If you’ve been following along with this project on mine and Dani’s respective blogs, you may recall that we tried to read To All the Roses last time and both of us DNF’d the book. So, as you can imagine, my expectations weren’t super high going into The Secret and I was really nervous I would DNF it too. Instead, I was so in love with it, I read it in one sitting. And after raving about it with one of my coworkers, I’m now in possession (borrowed) of the sequel, which has me super pumped. And still shocked. Anyway, we paired The Secret with one of my favorites from Talia Hibbert, Wanna Bet? I’m going to be honest and admit that I didn’t reread it for this post because I’m swamped trying to catch up on ARC reviews (someone smack my hand the next time I try to click request, for real), but I still know that it’s one of my top three of Talia’s books. Her traditionally published books keep slaying me and knocking Wanna Bet? down, but that’s okay. She’s just so talented. And fortunately, Dani really liked it too, though unrequited love is never going to be her favorite thing. Anyway, let’s dive in.
The Secret follows Judith Hampton, a woman who is English through her mother and Scottish through her father. She made friends when she was a child with Frances Catherine and she promised Frances Catherine that she would be with her when she gave birth. FC is married to the brother of a Scottish laird and she’s adamant her husband has to go get Judith. Instead, the Laird himself goes to get Judith, convinced he’s going to have to kidnap her to get her to come to Scotland. Iain is stunned by Judith’s ready to go attitude and continues to be bemused, baffled, and incredibly intrigued by her. There are definite 90s power dynamics at play, but I still loved this book.
Dani described Judith as “an odd mix of smart and idiotic,” which feels apt. Judith has spent years studying midwifery so she can be prepared to be by Frances Catherine’s side and she generally seems quite competent. But there are times when she does things that just seem really dumb. Despite her periodic moments of stupidity, she was a fun heroine to follow and it was easier to cheer her on as she fought the traditional gender roles this place had steeped into every aspect of its culture.
In all honesty, the worst part of the book was the sex. Dani pulled out the “barrier of her virginity” part and I just kept cringing as her first time was described. And I’m just going to throw this in here too, the pregnancy pains were called like the pain of Eve and there was some serious weird stuff going down with the local church and I was not here for that at all. And the evil official midwife. I was not a fan.
But all in all, Dani and I both really enjoyed our reread and I think both of us are thinking of picking up the next book soon! It was just so easy to get swept up in the romance and the characters and the politics of the town, and it was an engrossing and enjoyable read. So a win with caveats, but a win nonetheless!
Wanna Bet? is a beautiful friends to lovers story, probably my second favorite just behind Scoring Off the Field, wherein Jasmine needs a place to stay because her flat has flooded. So she moves in with her best friend, Rahul, who has been in love with Jasmine basically since they met. But Jasmine has strict rules about not mixing friendship and romantic love. However, the forced proximity of living together really tests Jasmine’s rules about this and it’s fantastically delightful.
Dani’s first texts to me about Wanna Bet? were “Omg, the pining in Wanna Bet is going to be the death of me” and “I literally couldn’t take it anymore and had to skim ahead to reassure myself.” Fortunately, despite the frustration that comes with knowing these people are CLEARLY meant to be together even when they’re being stubborn, Dani still mostly enjoyed it. That said, she did feel that at times it veered into toxic due to Jasmine’s adamant stance that she couldn’t have a relationship paired with Rahul’s long standing love for her.
I think Dani makes a great point regarding the toxicity and so I want to say something that spoils a tiny bit of the plot. Skip this paragraph if you don’t want to see any plot spoilers. So, Talia is really, really talented and one of the things, craft wise, that I think she did here that was utterly brilliant was utilize the cold storage concept. Jasmine and Rahul separate for a good bit of time in this book and that’s vital and imperative to the eventual success of the HEA. I don’t always think cold storage is enough and I think it’s a careful line to walk, but in Wanna Bet we have a character who doesn’t feel like she can trust in love or that forever would ever work. It’s so clear that Jasmine needs to work on herself before the two of them could successfully build a relationship together. And Rahul really hasn’t been good about having boundaries to protect himself when it comes to Jasmine. And so this time apart really works because we see Jasmine doing the work and Rahul figuring out things himself. Ultimately, when they come together for real at the end, it feels like a hard won HEA and that epilogue is everything! Dani is an especially big fan of Amit despite not usually caring much about kids in epilogues.
Okay, no more spoilers. In my opinion, Dani will have more success with almost all of Talia’s other books and I’m so excited for her to read more from one of my favorites! But even though unrequited love doesn’t really work for Dani, this book still executes what it does so well and I think we’re both glad it was on this list! (Dani says she concurs and is happy to read Talia anytime!)
Our next set of books is Velvet Song by Jude Deveraux (in which we’re both hoping my second Deveraux will work better for me than the first!) and American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera. You’ll have to keep an eye out on Dani’s blog for that post! And maybe send me gentle reminders that I actually have to read Velvet Song for this to work out. Have you read The Secret or Wanna Bet? If so, what were your thoughts? Let us know!