The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia QuinnGenre: Historical romance
Reviewed on February 2, 2015
Read on February 1, 2015
Iris Smythe–Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can't quite believe it's all true. When his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can't help thinking that he's hiding something . . . even as her heart tells her to say yes.
I have learned, through much heartbreak, that the things people work hardest to keep me ignorant of are the things most worth pursuing.
Main thought: Not one of JQ's best. Quite disappointed. Not certain how to rate this.
For once she was going to let herself be happy without knowing why.
Because sometimes it was best not to question a gift. Sometimes one simply had to be glad for it without knowing why.
My initial reaction: Well, this is awkward. I’m confused about what I’ve read so far. I could practically feel the awkwardness leaking from the pages. And not just from the characters, but from the storytelling itself. The book fell— short, coming from Julia Quinn, who happens to be my favorite historical romance author of all times, known for her signature wit, swoon-worthy-characters and (sometimes) sensible heroines. There were funny moments in The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy that reminded me I was reading something by JQ, but other than that, uhhhh, I don’t know what good I can say about this book.
In the beginning, there is no “spark” between Iris and Richard, and that’s the point, so I have no complaint about this. Why? They aren’t supposed to have a sizzling chemistry and experience insta-love because Richard’s courtship is obviously orchestrated and Iris suspects it.
The hero is handsome, charming, and nice— all admirable traits. Richard is a mysterious one and we don’t quite know his motives, except it involves keeping his secrets and having to do what he must. That includes hurting Iris.
The heroine, who was also a character in previous Symthe-Smith romance books, is renowned for her sharp wit and sly sarcasm while she can also be blunt and practical when the time calls for it. She will measure up opponents and calculate her moves before striking. She doesn’t seem the type to jump to conclusions or into a fight without examining the details or weighing the odds first. After all, she is quite the observer, and it’s in her nature to find proof to back up her evidence because she doesn’t completely trust everything to guts. I like all of this in her and will describe her in one word: feisty.
However, after she married, most of what makes her, her simply disappears. Whosh! Gone. Suddenly, it felt like I was reading about a different woman. Iris becomes awkward, foolish, rejected, and out of place. And as much as I understand why she explodes into tears . . . my natural response was: Dear god, woman, where did you go? I know you like I know the back of my hand and this isn’t you!
But then I understood where she was coming from as I kept on reading and allowed myself to sympathize with her. (I prefer not to bond with heroines by pitying them. Empathizing, yes. Pity, no.)
I admire how Iris is levelheaded and keeps her temper in check— that is until enough is enough. It’s evident only Richard can make her act this way. Things will come to blow between them soon enough, but let’s take some time to look at the irony displayed throughout the story.
Things get quite ironic one morning during breakfast when they have a very wordy conversation that foreshadows the inevitable. If you’ve read The Sum of All Kisses, you should remember that Iris’s cousin, Sarah, faked illness to get herself out of performing in the family musicale, and Iris confronted her about it. Nonetheless, whether you read it or not, this history is important in The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy and it is the topic of the exchange between Iris and Richard in this scene, which carries an unnerving weight for the future of their marriage:
“I believe she considered it when she was making her plans. But no, I do not think it was her primary motive.”
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters,” she said with a passion that surprised herself. “It matters why we do things. It has to matter.”
“Even if the results are beneficial?”
. . .
“You obviously possess a high capacity for forgiveness.”
Iris felt herself draw back as she considered this. “I never thought so,” she said.
“I hope you do,” he said quietly.
There was also another conversation (later on in the book) that drew me back to this line:
“There was no change in the outcome for you. Her actions, while underhanded, did not affect you in the least.”
While Richard made a point, it was ironic for this reason when they had this future conversation (first let me inform you that Richard proposed to Iris before he compromised her):
“I had no choice!” she burst out. “You made sure I had no choice”
“If you had a choice,” he said, “if your aunt hadn’t walked in, if no one had seen my lips on yours . . .” He paused, and the silence was so heavy and tight that she had to look up. “Tell me, Iris,” he said softly, “can you say that your answer would have been different.”
She would have asked for time. She had asked for time. But in the end, she would have accepted him. They both knew it.
You see what I mean?
Richard refuses to see how it concerns her if he had compromised her because they would have married anyways. Note that he had the same attitude towards the situation with Sarah. The results would have been the same, so are the “why” and “how” important? To Iris, it does matter why.
Not only did Richard shame her in front of her family, he did it for his selfish needs. Just like how Sarah (our previous heroine in The Sum of All Kisses in case you need reminding) had her own instincts— the most significant of them all is she looked out for only herself. To put it plainly, Sarah and Richard might as well become best friends because they are selfish cowards in my reality (at least Sarah used to be).
There is something else Richard said that stuck out to me; something about Iris not being a woman who demanded his attention, but earned it.
I am not sorry for this comparison, but Sarah demands your attention with her dramatic personality. On the other hand, Iris earns your attention with her sly humor and quiet behavior. At first read, anyone will overlook Iris in The Sum of All Kisses but eventually you’ll realize there is just something about her you can’t shake off. I knew I couldn’t, which was why I wasn’t surprised when she had her own book.
However, Iris is now part of my mental list of heroines I don’t like. I don’t like who she became and I blame Richard for it. I absolutely hate him. There is nothing in the world he can do to make me like him. He deserves hell and I wished Iris could have left him. He took EVERYTHING from her! Her dignity, her family, her chance at a REAL courtship and TRUE love.
For spoilers, go here.
Iris’s story isn’t that great and exciting, and the chemistry between her and Richard is lacking. I am fairly disappointed because it was yet another terrible ending such as the one in The Sum of All Kisses.
I didn’t like the drama and I didn’t like Iris by the end of this book. She forgave too easily, and I was pissed off and done with her stupidity as well as everyone else’s.
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy is worthy of three stars. Nothing more. Nothing less.
One star for enjoying the first half.
One star for Harriet’s play.
One star for the Iris I liked.