At a masked ball, Lady Isobel Maitland lets herself free for the first time with a well known rake Phineas Archer, Marquess of Blackwood, with the mask Isobel can be free to do what she wants for one night. Of course, she doesn't count of Phineas not forgetting her taste, but Phineas has his own mask to hide behind, that of a spy whom works for the British government, as a rake no one will give him a second look, but when Isobel enters his life he's willing to risk it all... Sound a tad familiar? It should as this premise has been used many time in HR books through the years. The rake not really a rake, but a spy. Forced to be a rake (while he really enjoys the sexual side of it) falls for a innocent widow whose in a bit of trouble herself by her evil family out for their own riches and sport. Trapped the widow can't get freed because someone she loves (brother/sister/son/daughter) will be hurt. Yup, very familiar. That's what I felt as I read through the book, familiar and haven't I read this somewhere before? Not that is a bad thing. I have read premises much like this before, but in other cases the author made it their own, really pushed the limit. Not so in Secrets of a Proper Countess. The first pages really got me hooked and the author's voice was clear. It's just the story plot was full of clichés used many times before that the author didn't really push outside the boundaries. The lead characters Isobel and Phineas fell into the category also. I never felt more then lust from them, nor a deeper understanding of their sudden love for one another. At times I did see the author really try to step out of the shadow with actions of the characters, but quickly went back the the "norm". Plus, the rake as a spy line is an old one, give me something new- like a spy whose just a spy, a norm everyday joe a spy. *shurgs* Plus, the secondary characters ranage from wanting to smack them upside the head to TSTL. All wraps up in a neat bow in the head, which is fine and good, but I just wanted more. For a debut novel Lecia Cornwall did an okay job, but the book dimmed to quickly before it started to shine. Perhaps her next book will shine...we shall have to wait and see.