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REVIEW of HOUSE OF SECRETS by Annie’s Book Corner
As you all know, I am a great fan of Choc Lit and was very excited when I received this from a new author. I am a Choc Lit Panel Taster and had already read it pre editing and acceptance – and loved it then! My first Taster Panel publication! It has evolved into an infinitely readable book and it has it all!
Maddie escapes from her controlling partner and flees to her father’s hotel with small daughter Poppy and puppy Buddy. She has a lot of work to do in rebuilding her relationship with her father and there she also meets Bandit – an ex marine – and their developing relationship is part of the story as well.
So far so good. But then you have to add in the tension created by Liam, Maddie’s ex, who will stop at nothing to get her back. And then, on top of it all there are the trips into the past and the mystery of Emily Ennis to resolve! Trying to resolve the mystery brings Maddie & Bandit closer and in the background Liam is always lurking.
There is something for everyone in this remarkable book. Poppy & Buddy bring light relief and Poppy in the kitchen is wonderful!
I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I shouted – all out loud – which, to me, is the sign of a brilliant book. When I become so immersed that I lose the real world completely. And that is what this book did.
A lovely book – real people, feeling real things and acting in a believable way. Next one please!
REVIEW of HOUSE OF SECRETS by Anne Williams of Being Anne
A woman on the run, a broken man and a house with a shocking secret…
Madeleine Frost has to get away. Her partner Liam has become increasingly controlling to the point that Maddie fears for her safety, and that of her young daughter Poppy.
Desperation leads Maddie to the hotel owned by her estranged father – the extraordinarily beautiful Wrea Head Hall in Yorkshire. There, she meets Christopher ‘Bandit’ Lawless, an ex-marine and the gamekeeper of the hall, whose brusque manner conceals a painful past.
After discovering a diary belonging to a previous owner, Maddie and Bandit find themselves immersed in the history of the old house, uncovering its secrets, scandals, tragedies – and, all the while, becoming closer.
But Liam still won’t let go, he wants Maddie back, and when Liam wants something he gets it, no matter who he hurts…
With so many self-published authors vying for contracts with publishers, new and unpublished authors can find it increasingly difficult to find opportunities to break through. The Choc Lit and Whole Story Audiobooks Search For A Star competition was set up to address that problem. With Choc Lit as one of its two sponsors, the shortlisted books – and the eventual winners – are guaranteed to feature a well-written story with romance at its heart, together with a gorgeous hero.
And I really did enjoy this book a lot, even though it turned out to be something totally different from what I initially expected – this isn’t in any way the sweet straightforward love story with a country house setting that you might be predicting in the first quarter.
The author’s excellent at creating characters. Liam really is a superb anti-hero – something about him sets your teeth on edge from the time you first meet him, and as time progresses his “Maddie darlin'” sends shivers up your spine. He was never really going to smile and let Maddie just walk away, was he?
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of children in books, but young Poppy is really well drawn and I really liked her interactions with everyone – she brings out the soft side of Bandit, and Maddie’s love for her warms your heart. I liked Maddie’s feisty sister Jess too – there’s an excellent scene with some golf clubs early in the book that brings out her character, and the whole back story about why the sisters are so different adds an interesting extra layer to the story. I really felt for Maddie’s father too – I struggled to get a clear picture of him at first, but really liked the scene where he talks with Jack about his feelings, and the ice skating scene was beautifully done and very touching.
And as for Wrea Head Hall, it’s almost a character in its own right, brilliantly drawn and a perfect setting for the unfolding story. There are some excellent bits of description that bring it to life – the Christmas scenes, Halloween, the grounds, and the detail of the interiors.
Maddie’s arrival at the hall and her first encounter with Bandit is very well done. Bandit is a great romantic hero – I really liked his vulnerability, his background story, the gentler side he shows with Poppy, his thoughts as he runs through the woods, and the way he becomes Maddie’s protector. I must admit I was a tad less keen on Maddie herself – some of her actions seem really badly thought through, and I wanted to give her a good talking to. The putting herself in danger is totally inkeeping with the best gothic tradition – but it didn’t stop me wanting to throttle her at times.
As the story progresses, the tension cranks up to a level that makes the book difficult to set aside – scene after scene, every one vividly drawn, sometimes quite chilling (that breakfast scene!), some edge-of-the-seat writing when I had no idea where things were going. The book’s climax is really excellent, and I read it through my fingers, with dry mouth and pounding heart.
But if I was surprised by the way the story turned really rather dark and tense, I was more surprised by the historical thread after the diaries were found: but the way it all worked through was very good, and added more emotional depth to the story. My only small criticism was that I wasn’t entirely convinced by Emily’s “voice” for someone living in the 1940s – she seemed over modern in some ways, but also a bit Victorian. I did, though, really like the way the story threads all tied together at the end.
To sum the book up? I really enjoyed it. In some ways it wasn’t the book I expected, with its darker edge: but in other ways it most certainly was, and totally satisfied – even exceeded – my expectations as an involving love story (several, in fact) with a very different twist. The author writes really well – and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she tackles next.
My thanks to Choc Lit, netgalley and the author for my advance reading e-copy.