16056382Reviewed by Colleen Turner

After losing her job in the print magazine publishing world of New York City two years previously, Leslie Nichols is quickly running out of money and options for making any. After receiving a message that the time limit for her to accept her claim to her grandmother’s estate is fast approaching, Leslie thinks this might be the perfect opportunity for her. Yes, she has refused to return to her family home of Peak Plantation for thirty years after her mother’s tragic death and has no wish to relieve the painful memories that tragedy stirs up. But she has nothing better to be doing right now and selling the plantation might solve her money issues. And with her ex-con father – the man everyone believes was responsible for her mother’s death – recently released from jail and sure to be tracking her down for money soon, returning to Peak Plantation also offers her a way of avoiding him. She can swallow her fear of the past, sell the plantation and move on for good.

Getting rid of Peak Plantation doesn’t prove to be as easy as she hoped, however. Someone else has a claim as well. Jay Davenport, the caretaker of Peak who took care of Leslie’s grandmother before she died, has been cultivating the land Leslie’s grandmother left to him in the hopes of turning it into a prosperous winery. For better or worse, Leslie and Jay will have to work together to do what is best for Peak as well as themselves. But as Leslie and Jay continue long buried secrets of the plantation and Leslie’s family begin to surface, including the life and death of a lady’s maid, Adele Laveau, who came to the plantation in the 1930s. As the two restore Peak and delve into its various mysteries they will be forced to face shocking truths – about Adele, Leslie’s family and each other – that will change their lives forever.

The Secrets She Carried does that wonderful thing so many books I’ve enjoyed lately do: effortlessly combine the past and the present, swirling the secrets and truths of the two timelines together until all the connections are laid open for the reader to marvel at. The modern day story of Leslie and Jay was very enjoyable, showing a slow but sweet love affair open up for these two characters that have been hurt in the past and need each other’s perspectives and honesty to move on from the pain they have been harboring. Without giving anything away the way the conflict between Leslie and her father is brought to a head is incredibly touching and I think the way both Leslie and Jay learn to open up and let other people in was spot on.

As usual the story line set in the past was my favorite part, however. Adele is such a captivating character and what she does for love is heartbreaking. While some of the secrets we learn were easy to see coming, other aspects were a total surprise for me and had me going back and rereading earlier passages to see how I could have possibly missed it. That, for me, made The Secrets She Carried that much more entertaining and a book I will remember for some time.

The Secrets She Carried is a touching look at the damage secrets can cause and the redemptive power of facing your demons, letting go of the past and opening yourself up to others. None of the characters are perfect which makes them easily relatable and sympathetic. Even thought the novel wraps up neatly by the end I enjoyed the characters so much that I have a secret hope the author writes a sequel so I can continue with the story of Leslie, Jay and Peak Plantation. That, to me, proves how enjoyable this novel is.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NAL. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.