Tag Archives: family secrets

Whisper Me This by Kerry Anne King—pub date August 1, 2018

In her childhood, Marley talked Maisey into adventures for which she abandoned Maisey to take the blame. Maisey’s mother told her that Marley wasn’t real, even though she was as real as her mother to Maisey. In her third decade, raising her daughter Elle by herself, Maisey continues to be scatterbrained and unfocused, and has never been normal according to Elle, who wants her to stay that way. Elle is 12 when Maisey receives a phone call that her mother is dying, circumstantial evidence pointing to her father, a man she has always known as a gentle buffer between her mother and herself, as the cause. She must go home and untangle the ugly mess, uncovering a mystery in the process. This sets her off on an adventure to uncover her mother’s secret, revealing much about herself and their relationship in the process. The love interest has his own secrets, and Maisey is the catalyst for his family recognizing his trauma and helping him to move past it. As the EMT / firefighter responding to her family’s emergencies, he is woven into her story as an eventuality.

King brilliantly sets up family dynamics that clearly show the repressed fear of the mother and the compensating kindness of the father, and how secrets create chaos and confusion in relationships. There are a couple of slight distractions from the story: Maisey throws up or feels like it a LOT; Whenever the love interest appears, he’s described in Harlequin Romance hunky terms. Despite this, the story moves along at a brisk pace, with the mom’s backstory presented through her journal, an intimate medium that elicits sympathy. It’s a very human story full of complex emotions and motivations, a must-read!

I was fortunate to receive an ARC through NetGalley of this wonderful book.

Click here to go to Kerry Anne King’s website.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center—pub date May 15, 2018

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This book starts off with a bang, specifically a plane crash. Despite Margaret’s fear of flying, her fiance coerces her into a flight in his Cessna before his certification test. An unexpected storm causes the plane to flip, trapping her inside as it explodes. The story reads like a memoir, such is the detail of her learning process about the extent of her injuries and medical procedures. The shocking revelations don’t end with her body and its new needs, as Margaret / Maggie spends more time with her family than she would have expected, or chosen. She discovers the true nature of her beloveds: suddenly absentee fiancee Chris, estranged sister Kitty, and distant mother—secrets bursting bubbles right and left. Some of those bubbles are burst by her recalcitrant physical therapist, whose already wobbly professionalism crashes at the charm of Maggie. Center brilliantly leads the reader through a labyrinth of complex emotions and clashing dynamics on two continents to a hilarious and painful climactic scene, where Maggie cannot escape a situation more awkward than she could imagine. Then the story goes a bit over the top, ala Harlequin romance style, with the love interest taking a dangerous leap literally, and gushing about his feelings for her as though the rest of the world stopped for this moment. It’s difficult to see what is happening around them as they open up to each other in a completely inappropriate place and time.

That life constantly takes Maggie by surprise is an endearing trait that makes her relateable and encourages readers to cheer her on through her physical and emotional struggles. There was a cringe-worthy scene early on where her professor tells her to “act like a man” for her interview, and she promises to do so. It’s very much her character, though, and Center maintains the integrity of all characters as they face secrets exposed and emotions unleashed. The denouement ends up being summarized, a bit of a disappointment in such a captivating tale, but leaves the reader with a sense of humanity restored as life exceeds Maggie’s expectations. This is a novel that reminds readers fiction often has much truth, in showing unspoken, understandable motives behind seemingly hurtful actions and how communication can resolve even long-held conflicts.

I was fortunate to receive an ARC from St. Martin’s Press of this beautiful story by Katherine Center.

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews—pub date May 8, 2018

Brooke Trapnell, the runaway bride in Save the Date, continues her story, having moved back to little town, Georgia, with her son, Henry. The resident wealthy socialite philanthropist of nearby Sea Island, Josephine Bettendorf Warrick, contacts Brooke to represent her against the state of Georgia, who wants her land for a state park. The secrets of nonagenarian Josephine slowly seep out as she lays out her plans to atone for her sins and defend her estate by passing it on to descendants of her long ago best friends. Brooke discovers a related family secret she would have never thought to guess.

Andrews’ description of friendships in the 50s deep South feels less like crossing a color line and more like pushing into an invisible, flexible barrier that they can’t quite break through. The re-emergence of The High Tide Club through the descendants of the original members is meant to be poignant, yet it’s hard to imagine the remaining original member at 95 walking naked into the ocean in chilly October. Though Andrews’ writing continues to be fully engaging, this novel seemed to go long, and it felt as though the author decided at one point to simply wrap up all the loose ends, with revelations coming fast and furious after the typical length of a novel, around 300 pages. There’s a contemporary would-be killer paralleling the murder mystery from decades past, and neither seems credible, nor true to character, even given the circumstances. Despite this, it’s an interesting story and worth it for a sandy good beach read.

I was fortunate to receive a pre-release copy from the publisher of one of my favorite authors.

Love in a Carry-On Bag by Sadeqa Johnson

Erica excels as a publicist in NYC. Her love Warren is under contract in DC, while pursuing his true love of jazz whenever he can. They vow their weekends to each other in good faith, but family and work overspill their boundaries. Erica’s alcoholic mother is an emotional vampire, constantly requesting her time and money. Warren’s father is an emotionally inaccessible, strict disciplinarian, whose second marriage exposes a family secret that rips Warren out of time and space. As Erica tries to move up the ladder in her company, special projects snatch her away from her special time with Warren, who renews his contract in DC without discussing it with her. He breaks up with her, setting Erica on a downward spiral. She confronts her mother about her childhood, prompting her mother to reveal her own tragic background. She and Warren must come to terms with the families that they have and find their way back to each other.

This is so much more than a long-distance romance novel. Both main characters are well-developed, complex individuals placed in impossible situations with no clear resolutions. They learn more about their families than they wanted to know, but this helps them to evolve and move toward each other.

Raising the Dad (pub date April 17, 2018 Thomas Dunne Books) by Tom Matthews

John Husted picks up his brother from prison with his mother, whose dementia charms her into thinking he’s coming home from vacation. The good son, John cared for his mom after his dad died, is now building his own family, continuing to monitor his mom in her home, and settles his ex-convict brother in with mom. It’s no surprise then that his father’s colleague, succumbing to a terminal illness, turns over his clandestine responsibility to John, who now must make a final, impossible decision.

This story started off with the hook of prisoners being released at the end of their term, the nitty gritty of getting out, which was interesting. When it came to the individual prisoner, the story slowed down a bit, until the family secret was revealed. Then it flowed. The reader spends a lot of time in John’s head, agonizing with him over the dreaded options that aren’t really options. Everyone else seems secondary to John, which makes sense for a man who took on a lot of obligation at a very young age.

This young age comes into play when John digs into his father’s past through old medical records stored in the original hospital behind the one Dr. Husted’s vision brought to fruition. He finds a chink in his father’s armor, an event that everyone else remembers and has chosen to forget, but is just like brand-new to him, because he was so young when his father died. He cannot resolve this news within himself, and it adds more angst to his awful final decision, so that he delays. His wife sees here some redemption for his nogoodnik brother – though Mike might believe that the world would be better if everybody smoked pot while listening to 80’s heavy metal, Robin understood that he could be the answer in this case. This leads John back to his family, as his mother becomes lucid long enough to share a story about herself regarding the incident that shows her altruism.

Matthews has a wicked sense of humor – John purchases hockey gear to tackle the rats nesting in the old medical records in the abandoned hospital, and the scene of the vermin ambush is so visceral the reader cringes, though John is sufficiently protected. Though he didn’t really expect to find his father in the meticulous medical notation, John is still disappointed – though he knew better, he did not find personal reports of his dad’s heroics by patients’ families or staff.

Readers who like shocking secrets, dark humor, and soul-searching conundrums will appreciate this story. Those who enjoy character evolution and complex family relationships will like this novel.

Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley, for the opportunity to read this Uncorrected Digital Galley.