In Total Surrender (Secrets, #3) - Anne Mallory I’m a sucker for “cheerful heroine charms lonely hero” so I was really looking forward to reading this book. Some parts I really liked but other parts fell flat.

The heroine, Phoebe, is great. She’s smart, spunky and doesn’t let the hero intimidate her. The hero, Andreas, is definitely flawed and has a very dark backstory. I think the adjective dark is used about 100 times in the first three chapters alone. Either the author was really trying to hammer the point home that he is "dark" or she lacked a good thesaurus. The first 30% of the book is all told from Andreas’ POV and it isn’t until Phoebe’s POV starts that I became truly invested in the story. Their interactions and dialogue are humorous and engaging. The tension between the Phoebe and Andreas builds at a nice pace and makes the romance believable. The steam level is very low (verges on behind-closed-doors) but it worked for this story and didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

What didn’t work for me is the storyline. It is incredibly complicated and convoluted. I think I could read the book three more times very slowly and still not understand what is going on in regards to the missing brother, the carriage company ownership, the revenge plot and the politics. I’d like to blame it on not having read book #2 in this series but I think it was just an overly complicated plot that is doled out in bits and pieces throughout and never gets fully summarized by the end.

Overall: Strong romantic tension, vague sex scenes and baffling storyline.