cover image SECRET WAYS


Kat Martin, . . Pocket Star, $6.99 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-1917-8

Martin (Fanning The Flame; Hot Rain) is well known for her sensuous love scenes, but hot sex isn't enough to make this tepid Regency-era romance sizzle. To ferret out a French spy, Captain Caleb Tanner has taken a position as a stable groom at Parklands, an estate belonging to the famed courtesan Gabriella Durant. One of Caleb's prime suspects is young courtesan Vermillion Lee Durant, Gabriella's irresistible niece. As is the case in many of Martin's romances, instant attraction pulls the protagonists together, but the author wisely allows Caleb and Lee to develop a friendship before they become intimate. A few flimsy hurdles threaten their relationship—such as Lee's determination to become a courtesan, and Caleb's distaste for her profession and his dedication to his own. But in a derivative plot twist, Caleb discovers that Lee is really a virgin who's playing at being a courtesan to please her aunt. The romantic tension runs rampant after Caleb reveals his identity, but the two predictably push each other away until the conclusion's climactic spy unveiling. Though the book's tired plot and stock characters aren't likely to appeal to seasoned romance readers (and may even disappoint some of Martin's fans), readers new to the genre should enjoy this sexy, serviceable story. (Apr. 1)