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Khanh the Killjoy

The Secrets of Mia Danvers (Dangerous Liaisons, #1) - Robyn DeHart Jane Eyre meets Pride and Prejudice meets Anne Perry.This book has everything I ever wanted in an HR. Wonderfully complex main characters, a supportive, likeable supporting cast, all with varying degrees of depths. The bad guys, the rakes...there is no black and white here. Things happen for a reason, people are good/bad for a reason, there are no Disney-like villains here.The mystery is actually an integral part of the plot. Imagine that! This is no thinly-veiled excuse to write a bodice-ripper. People get hurt, people die. There is danger, there is sleuthing, the mystery unwinds slowly and rationally, as it should in this time period, and given the severe limitations of 19th century methods of criminal detection. Make no mistake, there is steam, there is attraction, there is sex, but it builds up so gradually. The tension is just seething beneath the surface. It's a slow foreplay. A little touch, a little contact; the appropriateness of the Victorian era is on display here, and the strict restraint of it is is more well done and satisfying than any Regency cop-a-feels could ever be.Mia Danvers is nearly blind. Abandoned by her callous family at the age of 16, she lives in a cottage on the Duke of Carrington's estate. Alex is a good man, trying to do his duty as the new Duke, and when Mia claims she witnesses a murder on his estate, he has to take care of it in a discreet manner as to not sully his family's reputation and name. As the murders escalate, he and Mia find themselves working together to solve a mystery of a notorious killer that has struck before. The suspect might be closer than either of them know.What this book thankfully lacks is stupidity. Our damsel in distress may be mostly blind, but she ain't stupid. She's not putting herself in foolishly dangerous situation despite her disability, and I absolutely loved that about her. I can find very little not to love about this book. Mia is such a harrowing character. She is so pitiable, so sympathetic. For me, she is comparable to Jane Eyre. After her father's death and the accident that nearly killed and blinded her, her family abandons her in order to spare them the cost of caring for her. Instead, they leave her in a miserable little cottage, alone but for the faithful governess Rachel, who chooses to stay with her for a pittance of pay, while her sisters debut in society and make successful marriages to peers; even worse, they spread the rumor that she is utterly mad, and has died from the accident."'And they told everyone she had died in the accident?' he asked, unable to believe such a thing. 'Why would they do such a thing?' he asked, despite knowing the likely answer.'It was for the best of everyone,' his mother said.They'd hidden her away rather than having to care for her, financially, the rest of their lives. But they hadn’t even given her a chance to meet a man and to marry. Certainly there was someone out there willing to look past her affliction and take her to wife. 'The best for everyone but Mia.'"She supports herself with the little she earns from her art; despite her near-blindness, she sculpts. Mia has since given up any dreams that life would be different. She does not pity herself, but she does not have any starry-eyed fantasies that life will drastically change for her. She just endeavors to live, day by day, a peaceful existence is all she can ever hope for, given her circumstance. Due to her blindness, her other senses are heightened, she has a superior awareness of details that the eye does not detect. She notices sounds, smells, nuances in voices, small details that would escape an average person familiar with the use of sight to notice details. Due to this, the information she provides is of enormous use, despite her blindness and assumed inferiority as a believable witness. Mia knows that people underestimate her credibility as a witness, however, she is determined to see justice served. Despite her determination, she is not so foolish as to ignore danger when she detects it."'Did we forget to lock the door?' Rachel asked softly.'I don't believe so,' Mia said. Cautiously, she stepped inside the cottage and immediately the hairs on her arms stood on end. The acrid scent of that tobacco still hung on the air. Her heart pounded and she grabbed for Rachel's hand as she walked backward. 'We need to leave, now,' Mia said. 'Someone has been in our cottage.'"Lord Alex is the epitome of a proper English lord. Far from being a rake, he is the model of propriety. His father and grandfather were...unsavory characters, and he is determined to rebuild the family name. When we meet him, he is absolutely straightlaced, even priggish, full of propriety and self-importance. He initially dismisses Mia, believing the rumors about her madness, but he comes to know her and her intelligence, her bravery, her capability, and she slowly becomes beautiful to him. Alex is so determined to do the right thing that he fights his attraction to Mia, knowing that he can do her no good. He is determined not to pursue her, not even as a dalliance. There is no droit-de-seigneur here. "He was the worst sort of man, wanting to take advantage of a poor defenseless girl. Once her virtue was destroyed she’d truly be a ruined woman because no man could marry her. She was damaged, and she had no men in her life to protect her. Here he was the closest thing she had to a male guardian and he was thinking lascivious thoughts about her."He is self-flagellating in his desire to do good. And he is utterly determined to do right by Mia, bring her justice, make everything right for her."Perhaps no one else knew Mia Danvers was still alive, but Alex wouldn’t ignore her upbringing or her family name. She deserved the same treatment as the other Danvers sisters had received. Hell, she deserved to be treated as any lady of the Ton."Their mutual respect turns into attraction, then love. It's gradual, believable, well-written. And not without its hiccups along the way."'You are proposing to me? Marriage?' Mia asked. She shook her head. 'Even though you freely admit that I am not duchess material.' She came to her feet. 'I suppose I should be flattered, but I am not. That was a terrible proposal and I kindly decline. Good day, Alex.' And with that, she turned on her heel and left the room."Well ok then, Mr. Darcy.The main characters do not fall in insta-love. They do not hate each other, there is no revulsion, there is no antagonism, no antipathy. There is no screaming, no pouting, no fighting in spats and fits. There is initial distrust, wariness, but both characters behaved appropriately, as they should given their status in this era. This book just feels accurate. The characters are always...in character. There is no 20th century colloquialism, exclamations, clichés. The speech, the characters' actions all befit the time period. There are a lot of characters, some of the characters have their very own minor storyline. I sometimes have a problem with large casts, it's difficult to build character and a believable story behind everyone. There is no such problem with this book, the minor characters all have their role, their distinct personality, even the blandest characters like the supposedly perfect Juliet is more than what she seems to be, more than a a character "designed specifically to be an Englishman’s wife." The bad boy brother is not who he seems, his actions are self-destructive not without reason, and we come to sympathize with him just as much. I absolutely loved this book and greatly look forward to reading the next book in the series.