Newest Review: ... Ultimately this house becomes a home and haven for Tess who is running away from her problems in London with her baby, Emmeline. Now,... more
A superior chicklit novel
Secrets - Freya North
Member Name: cerys82
Secrets - Freya North
Advantages: Well wirtten, emotionally engaging
Disadvantages: Perhaps a little overlong
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.
Summary: Very enjoyable