Escape Publishing, Harlequin Enterprises Australia
Secret Reflection is a good read for anyone who likes contemporary fantasy romance and gentlemen from the nineteenth century. The story of a man trapped in a mirror in the mid nineteenth century by a Druid sorcerer is unusual and poignant, in this case, especially because of the circumstances surrounding the incarceration.
Kelly is an American reporter visiting her long time friend in England where she and her husband are in the process of turning an old English home into a hotel. They ask Kelly to investigate the ghost that is supposed to reside in the house. The idea being that an article proving the ghosts existence will bring customers. so Kelly sets out to disprove the ghosts existence. She soon discovers that he does exist, but not as a ghost. The magic that has imprisoned him means that only the person who sleeps in his bed can see him. And only for eighteen days every twenty years.
John Tarrant has been trapped in the mirror for one hundred and forty years, forced in there to be tormented by the husband of the wife John had supposedly murdered. John is a noble character who has born his imprisonment stoically, despite the torment he felt as he was forced to watch helplessly as his cousin raped and beat the woman he would have married. Though the perpetrator, Edward, has long since departed, his character is very much present in the writings in his journal where he describes his acts of cruelty. We are also party to the pedophilia of his descendent, pretty boy Richard. Add to that the behaviour of Kelly’s ex-husband Frank, and a sexually and physically abusive father of the girl who is being taken advantage of by the pedophile and we have a pretty poor vision of mankind in this novel. The only other decent man apart from John, is Tom, husband of Kelly’s best friend, and later, after a murder, the inspector, who seems a decent enough bloke.
It’s a well written and dramatic story with quite a lot of explicit sex. The gratuitous nature of some of it detracted from the story, rather than added to it, but it has been written for a particular type of reader. Had it been more subtle, it could have had a wider readership, because the quality of the characterisation of John and the growing relationship between him and Kelly was extremely well done.
Despite my dislike of the explicitness of the pedophilia, I appreciated the quality of the plot, pacing, dialogue and characterisation up until Kelly acted out of character by virtually agreeing to prostitute herself in order to get the journal that might contain the key to releasing John from his living hell in the mirror. She could have worked out other options, or at least have not gone alone. I couldn’t believe she would have been that stupid.
Not only that, but she was almost prepared to submit to a rape and only pulled herself together at the last moment. She could have easily done more to ensure her safety and fought earlier in the attempted rape. I cannot imagine a woman like her submitting for a moment, especially while the man she loved watched unable to do anything to help.
The thing I like about romances is the assured happy ending. They’re good to read when you want to know that you’ll leave a book feeling good, and this one didn’t disappoint, though I felt that, once again, the degree of explicitness was simply unnecessary and the nature of the abuse in the book left a bad taste.
On a personal level, I’d give the book 3 stars because I don’t enjoy reading about abuse, but in fairness to the author who, apart from the out of character part, did a good job, I give it 4 stars.
This is not a book for young adults.