The Lady's Secret - Joanna Chambers

This was a rare case of a book that actually enraged me. The basic scenario is that Georgy, an actress, needs to sneak into a country house and does it by getting hired, in male garb, as a valet to one of the guests. She's fascinating, with her infectious joy at the masquerade; but unfortunately her employer Harcourt, the hero, is an absolutely horrid alphole.

Harcourt finds out both Georgy's disguise and the fact that she's sneaking around, though not why, and uses it to blackmail her into kissing him and attempts to control her every move. He does what considers "flirting" by pestering her with intrusive questions in a skin-crawlingly condescending manner; he says he intends to seduce her but he wouldn't want an "unwilling conquest" -- clearly not aware that the power he's exercising is already way on the wrong side of the consent line.

What made me abruptly delete the book (the electronic equivalent of throwing it across the room) halfway through was the scene where Harcourt orders Georgy to dine with him, even though she's very uncomfortable about it, and serves the food; she gives a dry answer to something he says and the author writes, "He rewarded her for her cheek by putting an extra dumpling on her plate." and I was all "NOPE" and chucked the book. Controlling what somebody eats is a terrible abuse warning.

Grade: DNF