Hotel of Secrets

Written by Diana Biller
Review by Caroline D. Wilson

Hotel of Secrets introduces the reader to the decadent society of late 19th-century Vienna, where Maria Wallner is struggling to resurrect her family’s hotel after years of mismanagement and neglect. Maria hails from a long line of resilient, enterprising women, and is the fourth Wallner woman to take the reins of the hotel. As Vienna’s social season kicks off, she reopens the doors to a maelstrom of chaos, mystery, and Eli Whittaker, a handsome but priggish American spy who only wants a return to his life in Washington, DC.

Diana Biller is a competent writer who excels at creating interesting characters; in many ways, she has reversed the typical hero-heroine character tropes so prevalent in historical romances. For instance, Eli Whittaker is a sexy, smoldering hunk of a man but is uninitiated in the ways of the bedroom, whereas Maria routinely has one-night stands and can curse like a sailor when the need arises. She is also nearly thirty and has no interest in marrying.

On the surface, this characterization makes sense, as she is the illegitimate daughter of a Viennese nobleman. However, these details are so casually thrown into the narrative that the effect is jarring. The author has clearly researched the period and mentions important historical episodes throughout the narrative but manages to set things askew with a too-modern heroine.

Despite this, Hotel of Secrets is a fun read that will appeal to those interested in fast-paced plots and who are not easily distracted by anachronisms.