Review: The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh by Ella Quinn

Format: ebook
Publisher: Kensington
Pub Date: November 7, 2013
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley

This wouldn't have been half bad if every plot device ever used in a historical romance wasn't crammed in here. I liked the characters a lot, but the writing itself was riddled with cliches and tired scenarios.

You have the not-so-secret-crush. The woman-dressed-as-a-man smuggler. The spies. The amnesiac. The trouble on the road home. Your token strumpet. It's like the author threw every possible twist into a Bingo tumbler and wrote what she pulled out at random. Any one of those would have been fine, but to this experienced reader, it was all a bit over the top. I'll suspend my disbelief for one of them. But altogether? Nope. (Please click on the review title to continue reading.)

There's still a lot to like here, though. There are basically three plot lines: the main romance, the secondary character/sibling romance, and the international spy/intrigue plot. Of the three, I honestly found the [spoiler!] brother's story line the most compelling. I wish this book were about him.

While there were problems with the plot, especially the way the three distinct stories were handled, the biggest issue with the book is the writing itself. I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to most writing problems. My grammar is atrocious, and I am not a novelist. When I pick on something, it's because it's REALLY noticeable. If it interferes with the reading,  I will mention it. And there's a lot to mention here.

"[...]it was if he'd touched a live flame." 
"Flames lanced through her as if she'd been hit by lightning." 
"a softness in his eyes that hadn't been there before." 
"Sinking down onto a chair, he groaned. 'Oh, God. What have I done?'"

There are so many more, but at some point I stopped highlighting them.  My eyes hurt from all of the eye rolling I did while reading this book. At times, it felt like I was reading a parody of a romance novel because it borrowed from some of the most cliched phrases, scenes, and literary set pieces I've read over the years.

If you aren't a picky reader, though, you might still enjoy this one. The author has potential. I just think her writing needs some refining to bring out a truly distinctive voice—and a picky editor to make her toss those very, very annoying cliches.

My Grade: C-

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…


  1. Hmm, I very much get what you meant. I was confused by those interwoven plot lines somewhat, but managed to find the good in the book. lol Or, it was just that I was too sleepy to be critical about the book.

    1. It's not awful, it's just too long, too busy, and the author needs some more original phrases. The characters were fine.