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Secrets - Freya North

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Freya North / Paperback / 496 Pages / Book is published 2009-04-30 by Harper

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    7 Reviews
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      25.06.2011 15:13
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      One for your list.

      This book was read because of a positive review on here. The plot intrigued me as house sitting (well actually pet sitting, but a similar thing) is something I very briefly looked into in Australia and I also just love a bit of spark flying in a book to get the pages turning.

      I thought I had read a book by the author, Freya North, before as the pink stripes on the front were similar to the green ones on another I had. I thought it was a theme on her books but actually they are different authors. But Freya has released many books ; in the front pages nine others are listed which include many named something that you would called your cat such as Fen and Pip! It took Freya five years to get her first book Sally published in 1996 after she gave up her PHD to write it. This book itself was published in 2009.

      As I mentioned house sitting is the theme here. Tess answers an ad in the paper written by Joe who lives in a house that although is beautiful, holds many secrets. Ultimately this house becomes a home and haven for Tess who is running away from her problems in London with her baby, Emmeline.

      Now, as a rule, I don't read chick-lit books that have children in them. I don't have any myself so I cannot relate and I also think they would involve more mature women, not necessary of age but in mind. However I did not know about Tess' child before I started reading because I hate to say it but it may have stopped me reading. I am glad I didn't know because this book is brilliant. I couldn't put it down, wanting to read more about Tess' growing life in Saltburn-By-The-Sea and relations with Joe when he was not out of the country doing his bridge engineering work. Freya North did much research regarding the bridge aspect of the book although sometimes it did seem Joe was spouting of information from an information card!

      What was a little different to what I normally read is that the characters were not ones I immediately warmed to or liked all the time. Tess, I thought was a little presumptive to arrive on his doorstep with a child in tow and similarly things that Joe kept on doing throughout the book I thought was bang out of order. But I guess things can be explained. Tess for example, is at the end of her tether and she simply cannot be turned down to be a house sitter because she has a child.

      As for the secrets in the title of the book, they range from the guessable to the weird with weird and odd being the reason Tess will not go on the beach!

      The setting is in the beautifully described and researched Saltburn (abbreviated) and the author actually includes pictures and descriptions of at the end of the book. With a pier, beach and Italian Gardens, Saltburn is not picturesque in the foreign holiday way but in the typically British seaside town with history way.

      The book can be purchased for £4.49 on Amazon or from 1p plus p&p on Amazon marketplace.

      It only has three and half stars on Amazon compared to more favourable ratings here. Some of the complaints are about the secrets, the length of the book and the rather descriptive bedroom scenes. I do agree about the latter. The book is written in the third person which is this way enables you to learn more about the two main characters. However what this also means is more description of places and items which was actually ok but I do have a short attention span when it comes to such things! One complaint I do have is that I would have liked to have learnt and read more about were Tess' friends Lisa from Saltburn and Tasmin from London as they only really featured when Tess was in need of something.

      But the complaints are small, this book kept me wanting to read more and with the characters becoming more comfortable with themselves and overcoming their problems the book arrives at a satisfying ending, although I wouldn't have objected to a little more! You will even smile at one of the things Tess' enjoys doing in the latter half of the book as I did as it is something I would love to do.
      I would really recommend this book as it will keep you frustrated, upset, guessing and wondering and ultimately happy.

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        30.05.2011 22:04
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        great characters, fab read

        Joe has a job that he loves, and a woman waiting for him in every country his work takes him to. He's very set in his ways and a confirmed bachelor. So when he advertises for a housesitter to look after his house and dog whilst he travels, he doesn't expect to find himself hiring Tess - a woman running away from her problems in London with a baby in tow and seemingly determined to lock heads with him at every opportunity.

        He suddenly finds his life, and his house, being turned upside down by Tess and baby Emmy's arrival. And what's worse, he rapidly becomes intrigued by Tess and what exactly she's running away from. Will Tess be able to keep her 'secrets' to herself whilst living with Joe? And is it possible that Joe could have some secrets of his very own?

        Joe was a fantastic male lead: very sexy and brooding. His job, building bridges, made his character interesting and led to some brilliantly original scenes and a very perfect ending to the book. Unfortunately however, the man just doesn't seem to know what's good for him: I found myself almost shouting out loud with frustration at how he treated Tess, he was so infuriating! I just couldn't put the book down until he sorted himself out and did what I wanted him to do, which took a while! Thank goodness he got there in the end.

        Tess came across as a little weak at the beginning of the novel but then really came into her own. There's one particular scene where she thinks that Joe is going to leave after an argument and she completely turns the tables on him - he will forever after have a fondness for Iggle Piggle.

        The way the relationship develops between Tess and Jo is beautifully written, and I love that Freya North isn't afraid to have the main characters come together in the middle of a novel so that the reader can watch their new relationship grow.

        The setting of Saltburn-by-the-Sea was another great aspect of the novel. The descriptions of the region were captivating and it's easy to see that it's somewhere thought of with great fondness by the novelist. It's not an area that I had heard of before, but I would now love to visit if I ever get the opportunity.

        This is the first book I've read by Freya North; I've been meaning to try her writing for a while but just hadn't got round to it until now. I found 'Secrets' a lovely, very romantic novel, with an incredibly sexy lead man and a cute dog and toddler chucked in - what more could you ask for? I'll definitely be on the look out for more of Freya's work.

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          10.07.2010 22:10
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          Very enjoyable

          Running away from a traumatic life in London with her baby daughter Em, single mum Tess ends up being a housemaid in Saltburn-On-Sea by both a fluke and a misunderstanding. Arriving on the doorstep of the home's owner Joe, an emotionally aloof but very successful bridge engineer Joe, and his beloved dog Wolf, sparks fly almost immediately. Tess's role is to look after the old and large home that Joe grew up in whilst he goes on frequent jaunts abroad for work.

          An awkward intimacy grows between them on his sporadic visits home, something further complicated by his not entirely platonic relationships with various women around the world. Tess back home in Saltburn however has her own issues, Joes ailing mother who turns up at the house unexpectedly, a budding romance with a local free spirit surfer type as well as a past that is constantly threatening to catch up with her.

          The delicate balance between Tess and Joe is under constant threat of tipping either way, compounded by each other's confusion as to their real feelings about each other.

          As far as I am aware this is the first Freya North novel which I have read and I have to say that I was really impressed. It is presented and packaged as a run-of-the-mill chicklit novel but it really is much better than that. Yes , it is solely focussed around the pursuance of true love and does have a leaning towards detailing the mundane in people's life (Tess is a glorified housekeeper after all) but there are nudges towards a darker edge. It is surprisingly raunchy and explicit in places which I really did not expect but these moments are written so well that they do feel in keeping with the rest of the book.

          It is perhaps slightly overlong but the fact that it is so well written makes it an easy read, yet surprisingly simple to be moved by. Tess in particularly is a flawed yet ultimately sympathetic character. What North does particularly well is tell the story from the points of view of both Joe and Tess, thereby summing up superbly just how and why they behave the way they do towards each other and convincingly portraying their growing attraction to each other.

          North has also gone to a lot of effort to give Saltburn a real character as a location. It is portrayed as beautiful but gritty and the running theme of bridge building, both as a metaphor and in reference to Joe's passion for it, are everpresent.

          The edition which I have also has a bonus section towards the back of the book which features an interview with North as well as exclusive pictures of her and her family on location in Saltburn on holiday and research trips.

          Ultimately and perhaps expectedly, this is not a book which is going to trouble Booker Prize judges but for a seemingly throwaway read it has real depth and soul. I really engaged with it and felt well and truly emotionally attached with the characters. Following this, I would definitely look to read something else by North who I think could well be one of the top writers in the 'chicklit' genre.

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          02.01.2010 19:18
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          A really good read.

          I wasn't overly keen on the blurb of this book, but being a Freya North fan, I decided to give it a go.
          The main characters are Tess and Joe, who are thrown together when Tess applies to look after Joe's house.
          Tess has run away from London with her daughter, and is a very closed book. She turns up in a full car which she never unpacks, or drives, again. Joe, on the other hand, is simply looking for someone to look after his house by the sea while he is away on business, and isn't really that keen on hiring Tess.
          She's very persuasive, though, and with the choice taken out of his hands, Tess moves in. The two get to know each other, and the chemistry is obvious, until they start to uncover each other's pasts. Tess has no interest in sharing her past with Joe, and is very hostile when he asks about it. Joe, on the other hand, doesn't tell Tess anything, and instead waits for Tess to discover his secrets while he is away on business.

          Freya is an experienced writer, and is excellent at making you feel what the character is. She is apt at showing the glorious side of love, but also the painful, and the book is gripping. I did find it hard to get into, but that was due to the odd narration, rather then the story line, and it really is worth sticking with it.

          The book has some raunchy parts which would be unsuitable for younger readers, and its much less serious then some of Freya's other recent work, but its an excellent read if you need to escape!

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            21.10.2009 11:24
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            chick lit, well done

            Sometimes a book that does as it promises on the cover can be just the thing I need. In this case the girlie pink picture and the author's name both appealed to me on my most recent trip to the library, I've read and enjoyed books from this author before. Having struggled with the previous book I read, I was in the mood for a little light relief and this is exactly what I got with this book, though the "Secrets" of the title didn't lead to much intrigue and mystery, this was a very readable book.

            The story takes place in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, a seaside near Middlesborough in North East England. The heroine of this story, Tess, has fled London, literally, with her 18 month toddler Emmeline in tow, short on money, and because she has seen an advert for a housesitter in the town. When she arrives at the house, a Victorian villa with a hidden past, she soon discovers that her relationship with Joe, the owner, is going to be interesting. As the book unfolds Joe, a bridge designer who travels widely and has a woman in every port, or bridge site in this case, finds his house and his expectations being transformed by the whirlwind that is Tess.

            The secrets referred to in the title concern Tess' life in London, the house itself, and also those of Mary, who lives in a nearby rest home and is drawn back to the house. As Tess falls in love with the house and grows to feel affection for Wolf, Joe's charismatic dog, will Joe and Tess reveal who they are and what will life hold for them? Why is Tess so scared by beaches and heights, and what makes Joe so ambiguous about his house and so commitment shy?

            In some ways this book is predictable, and if you have read any Freya North before the rather steamy scenes that pepper the book won't shock or suprise. That said, it is an easy read, and I found that I did read it quite quickly and enjoy the book for what it is, well written in its genre in the main, with no need for deep thought or over analysis. The story is believable in the main, where it works best is in the creation of the seaside town, which the author knows really well - at the end of the book there are some charming pictures of her and her family on the beach that you have read about in the book. The idea of a stranger coming into a town and seeing it with new eyes is not an original one, but here it works well and you sense the author's real affection for the town, which in my opinion she does justice to, and manages to show in a good light, whilst avoiding the "London girl goes oop North" cliche.

            Some of the sex scenes are very nearly cringey, but somehow the author pulls them off (no pun intended), and the dialogue between the female characters, in particular the female friends that Tess has do ring very true. I did find that Tess had rather more energy and time to paint walls and tidy cupboards than I would think actually possible with a young toddler, but hey it is fiction, and actually the mother/daughter scenes were lovely and heartwarming, and again quite realistic.

            Overall I liked this book, it was just what I was looking for and for what it is it works really well. I would happily recommend this book as a little bit of escapism and a non-taxing book that will have you smiling in parts and has a satisfying ending. I enjoyed this book.

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              06.10.2009 15:38
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              Disappointing, what else can I say!!!!!!!

              INTRODUCTION
              Running too low on reading material for my liking, I popped into my local library for a very speedy visit due to my two year old daughter having spent too much time strapped into her buggy and becoming hyperactive and increasingly loud. So after reading end enjoying several Freya North titles in the past I saw this and grabbed it sure that I wouldn't be disappointed.....

              THE STORY
              Joe is looking for a house sitter, he is footloose and fancy free with no ties or commitments and a good job which requires a lot of travelling. His house is a beautiful rambling place by the sea, but to him its just a base, not a home at all, apart from to his dog Wolf, hence the need for a house sitter which is where Tess comes in. To her the job advertisement is the answer to all her problems, a way to escape from her past and start again.

              Tess is completely different from all of Joe's previous house sitters and despite his worry's they start to grow closer and as they do so secrets from the past are revealed, but how will the other react and what impact will secrets have on their relationship.

              MY OPINION
              Sorry did I say that I was sure I wouldn't be disappointed, let me take that back.
              Disappointing is the first word that springs to mind in relation to this book!!!
              Disappointing because I have always enjoyed Freya North's novels before!!!
              Disappointing even if I hadn't had any expectations based on previous books from the author basically because it was a very dull and dissatisfying read!!!

              The general ideas and concepts of the book, in my opinion where a great basis for a typical chik-lit book, there was lust versus love, secrets and learning to put the past where it belongs, but there was just no oomph, there was no excitement, there wasn't that extra something that makes you want to keep reading. I do think the writer had tried to create that extra something by adding the quite detailed sex scenes, now I am definitely no prude and enjoy the odd sexy scene like anyone else, but these just didn't seem to work. They didn't fit with the character's personalities and just seemed somewhat pointless.

              I did finish this book but it was quite a chore to do so, and it seemed to me that through he course of it the same things just seemed to happen over and over again, the pair would start getting closer, then they would fall out and Joe would go away, they would miss each other, Joe would return and they'd start getting closer, then they would fall out and so on and so forth.

              I do like a story where the writer sets the scene by describing sights and sounds etc so you can imagine that atmosphere but that failed to work in this book and there was too much waffling about scenery and house painting, and what I expected to be the main part of the story, the secrets, as suggested by the title, well they were just lame and (yes that word again) disappointing!!!!!

              VERDICT
              I definitely would not recommend this book to anyone, although it wouldn't put me off trying more Freya North titles in the future.

              On the whole a total let down ( I resisted the urge to use the D word yet again).

              THE AUTHOR
              For more in formation on Freya North you can visit her website www.freyanorth.com. Here you can find her journal, blog, dates and locations for her book signings and details of all her books.

              Released earlier this year (2009) secrets was her tenth novel and she is currently working on her 11th other titles from this author include, pillow talk, fen, Home Truths, Cat and Pip.

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                22.08.2009 00:08
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                Passes the time.

                'Secrets' is the latest bestseller from chick-lit author Freya North. She is generally known for writing about feisty women who change their lives dramatically with a rash choice after something has gone wrong, and this is no exception. She is also known for writing fairly explicit sex scenes, and this is no exception here either!

                Tess Adams is a single mother of a toddler who lives in London, somewhat unsuccessfully due t o severely increasing debts and a lack of family support. One day she is cowering in the corner of her kitchen, trying to avoid the bailiffs when she remembers an advert from the local newspaper of a small town hundreds of miles away, on the tube. The advert is for a house-sitter and offers a home and job far away from all her problems.

                After a hasty phone call, Tess and her daughter Emmeline find themselves in a huge old house in Saltburn-By-The-Sea with a dog called Wolf and his somewhat bemused owner Joe. Tess and Em soon settle into life in the north-east and sparks begin to fly between her and Joe, but they both have secrets. Will they be able to overcome these secrets in order to become truly happy, or are they so huge that they will prevent either of them from ever finding love and trust again?

                As far as chick-lit books go, this one follows the pretty standard formula. However I have to admit that I wasn't bowled over by it. Towards the end of the book I found myself reading to get to the end rather than to find out what happens. If you'd have taken the book away from me ten chapters from the end, I don't think I'd have been overly bothered and I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

                Firstly, I found it difficult to get in to. Freya North's writing style is very unique - she moves from first person to third person, and from descriptive to narrative, very quickly. At times it seems as though one of the central characters is telling the stories and at others it feels like a person is stood on the sidelines and telling us what is going on. I have read a few of her previous novels and this style has never really bothered me, but in this one it made the story seem higgledy-piggledy and uncomfortable to read.

                Secondly, the story itself didn't exactly grip me. It was the typical 'will love triumph over adversity' story that you get with this type of book, but it was a bit weak really. Usually you get (albeit somewhat lame) twists and turns that make the story have a bit of oomph. There is often a sense of 'will-they-won't-they', but this is not the case here. It is extremely predictable and there are no surprises along the way. The book is called secrets and the main characters do have them, although I found that when you discovered what they were, it wasn't worth the wait and they seemed to be overcome very quickly considering they were supposed to so huge.

                Having said all this, I think it would be unfair to say that I hated this book - I didn't, I just didn't love it. That said there were good things about it. Freya North is often described as a sexy read, which is definitely true. She writes sex scenes very graphically (not good if you're a bit of a prude I'm afraid) and believably. She tackles what could be a very Mills and Boon style subject with a skill and lack of embarrassment that makes it sound naturally and, indeed, sexy.

                Her characters are very pleasant and well written. They seem like people you'd like to know and people that you probably do know.

                And I think that is the overall problem - the book is nice and pleasant. What it is really crying out for is something with a bit of bite. Something that will keep you gripped and turning those pages. What it actually is, is a nice and pleasant story that is fine but not great.

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