Yesterday saw the release of Diana Biller‘s third novel, Hotel of Secrets, one of my most anticipated books this month. Set in Vienna in 1878, this historical romance combines a love story with mystery, danger, and action, all set against a season of balls and celebrations. It’s an original and engrossing novel for anyone who likes both historical mysteries and historical romances.
Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC of this book!
Maria Wallner has recently taken over as manager of her family’s hotel in Vienna, and after years of decline, she’s determined to bring about its comeback. She has the opportunity to host in important ball, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get her slightly dilapidated hotel ready in time. If only she didn’t keep getting into life-threatening situations. Luckily, the newest arrival to her hotel, an American named Eli Whittaker, always seems to be around to save her.
Eli is secretly in Vienna to uncover who is illegally sharing American codes around Europe. His only lead is that they were sent from the Hotel Wallner, and Maria happens to be his primary suspect. But the tables quickly turn as he realizes she’s in danger… but from whom, and why? Amidst Vienna’s chaos and soundtrack of constant waltzes, Eli and Maria find themselves in a complicated mystery and an unexpected romance.
Going into Hotel of Secrets, I was expecting a swoony historical romance with a hint of mystery. However, two things quickly became clear: One, the mystery is more action-packed than I’d anticipated, and more multi-faceted. Two, the tone of this book is quite lighthearted and even kooky. It combines intelligent themes with a silly sense of humor that keeps things easy and fun from start to finish.
Maria Wallner has recently taken over as manager in her family’s hotel, and she’s working hard to bring it back to its former glory. With only a few people on staff, she plays many roles, and with her ambition and determination, she’s happy to do so. Her family tree is a bit of a mess, and her parents (who were never married) have been acting strangely lately. Her father is married to another woman, so why do he and Maria’s mom keeping making their affair so public? And why does Maria keep finding herself in dangerous (read: life-threatening) situations?
Eli Whittaker has just arrived from America on a mission to solve a strange case, and his only lead is the Wallner Hotel. Maria is his main suspect, but after he saves her life time and time again, he starts to realize she’s not the culprit… but she is somehow linked to his case. Eli takes it upon himself to keep Maria safe, and through spending so much time together, they both start to feel deeper feelings for each other.
Hotel of Secrets gets surprisingly complicated! Eli may only be there to solve a specific case, but he’ll soon realize that not everything adds up. Maybe there’s more than one mystery on his hands? Maria’s complicated family tree and history is another messy web, adding to the sense of confusion early on. It might take some time to get her family straight in your head.
I mentioned before that Hotel of Secrets maintains a tone of fun, randomness, and humor. This is not my usual preferred style, but it works here and makes for a quick read. However, this novel also doesn’t shy away from harder themes. Eli’s backstory, in particular, is heart-wrenching.
Both Eli and Maria are compelling characters. Maria is a generally spirited woman with a lot of energy and determination. She’s also pretty fearless and action-oriented. In contrast, Eli is much more closed off, even rather stiff at first, but he slowly opens up. He’s analytical and a quick learner, but also genuine and caring. I like that he’s an atheist and doesn’t drink alcohol—just like me! His mannerisms led me to read him as possibly being autistic. I don’t know if that’s what the author intended, but I liked reading him as such. With their dissimilar personalities and experience levels with romantic partners (Maria: a ton; Eli: none), they make for an engaging couple! These opposites attract, and they truly complement each other.
Hotel of Secrets is unlike any other historical romance I’ve read, especially compared to others that are also set in the late 1800s. It shows another side of the genre, with characters that feel modern and a levity that keeps the book fun. I love that it highlights characters who are working class and have unusual family situations. I also enjoy its setting in Vienna—so different from the historical romances that are mostly set in England and Scotland! It lends a new atmosphere that works perfectly with this story.
Hotel of Secrets is a diverting and mostly lighthearted affair, bringing thrills in its mysteries and sighs for its sweet love story. It’s action-packed and maintains a silly, carefree tone. If you enjoy perplexing chaos and jokes even in the midst of more serious topics, this is a book worth reading.
This is my first time reading Diana Biller, though I already have her first two books on my shelves. I plan to read The Widow of Rose House and The Brightest Star in Paris soon, so stay tuned for my reviews of both!
Get the Book
You can buy Hotel of Secrets here – it’s available as a paperback and ebook.
|Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller|
|Number of Pages||400|
|Format I Read||ebook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||March 28, 2023|
During ball season, anything can happen, even love.
It’s ball season in Vienna, and Maria Wallner only wants one thing: to restore her family’s hotel, the Hotel Wallner, to its former glory. She’s not going to let anything get in her way – not her parents’ three-decade-long affair; not seemingly-random attacks by masked assassins; and especially not the broad-shouldered American foreign agent who’s saved her life two times already. No matter how luscious his mouth is.
Eli Whittaker also only wants one thing: to find out who is selling American secret codes across Europe, arrest them, and go home to his sensible life in Washington, DC. He has one lead – a letter the culprit sent from a Viennese hotel. But when he arrives in Vienna, he is immediately swept up into a chaotic whirlwind of balls, spies, waltzes, and beautiful hotelkeepers who seem to constantly find themselves in danger. He disapproves of all of it! But his disapproval is tested as he slowly falls deeper into the chaos – and as his attraction to said hotelkeeper grows.
About the Author
Diana Biller is the author of The Widow of Rose House and The Brightest Star in Paris. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys snuggling her animals, taking “research” trips abroad, and attending ballet class. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles.
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