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The Stakes are Life and Death - an Editorial Review of "Most Secret"

Book Blurb:

Jane Stowe frequently finds her irritable father, peevish stepmother, and half brother Rupert a trial. Her only hope of eventual escape is her maternal uncle, Roger Markham, whose heir she is. When he dies under mysterious circumstances, Jane is the obvious suspect.

Alex Gordon, family misfit, has been sent to find out if there's anything to Markham's suspicions about the schooner Sea Mew. With half the Continent at war, and the Young Pretender recently landed in Scotland, the matter may be of critical importance. Once Alex ferrets out--with Jane's assistance--the connection between the Sea Mew and Jacobite activity, he is told to leave the rest to the professionals. But the professionals have no stake in saving Jane from the gallows or Rupert from a charge of treason.

Most Secret was a finalist in the OKRWA IDA2018 Historical Fiction category and in the Next Generation Indie BookAwards 2019 Romance category.

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Author Bio:

Kathleen Buckley has loved writing ever since she learned to read. After a career which included light bookkeeping, working as a paralegal, and a stint as a security officer, she began to write as a second career, rather than as a hobby. Her first historical romance was penned (well, word processed) after re-reading Georgette Heyer’s Georgian/Regency romances and realizing that Ms. Heyer would never be able to write another, having died some forty years earlier. She is now the author of eight Georgian romances: An Unsuitable Duchess, Most Secret, Captain Easterday's Bargain, A Masked Earl, A Duke's Daughter, Portia and the Merchant of London, A Westminster Wedding, and A Peculiar Enchantment. While a ninth is in production she is writing the tenth.

Warning: no bodices are ripped in her romances, which might be described as "powder & patch & peril" rather than Jane Austen drawing room. They contain no explicit sex, but do contain the occasional den of vice and mild bad language, as the situations in which her characters find themselves sometimes call for an oath a little stronger than "Zounds!"

Captain Easterday's Bargain was an Oklahoma Romance Writers of America IDA 2019 finalist, Historical Fiction category.

Most Secret was an Oklahoma Romance Writers of America IDA 2018 finalist, Historical Fiction category, and a 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, Romance category.

Editorial Review:

Mistress Jane, I regret to inform you your uncle is dead.” But he looked less regretful than stern.

She could only stare at him. The world seemed to have come to a stop around her, though she could still hear the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece.

I beg your pardon. I should not have told you so abruptly. Perhaps you should sit? Please permit me to offer my condolences.”

Yes, sit down, Jane.”

She edged her way to the nearest chair, feeling as if her knees might fold before she reached it. But even once she was seated, they remained on their feet.

How can he be dead? He was in robust health last week. If he was ill, why was I not sent for?”

When Jane Stowe's uncle dies under suspicious circumstances, the law initially suspects her as the prime suspect, considering that she is the sole heir and would benefit from his demise. Furthermore, her name was linked to the shrimps her uncle had consumed before his demise.

From the instant he laid eyes on Jane, Alex Gordon was convinced she had no involvement in her uncle's death, and he's determined to safeguard her from unwanted speculation and worst still, a hangs-man noose. However, Rupert, Jane’s half-brother, has been involved in some suspicious activities. Fearing the worst, Alex set out to discover the truth. Did the death of Jane's uncle have any connection to the Sea Mew and Captain O’Brien? And was Rupert simply a gullible fool in debt, or a traitor to his nation?

Words cannot express how much I enjoyed reading Most Secret by Kathleen Buckley. I do enjoy a good historical mystery and this book had mystery by the bucket load! I thought the story was very well executed and remarkably engaging. The hours flew by as I immersed myself in the joy of reading this book.

It occurred to me he might be interested in smuggled spirits or wine. He has always seemed to be a young man with expensive tastes. That’s the trouble with being reared with greater expectations than the family income

will support. Better to grow up in a household where it’s understood the sons will have to engage in some profession or genteel trade, as I did.”

There is quite a cast of colourful characters in this novel, and there are several interlocking plots that come together at the close of the novel. The reader is given little smidges of backstory which I found interesting and I really enjoyed getting to know the characters in this novel.

It seems to me whatever caused Captain O’Brien to poison your uncle must belong to the present, not the past.”

What was the favor?” she asked.

As I am already divulging more than I should, I’ll tell you. Mr. Markham and his friend had enough proof to have had him executed at the time of the 1715 rebellion. They let him go.”

Jane was a character that I instantly connected with. Instead of a daughter, Jane is regarded as more of a housekeeper by her stepmother. Jane's acceptance of her life comes with resignation, but she is not a wilting wallflower. She understands the intricate relationship between female capabilities and societal expectations. While some women entertain guests and search for a suitable partner, Jane prefers sneaking a read of her father's The Gentleman's Magazine to stay updated on news and more importantly, the war in France. Jane is a very brave heroine who is determined to find out who murdered her uncle and why. The accusation of her involvement in her uncle's untimely death is particularly painful, especially given the loss. She's perplexed by the motive of someone framing her. In this novel, Jane is a captivating character who certainly endures a lot. Nevertheless, she maintains her faith in what she knows and is resolute in uncovering the truth. I believe Buckley's depiction of Jane was exceptional.

Alex was instrumental in driving the narrative of this story. Balancing his duty to prove Jane's innocence with his commitment to protect his king and country drives him forward. He is greatly concerned about the threat posed by the Jacobite cause. Regardless of the personal dangers, he is resolved to uncover all he can about the rebels' intentions. Alex's ability to disguise himself and play different roles made him an interesting character to read about. The dynamic between him and his father was intriguing, and his nonchalant attitude caught my eye. Above all, I really enjoyed reading about him and thought his relationship with Jane was realistically portrayed.

Rupert, although very much a secondary character was still captivating in his own right. He is reckless with his and other people's money and he is in way over his head. He is a character that I neither liked nor loathed, but his actions cause a rippling effect throughout this novel which helped to propel the story forward. Likewise, Mr. Lattimer was another intriguing character who I enjoyed reading about.

I thought the plot was well-conceived, and the story moved at a good pace. Historical mystery enthusiasts will find this novel highly appealing. The historical details in this book are both luxurious and vibrant, giving readers a vivid sense of time and place. The extensive research put into the novel deserves commendation. Buckley has taken that research and created a story that resonates with historical accuracy. I truly felt like I stepped back in time while engrossed in this captivating novel. Kudos, Ms Buckley. The novel has been meticulously edited, with professional formatting that is easy on the eyes.

From its captivating opening sentence to its conclusion, Most Secret by Kathleen Buckley is a novel that commanded my full attention. This is a novel that warrants repeated reading. I'm really looking forward to diving into more books from this exceptionally talented author.


“Most Secret” by Kathleen Buckley receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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