Cover Image: Hotel of Secrets

Hotel of Secrets

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Member Reviews

*Received a copy for review.*
This book is stunning. It manages to be historical fiction, family saga, mystery, and romance all in one. Many books attempt to blend genres but this book does it so successfully. This author has such a deft hand at writing the story she wants even if it doesn’t slot right into a genre. And I loved every minute of it. 
Eli is competence personified. He is one of those men that adapts and overcomes. He only relies on himself and feelings do not fall under his preview. 
Maria is a doer. She is determined to bring her family hotel back to its former glamour. Even if she has to fix everything by herself.  It would be really nice if someone wouldn’t try to kill her as she does that. 
I loved all of the family dynamics. I loved that there are strong women everywhere.  I loved watching Maria unlock Eli and also herself. 
It is beautifully written and woven in such a way that you get to enjoy all the parts as well as the whole.
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What a fantastic book! Nothing could be wrong with a book that combines historical fiction, mystery, political intrigue, a bit of romance, and generations of strong female characters. Plus it all takes place in a lovely old hotel in Vienna during ball season. The setting was so well-written that it felt like I was there. 

I loved the strength of Maria and her grandmother’s independence and the peek into them running a large hotel. There was some political intrigue and mystery that had me doing a little research to understand a bit more about the time period.

The romance was a bit sweet with some steaminess thrown in too.

I highly recommend this book! 5/5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the eARC of this book.
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For historical fiction, this story was fully fledged feminism. Strong women, linen closet trysts, and lies that save lives, not to mention quick studies and luscious mouths lol! I really enjoyed my visit to Vienna!
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I would read five more books with the Eli/Claude/Mac bro squad.

Hotel of Secrets is a romance set in Vienna in 1878, a very unique atmosphere, centered around the Hotel Wallner which Maria, the owner and hotel manager, is rehabbing to its former glory and trying to avoid family drama. Enter Eli, an American agent (not a spy!!!) who stays at the hotel and is drawn into her world when Maria is the target of some confusing assassination attempts. I enjoyed Maria, a heroine in her thirties, and I also loved Eli, a very emotionally locked away male hero who does not think he is lovable. 

The plot was extremely interesting and I learned a lot about Viennese history during this time. Diana Biller's prose is also extremely readable and I flew through this book. My favorite detail about the book was Eli getting a squad of male friends in Mac, Maria's half brother, and Claude, a french spy. They're great and I'd love to see them again. I have more thoughts but they're spoilery so I will save them for after the publication date. 

I would give this book 4.5 stars.
Heat level: 4

This book releases March 28, 2023, so mark your calendars. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an arc copy. This is my honest review.
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I was highly entertained and transfixed during the entire book. People tried to talk to me during my stay at Hotel Wallner and I had to shh them until I finished my trip in Vienna. I loved this book and the mesmerizing details that were given. I could picture the guestrooms, the ballrooms, the city in all of its golden splendor. Diana Biller created amazing characters that you will want to spin around the floor with during a dizzying waltz. This book has a little bit of everything, mystery, romance, family drama, murder, and of course spice!

Maria Wallner is a woman on a mission to bring the Hotel Wallner back to all of its glory. After her mother left it to deteriorate, due to her fixation of Maria's father. Who of course has a wife and four other children. It now belongs to Maria and she will make it blossom once more, one ball at a time. Ball season in Vienna seems to be an experience all on its own. The grander it is, the more the hotel will be talked about. Maria cannot do grand, she can do mystical, mysterious, and she has the gift to make anything sparkle and shine. There is something stirring beneath the ruined floorboards and Maria seems to be at the center. Will she be able to come out of it unscathed?

There are so many secrets going on within the walls of this hotel that I needed to make a list to keep it all straight. I loved all of the drama and the family dynamics. It was mad house within the hotel. The love story that ran through it all is absolutely delicious, the spice will set you on fire. Thank you to Diana Biller and St. Martin Press for this sizzling book of the season!
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Hotel of Secrets by @dianabiller is the perfect balance of a historical mystery, romance, and comedy! The characters were incredibly unique and the fast-paced prose was filled of banter-filled shenanigans that had even the stoic serious Eli Whittaker smirking and chuckling by the end. 
Hotel Wallner has been managed by generations of quirky single Wallner women at the center of 1800’s Vienna society; the hotel has been filled with balls, spies, waltzes, rivalries, and imperial scandals, of which each women records daily in their locked-away diaries to secure their stability as a woman-owned hotel in a patriarchal society. 
The current owner, Maria Wallner, is faced with restoring the hotel to its former glory after a decade long depression and mismanagement by her own mother. Eli Whittaker is a celibate straight-laced American financial investigator sent to Vienna to investigate who has been selling American secret codes across Europe (mailed anonymously from Hotel Wallner). He is quickly swept into Maria’s orbit by thwarting an assassination attempt on her life whole investigating her as a suspect. However, as he dives deeper into her chaotic life, his attraction grows into an unexpected love story.  

I was completely raptured by this story; the mystery was full of nail-biting twists and the passion was hot and deeply whole-hearted. There was something extremely sexy about linen-closet ‘assignations’ and watching a serious (yet competent) man navigate the erotic bookstores of 1870’s Vienna. Perhaps even more sexy, was watching Eli quietly ‘show-up’ for Maria to lighten her load of work with the hotel, supporting her visions and dreams while firmly inserting himself into her family and life! 

I highly recommend this read to lovers of:
-Grumpy/Sunshine Romance
-Generational Family Drama
-Stern (virgin) Hero/Practical (experienced) heroine
-Found Family
-Wonderful Supporting Cast

This was my first Diana Biller read, and I am now going to work through her backlist was patiently hoping for this story to continue with a sequel for Mac and Hannah’s romance?! I am ready to return to Hotel Wallner. 

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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For when you're vibing with... an unusual historical romance setting, a stern (virgin!) hero/practical (experienced) heroine pairing, generational family drama, a strong supporting cast, mystery, and a love story, that makes you want to swoon dead away.
The Hotel Wallner, right in the midst of Vienna, is a family inheritance--and as the fourth woman in her family to run it, Maria is trying desperately to keep it afloat. A kink in her plans? The mysterious American Eli, who's come to stay... Not to mention the sudden attempts on her life (which he always seems to be thwarting). Maria isn't one to panic, but between her burgeoning feelings for Eli and the dangerous secrets coming to light in the hotel, her world may be turning upside down...

Um, this was fabulous. It was my first Diana Biller, and I have like... nothing to complain about, and everything to rave about. This book made me gasp; it made me laugh; and while it's not a SUPER HIGH ANGST book, it made me emotional, too. This shit? Could be a miniseries (and it should be). So let's get into all that.

Quick Takes:
--I was actually a bit worried, based on the title, that this would be one of those books that masquerades as a romance when the romance is in fact just a subplot. Uh, nope. This book has thriving subplots with family drama and a really fun mystery, but the Plot Plot? Is Maria and Eli's romance, all the way. And what a romance it is. From their meet cute to the last page, I was completely, utterly sold on them. This is one of those romances where it's the little things that made my heart grow three sizes. It was achingly sweet and hot and soft all at once, and you could just feel these two people, both of whom have emotional intimacy issues (actually kind of great to read a book about two people who have issues with giving their hearts away, usually one is all in and the other isn't) giving in to each other slowly... but surely.

--Another great aspect of this romance is that both Maria and Eli are super well-drawn, as characters. Both have their damage, both need a safe place to land. But there was a special element of fulfillment for me as a reader--a woman around Maria's age, juggling what sometimes feels like fucking everything. Maria is that girl. She's got a bit of a kooky family and a huge legacy and basic economic survival on her shoulders. And here comes this man who, for all his own issues, is just... casually, without even realizing he's doing it, easing that burden. Swooping in with his competence (listen: if you want a competent hero, THIS IS IT), and his awkward but earnest desire to just make things easier for her. No fucking wonder she was obsessed with him.

--Eli's own emotional trauma, as well as his sexual hangups, were really excellent and realistically rooted, in my opinion. His virginity (carefully chosen celibacy) does not draw back to the kind of typical trauma that I think we imagine with his type of character. Simply put, he's a control freak (with a major backstory to explain why his needs have gotten to the levels they have)--and I think that the concept of people losing their virginity at a late age because of a need for control versus insecurity or sexual trauma is something that romance doesn't explore often. It felt very true to life, and seeing him slowly give up control... to an extent... with Maria was lovely. I also really loved how this book dealt with sexual education, safety, and consent while maintaining a very brisk, sexy pace. There was really no "here's where we stop for five paragraphs to discuss this matter" moment. It was woven in skillfully and naturally.

--The supporting cast is fabulous! (On the off chance that Diana Biller reads this, Diana this is my moment to beg for a Mac/Hannah book, please God please.) There's a really unique setup in the novel of the Wallner women basically not marrying, each one having a single daughter who will take on the hotel at some point. While Maria's great-grandmother, the first woman to run the hotel is dead, we get to see Maria's grandmother and mother in full swing. And God, there's so much great, delicious family drama, and so many varied characters. (This book is so also! So funny!) Maria is a really unique historical romance heroine in that she's a working woman, she's a woman of the world... and she happens to be the very much known daughter of a feckless nobleman and his mistress. She knows her half-brother, her father's legitimate son, very well--and the sweetness of that relationship was kind of marvelous to me? A lot of this book comes back to the complexities of family ties and relationships that will never be perfect but we must accept them nonetheless, and I loved that.

--The setting! The book is set in late 1870s Vienna, and it gives you a lot of that world and that history, all against the backdrop of this remarkable, fabled hotel. You can tell that the author has done her fucking research, and it really shines through. This is a fully fleshed out book in a way that, to be honest, many aren't, and I'm honestly jealous of how well she's done it.

The Sex Stuff:
Dude. Here's the thing: the sex acts described in this novel are not described in the most explicit manner I've ever read (though they are explicit, to be sure) but uh... It's hot. It's really, really hot. The tension between Eli and Maria is, of course, ratcheted up by the fact that he is really trying to hang on to this celibacy thing (until he isn't) and she is very much down to get down. Like I said earlier, the book handles consent and sexual health really well, but when it comes down to it... I was surprised by how hot it ended up being. Eli isn't experienced, but he cares so much about Maria's pleasure and is such a pleaser. It was a lot.

This was a ROMANCE Romance, and I loved pretty much every word of it. There were reveals (some of which I saw coming and some of which I didn't), there was drama, and at the end of the day there were two people who just really wanted to love each other, trying to get over their own shit so that they could do so properly. Fantastic.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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THIS. BOOK. I finished it last night and I am so fried from this work trip that I’m having trouble forming coherent thoughts but I think I would feel like that anyway? I have transcended the mortal plane after reading this. It’s basically perfect? Spicy, steamy, funny, smart, swoony…just OMG.

Ladies and gentlefolk, I *must* dedicate some page to Eli Whittaker, a starchy sad boi who is the headiest mix of deeply thoughtful and competent. During the course of the book, these are the things Eli either teaches himself, becomes expert at on the fly or just casually knows how to do:

* enough Hungarian to converse
* religious history of Austro-Hungary
* how to waltz
* speak Polish (because it was the polite thing to do)
* dress a bullet wound (on himself!)
* orchid care and maintenance (just knows these things)
* sewing/mending clothes
* kissing (learning on the fly)
* how to pleasure a woman (in more than a few ways - studied and then active learning 😏)

This is not an exhaustive list…just the most memorable items!

Beyond Eli, there’s a great mystery, and absolutely bonkers plot involving a rival hotel, Imperial palace politics, gossip galore and an incredible FMC in Maria Wallner. Diana Biller has given us an absolute BANGER. I will never look at a linen closet the same way.

Recommended!!! I simply cannot do this book justice in the IG character limit. If you like bananas Hissy RoNos with amazing FMC and MMCs, bonkers plots and setting outside Regency England, this is the one!
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3.5 stars rounded up.  This was a unique and quirky story, and a nice change of pace.  I agree with other reviewers who noted this is more historical fiction with romantic elements.  Although the relationship between Maria and Eli plays an important role, the focus of the story is Maria and her tangled family history.  Maria is left to pick up the pieces of her family's once-famous hotel business after her flighty mother's neglect leads to its deterioration.  After landing the opportunity to host an important event during Vienna's ball season, Maria struggles to bring the hotel back to its former glory while battling sabotage, mysterious assasination attempts, and her own mother's ridiculous and destructive behavior.  Maria's stalwart and secretive grandmother lends her support, along with her friends and half-brother, and a host of other characters with questionable motives.  The excerpts from Maria's family's tell-all journals over the years -- which play an important role in the story -- are both very educational and entertaining.  I found it fascinating learning about the fraught political history in Vienna and how its strategic location between the Ottoman Empire and Russia led to all sorts of intrigue in the 1800's (and beyond).  

This is not to say that Eli Whittaker - Maria's love interest - does not have his own character development or important role to play.  A member of the US Treasury Department, he was sent to Vienna to "investigate" potential espionage at the US consulate after he ruffled political feathers by implicating important government figures in a corruption scheme.  I was not entirely sure if Eli is meant to be on the autism spectrum or if his behavior is the product of past trauma growing up with an abusive and religious cult-leader father (perhaps both?).  Regardless, Eli struggles to adapt to Vienna's -- and espeically Maria's -- chaotic and whimiscal social environment.  Slowly, his rigidly constructed rules and outlook start to bend as he begins to unpack his past trauma.

My one slight critique is that the dialogue felt jarringly modern.  On the one hand, it fits with the sort of surreality of the whole story, but it also detracted from the efforts to bring the world of Vienna in the 1800's to life.  As the story goes on and I became more accustomed to it, it bothered me less, but it took some getting used to.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for providing an ARC for review!
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This book was chaotic in the best way possible. Hotel of Secrets is packed with action, mystery, witty banter, crazy family dynamics, and steamy romance. I don’t know much about Vienna in the 1800s, so can’t speak to how historically accurate it was, but I loved the descriptions of the city, its culture and people. If you are looking for a fun and fast paced historical fiction, check this out!

4/5 stars!

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an eARC in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
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A page-turning historical romance novel blended with a strong spy story that includes a lot of family secrets, multiple attempted murders, humor and fun, a cast of unique and interesting characters, and a steamy romance with a twist. Bravo! Recommended.
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Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity!

What a stunning cover! I fell in love with the cover and then with the synopsis and fair to say it did not disappoint.
I got everything i wanted from the book, i loved the pacing tho i wish it was a lil faster but that is just my personal preference cause of my adhd.
The writing style was one of the things that made me love this book, I’m definitely looking forward to author’s next work.
You should check it out asap if you loved the synopsis!
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Maria has a hotel to run and a ball to prepare for yet someone keeps trying to kill her. Eli is sent to Vienna to find out who was giving away government codes but ends up keeping Maria safe.

Overall it wasn't a bad story. A few historical pieces drove me nuts since it was 1887 but it sounded a lot more modern especially with the food and sex.

The story dragged at times but also seemed rushed at other times. Sex, mystery, murder, and a few crazy characters will though keep you interested even if it's to find out if Maria and Eli get together or not.

Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC
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Diana Biller brings a fresh time and place - 1870s Vienna, in the world of hotels and balls - to life in Hotel of Secrets. Historical romances are typically set in England, and I don’t think I’ve read any kind of historical novel set in Vienna or this empire. Biller does a good job weaving in the politics and history, giving us a slightly more scandalous and fun scene than England. The political intrigue and Eli’s case had enough twists and layers to hold up that side of the novel while not overwhelming it. The book was also funnier than I expected, providing a nice balance in both the romance and the hotel and mystery arcs. 

The best part, I think, is the hotel and the women whose home it is. I loved their stories, seeing their bonds and complications both through the plot and the additional journal entries. Josephine in particular is an amazing supporting character, and I honestly want to read a book all about her. Their supporting figures - Mac, Hannah, Emilie, Claude - added to the feelings of home and family that Maria describes, and are funny, heartwarming, and intriguing. The love they have for the hotel really shines through as well. I also loved Maria and Eli’s dynamic; they are both protective of themselves for different reasons, but Maria is not “traditional” and is headstrong and experienced, while Eli has closed himself off to love in all ways, instead of being the emotionally unavailable but experienced male love interest. I enjoyed watching them both change, especially Eli open up when he comes to find a family and home for the first time, and seeing how respectful and thoughtful he was.

Perhaps a minor quibble, but while Biller has clearly done her research, it sometimes felt like the writing didn’t quite match up with the history. Some of the dialogue and references, such as the way Eli describes or talks about the Treasury department and his job, or certain references at the hotel, felt out of place with the time period and sometimes even contemporary. It distracted me, especially earlier in the book before I was fully pulled in, and took me out of the story at moments. However, the politics, history, and social scene elements did feel more authentic and naturally worked in.
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Maria Wallner is struggling to bring the Hotel Wallner back to its original glory after eight years of neglect by her mother Elisabeth. The first big event is a New Year's Eve ball where her mother and her father (not married to each other) make a spectacle of themselves to the delight of the Viennese upper class.  Wanting some fresh air, Maria rushes outside only to be nearly struck down by a carriage and horses. She is saved by a handsome blond man who turns out to be an American Treasury agent. There are so many twists and turns in this book, you will love the adventure. Nineteenth century Vienna was a city of intrigue as well as grace and beauty. Remarkably displayed in this novel.
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If you like English regency romances, this one set in Vienna around the same time period is right up your alley. Why? Because frankly the Viennese were more fun than the English - their societal rules weren’t quite as rigid and this book makes it sound like everyone was down for a good time. This book is set at a hotel in Vienna, featuring the proprietress of the hotel and an American who is in Vienna to investigate the leaking of top secret codes. It’s got intrigue, found family, actual family, a big ball, oh and a little espionage and mystery. Very much open door, and in this scenario our central lead Maria is the “rake”.
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Hotel Wallner in Vienna has always been run by strong willed and independent women. Maria is the fourth in the lineage of her family to run it, and she is tasked with bringing it back into fashion after years of mismanagement and distress. When she meets American Eli Whittaker who is in Vienna to investigate for the American Legation, she instantly is attracted to him, and not just because he saved her life. As the hotel seems to be targeted for attacks, Eli saves her over and over again. They each begin to fall for the other, but a Wallner doesn’t fall in love. And Eli has secrets of his own. 
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💭Thoughts💭
To be completely honest, I loved this book until it was Eli’s POV. His storyline got a lot more interesting after the investigation storyline stopped, but it was slow going. This book was VERY steamy which I didn’t expect, but you grow to like Maria and Eli together. 
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⌛️Favorite Moment⌛️
The planning of the Hotelkeeper Ball was so fun! The theme of Fairyland and the ways Maria was trying to create a masterpiece on a budget was so cool to read about. 
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🎉 Theme Ideas 🎉
Drink up and dance! Vienna has a long ball season and they like to have fun. Waltz around and eat some almond cake- the hotel was famous for it!
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I read this as an ARC.
Most enjoyable for me; I didn't know much about Vienna in the mid-to late-1800s and the setting helped me visualize it.
The story was gripping, dramatic, and at times thrilling. The characters were well differentiated with severe family conflicts. The secrets were well handled and kept me reading. One was a big surprise.
Recommended for all who enjoy historical mysteries.
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Diana Biller can do no wrong. The political intrigue was first rate, encompassing a location and upheaval I knew nothing about. But Biller does romance better than just about anyone. Fierce females and swoony males - sigh and *mwah* - chef’s kiss!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
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I absolutely loved Hotel of Secrets! It was so easy to get lost in 1870's Vienna. This story has mystery, romance and intrigue. 

Maria Wallner is the fourth generation of women to run Hotel Wallner and her goal is to bring it back to its full potential as one of the best Hotel's in Vienna. Despite Maria's best efforts there are decades worth of secrets, affairs, and espionage that Hotel Wallner keeps within its walls and Maria must deal with them all.  

With everything else going on the last thing Maria needs in her life is for her to meet "the man", a charming dark-haired American who always seems to be at the right place at the right time. 
No. Nothing will come between her and the success of Hotel Waller, or will it? 

A must read this spring! Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read the ARC.
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