Twelfth Night Secrets
by Jane Feather, historical (2012)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-4527-2


Christmas is all about giving, so yes, it is time for publishers and authors to serve up overpriced "holiday books" as a way for us to keep giving to them, generously. Twelfth Night Secrets is far shorter than a full-length book, and it still carries a price tag of $6.99. Then again, it's for the holidays, and when it comes to authors and publishers in need, we shouldn't begrudge them for wanting to make a quick buck or two.

Lady Harriet Devere's older brother Nick was a spy for the great motherland, and because he was her BFF, she not only knew Nick's real job but also helped him deliver a message or two to his superior. Alas, Nick died on the job shortly after, and now, Nick's bosses want Harriet to put on her Nancy Drew cap and do some sleuthing for them.

You see, Nick had a best friend: Julius Forsythe, who is the Earl of Marlbury. Nick's bosses suspect that Julius might be the one who sold Nick out to the French. Julius is the guest at her grandfather's family home for the holidays, and since Harriet and her twin siblings will be there, she ought be in a good place to, you know, spy on him, go through his underthings, that kind of thing.

Oh, there are many secrets in this book. For example, Nick sang praises about his sister to Julius all the time to the point that you'd think he was growing flowers in the attic with Harriet. Strangely enough, however, Nick hadn't told Harriet about Julius at all - her grandfather knows Julius, but not her. Maybe Nick was jealous of the competition, since Harriet and Julius eventually go ga-ga over each other. Then there is the issue of what happened exactly to Nick. And what exactly is Julius doing with Nick's family? All these are secrets because I will never know the answers even after reading this book.

The mystery peters out eventually, as the badly contrived "Is he a spy?" angle turns out to be some cheap excuse for Harriet to suspect Julius of all kinds of things, not that this will stop her from asking him to give her a shag to remember. The twin siblings of hers are so happy, because Julius reminds them of Nick so it's like having Nick back in the family again. There aren't enough flowers in the attic, after all.

Twelfth Night Secrets feels suspiciously like the first few chapters of some aborted book with some quick and unconvincing resolution tacked on to pass the whole thing off as a complete book in its own right. Only, it's a tedious read, especially when it falls into a repetitive pattern of Harriet rather incompetently trying to get information from Julius and Julius seeing right through her even as he marvels at her supposed brainpower. There are also many filler scenes of the people in the house getting ready for the party, the twins running around alternating between being naughty brats and unrealistically precious plot devices, and Harriet repeating her suspicions about Julius. Reading this book is like experiencing a bad hangover the morning after a dreadful family get-together. Why did I even bother in the first place?

Still, as I've said, this time of the year is all about giving to the needy, so here's my $6.99 to the publisher and the author. I hope they get a nice hot meal or something with my money.

Rating: 58


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