Reviewed by Sophia Chiu
Not to be confused with Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline is actually an acronym for the type of experiences the protagonist undergoes in this sweet novel of personal growth. Cassie Robichaud is a young widow waitressing in New Orleans, living in a “numb limbo” since her estranged, alcoholic husband died in an automobile accident. One day, a regular accidentally leaves behind a burgundy notebook with highly personal information that leads Cassie to SECRET, a secret sisterhood devoted to facilitating the sexual growth of selected women by arranging for their sexual fantasies to come to life.
Cassie seems to be the ideal recruit for this underground society. Socially inhibited and sexually inexperienced, Cassie stands to gain from learning to embrace the group’s motto: No judgments. No limits. No shame. In secret society fashion, initiates gain a gold charm to add to their bracelet upon completion of each “Step” or fantasy with themes such as “Surrender” and “Courage.”
As these “Steps” and Cassie’s fantasy preferences are outlined at the beginning, the structure of the novel is revealed pretty early on. Each fantasy is a self-contained episode, designed to help Cassie attain the quality stamped on the charm she earns. It takes a few encounters to warm up to penetrative sex, and dedicated readers of erotica might find the scenes too mild. The author seems to have an aversion to naming private parts by their anatomical or colloquial names, and occasionally slips into writing short incomplete sentences: “After one more step. Then I’d stop.”
However, if read as a story of personal transformation, Cassie’s journey is more appealing than as merely titillating erotica. As she goes through the process, she becomes less passive in other areas of her life, and a more engaging character. Of course, true to cliche, she was also a beauty, a diamond in the rough, all along. New Orleans features prominently in the story. Occasionally I found myself wondering more about the inner workings of the well-funded and powerfully connected SECRET group. I think there’s a good chance that sequels might come along that will reveal more about SECRET – and I’d be interested in reading them.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Broadway. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.