny bubbles of delight throbbed within as she consciously relaxed, encouraging her husband’s seed to seed within.”
I feel filthy just writing that! And further down the page:
His [the doctor’s] diagnosis – married relations with great frequency – have been enough to make her wonder if Henry had put him up to saying such things …
First, TMI! Second, is this book categorized as Christian fiction??? Because in the epilogue we have tons of innuendo shot between Serena and Harry, the knowledge that they’ve been having sex quite often and enjoying it greatly (thanks for letting us in on your private relationship, darlings), and we get gross details about how Serena is trying to have a baby.
By willing it to happen.
(Hmm, that wasn’t included in the birds-and-the-bees conversation I got. “And then you will your child into existence. And that’s where babies come from!”)
Also, I do realize the target audience was probably more adults or upper teens at the earliest (which is what I recommend – 16+ for this one, please!), but still. For a Christian fiction novel, this is extreme and unnecessary.
The whole epilogue could be cut save for the teaser for the next book. Which could’ve been left out because the first chapter of the next book is literally a paragraph-by-paragraph rewrite of the epilogue only without all the gross marital/conceiving-a-baby stuff that no one needed or wanted to read.
So yep. There ya go. 16+ ONLY.
This was really an excellent book. I know I spent the last 2,000 words (really? That much?) trashing it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed it deeply (except maybe the epilogue …).
I’d recommend this book to any adults or older teens who enjoy an excellent Regency romance with witty characters, excellent description, writing on level with Kristi Ann Hunter, early-1800s-ness on level with Julie Klassen, and a hero even Austen would be proud of.
Review by Kellyn Roth of Reveries Reviews
Reveries Reader Group
Am I the only one with a long list of books to read and no way of catching up? (At least not for the next ten years …)
I know people who are super devoted to reading – but I am not one of them. Yes, I make regular time for reading, and for the most part I get through my to-be-reviewed list in a timely manner.
However, there are hundreds if not thousands of books out there that I’d like to read – which I’ve either added to be TBR (to-be-read) on Goodreads or have stacked in my closet or buried on my Kindle – that I just haven’t gotten to yet.
It’s going to take some time, yes, but I say with faith, one can move mountains. Or stacks of books.
So … if you’re interested, join me in lowering your TBR! It’s pretty simple.
Every Wednesday you’ll check back here.
- I’ll have a new review up – or another post, but it will always be the Wednesday posts where you’ll find the updates.
- At the bottom of the review (like this one), you’ll see a list with a variety of categories.
- Every week, I’ll post these categories with the numbers updated from what they were last week.
How about you? How can being a member of the Reveries Reader Group help with your bookstacks?
- Well, in the comments of each of my updates, I encourage you to post a similar weekly update for your to-be-read (etc.) categories.
- Looking at the numbers – large as they may be – will help you slowly chip away the massive book stacks.
- Then add a personal comment below the categories/numbers with what you accomplished in the week.
- And whatever you do – don’t be discouraged by reverse progress (e.g. deciding you must add more and more books to your stack!).
Is that all?
- Nope! Every week I’ll be posting my goals for the coming week (reading-related), which I encourage you to do as well.
- There will also be a CHALLENGE!
- What will the challenge me? Well, it’ll change every week. But usually it’ll be something related to clearing your lists!
Maybe this sounds a little stupid, but I’ve been doing something privately for a couple weeks now, and it’s really helped.
My Update for This Week (July the 25th)
Already Read/To-Be-Reviewed: 12
Already Read/To-Be-Mini-Reviewed: 0 (just caught up!)
Goodreads To-Be-Read: 875 (don’t ask)
This week I read The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham (from my “Need-to-Read/To-Be-Reviewed” and my “Stuffed-in-Closet/To-Be-Read” stacks). This has been added to my “Already Read/To-Be-Reviewed” stack and removed from its previous stacks.
I also posted this review of Miss Serena’s Secret by Carolyn Miller and removed the novel from my “Already Read/To-Be-Reviewed” stack.
Read two ebooks from my Kindle.
Decide on next Wednesday’s review.
- Go through your Kindle/e-reader and delete all the books you’ve already read/make sure they’re in the Cloud, not taking up space on your device.
- Then go through each of your unread books and make sure you fully intend to read every single one of them. If you will never read them or they don’t look interesting, delete them.
- Organize your ebooks into folders based on genre, next-to-read, or whatever system you prefer if possible!
If you don’t have a Kindle/other e-reader, you can take a break for this week and just focus on your reading goals!
Should you be a super serious reader with a gazillion books to read, I wouldn’t recommend this to you. You probably already keep track of these things – and if you don’t, then it’d probably be too overwhelming to begin now.
But for someone who reads about a medium amount (a lot for a non-bookworm, but I’ve seen things on Goodreads that would blow your mind …), this is probably a pretty good way of tracking things!
And that’s it! I hope you’ll find it worth your while to keep track of your books as a member of the Reveries Reader Group. If not, I wish you happy reading anyway! Though begrudgingly. 😉
Also, don’t feel bad if you don’t have time for reading or for commenting on my blog weekly to update if you do have time for reading! 😛 I may sound like I’m trying to guilt you into it, but I’m just joking. I promise!
Have you read this book or any like it? Do you enjoy Regency romances? What would it take to scar you for life? Interested in joining the Reveries Reader Group? What reading goals do you want to accomplish this week? Will you accept the challenge? Also, do you appreciate how well the cover of Miss Serena’s Secret matches my blog? ‘Cause I sure do …