Secrets of the Sonnets

Written by Samantha Hastings
Review by Beth Kanell

This Shakespeare-connected mystery takes on the challenge of living up to the many excellent Regency romances available. Challenge met and exceeded!

Spinster Miranda Hatch has little concern for her unmarried state at age 26, as she takes enormous delight in scholarship and has already seen two papers published. What else could be important? Her quietly intelligent parents support her choice with pride—but her mother approves of Miranda’s fresh willingness to purchase a new day gown after a sudden near-collision with the elegant and intelligent Lord Robert Hamilton.

Robert knows nothing of Shakespeare or the other literary topics that obsess Miranda. But he’s a quick learner, and entranced by this very different sort of woman. As he follows up on a letter she sent him earlier and connects the M. Hatch of the correspondence with the person so intriguing him, he gains hope that he may be able to rescue his debt-saddled estate through establishing a link to Shakespeare’s sonnet manuscripts.

Hastings offers a straightforward adventure with sensible red herrings and a perfect portion of peril, along with the gradual forming of a mutually respectful friendship turning romantic. Rather than wrap up with the bluestocking female abandoning her pursuit of knowledge, the mystery demonstrates how attractive an educated and focused mind will always be. As Miranda and Robert quote to each other: “The unexpected is always the most enjoyable.”

The polished writing demonstrates that this is far from the first novel for Hastings, but it is her first to draw on her master’s thesis to explore Shakespeare’s sonnets, so a well-documented explanation and resource list caps off the pleasure of the book.