Teresa Foscari, Europe’s most famous opera singer, comes to London to make a fresh start and find her long lost English family. Her peerless voice thrills everyone—except Maximilian Hawthorne, Viscount Allerton, the wealthy owner of a rival opera house. Notorious Teresa Foscari is none other than Tessa, the innocent girl who broke his youthful heart. Yet Max still wants her, like no other woman.
Amidst backstage intrigue and the sumptuous soirées of fashionable London, the couple’s rivalry explodes in bitter accusations and smashed china. Tessa must fight for her career—and resist her attraction to Max, the man she once loved and who now holds the power to destroy her.
Publisher and Release Date: Miranda Neville, 11 April 2016
Time and Setting: London, 1815
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Jenny Q
I’d long been wanting to read a Miranda Neville novel, and when I saw the description of Secrets of a Soprano, I knew it was the one to start with. I like reading about the Regency period, but after a while Regency romances tend to start getting repetitive, so I’m always looking for something different. A romance featuring an opera singer and a theater owner? Yes, please!
When opera aficionado Max Hawthorne finally gets to see famed soprano La Divina sing, he knows instantly that she is none other than the woman who broke his heart ten years earlier. But how can he reconcile this worldly, widowed diva, rumored to have been mistress to both a Russian tsar and Napoléon Bonaparte, with the innocent young singer he fell in love with while he was on his grand tour? Regardless, he simply must find a way to lure her away from his competition and sign her to sing at his new theater. After an unpleasant reunion, he uses the power of rumor to achieve his goal, but it quickly takes on a life of its own and does far more harm than he anticipated. Putting aside old hurts and still-burning passion proves hard to do when he realizes that La Divina is a carefully cultivated façade, and she is still the girl he loved and lost; but has his betrayal cost him his only chance at real happiness?
Tessa Foscari is finally free of her overbearing husband and free to return to England, the land of her father’s family. She is determined to take charge of her career but finds that handling negotiations and finances is much harder than she anticipated. And she never expected to run into her long-lost love or to find that her feelings for him have never truly faded. In need of money, she accepts various private commissions and quickly becomes the sensation of the London season. But that comes crashing to a halt thanks to Max’s interference. As if dealing with jealous sopranos, amorous tenors, and shady managers wasn’t enough! But Max is instantly contrite and determined to make things right. Can Tessa trust him again? When the misunderstanding that separated them so many years ago is discovered, nothing should be standing in the way of true love, but a dark secret from Tessa’s past threatens their future together.
I loved the background subject of this romance. Much time is spent in the theater and in salons, and music is an ever-present theme, contributing nicely to the ambiance and historical atmosphere. I always like seeing star-crossed lovers reunite, but in this case, I felt like I needed to see more of their youthful romance (which I thought we were going to get more of in flashbacks) to feel that their love was true and to believe that they still loved each other after so much time. There are a couple of sub-plots involving Max’s mother and Tessa’s English relatives that take time away from the main story, and that time could have been put to better use strengthening the reader’s understanding of Max and Tessa’s relationship. And I felt that Tessa was dragging out their road to happily ever after by holding on to old fears just for the sake of doing so. And finally, the grand sex scene I’d been waiting the whole book for was somewhat ruined by the author’s decision to use the rather humorous Italian words for genitalia throughout.
But I still found Secrets of a Soprano to be a mostly enjoyable read, with intriguing subject matter, original characters, and an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Fans of historical romance who are looking for something a little out of the ordinary should find much to admire here.