Initial reaction: Leave it to Brenda Novak to keep me up during a late night glued to one of her stories. "The Secret Sister" falls quite firmly in the romantic suspense category - revolving around a family with many complications in their relationships and a mystery that threatens to tear them apart for purported events. I found myself drawn into the carefully developed characters and the overarching mystery, though I'll admit I was still left with questions that were either loosely expounded upon or had some flaws in the progression to where they weren't entirely answered. It still came across as a solid read for me - 4 stars.
"The Secret Sister" had my attention from the very beginning on the strength of its premise. Maisey returns home after a series of horrible events in her life, but returning home isn't exactly a welcome homecoming. Considering her family history, it's little wonder. Her brother Keith is a recovering -on again, off again - drug addict. Her father had passed away many years ago, and her mother, Josephine, is a controlling matriarch who will use every bit of her money and power (a given with the family name and presence in the community) to undermine those who cross her, including Maisey.
Maisey finds a bit of refuge with Rafe and his 5-year-old daughter Laney. Maisey has a bit of awkward history with Rafe, but their chemistry is very strong and believable in its alternating waves of push and pull. When Rafe finds a hidden box in a wall of what he thinks are Maisey's baby pictures, it starts a tense mystery and huge rift in the family as secrets and doubts float to the surface. Maisey's determined to get to the bottom of events, and she meets some notable resistance in her journey to do that.
I definitely liked the focus on the strong characters in this narrative. It cycles between different POVs (Maisey's, Rafe's and Josephine's) and all three characters are strongly asserted for their motivations and emotions. Novak's prose is spot on for its intimacies, and I felt invested in both the development of the relationships here as well as the mystery. I did feel that as the book went on, certain plot points felt a bit thin in their drawing, particularly in the push to the end where some threads were left untied, but I still found the conclusion satisfying even when I had an idea of the direction it would go.
This is the first in a series, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of the events on Fairham Island.
Overall score: 4/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher Harlequin Mira.
The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
Book starts out with Maisey and her brother Keith has summoned her to come back home to help with their mother.
She arrives and will be staying at her father's bungalows, the contractor is refurbishing them after the last big storm. Nobody gets along with their mother Josephine. Maisey has also been divorced for a year and had a daughter died from SIDS but her mother always, blamed her.
Raef is the one to find the box while doing carpentry work and brings it to Massey and she does recall the taller child but she's not sure who it is. Mysteries and secrets from many as she tries to patch things with her mother, help clean the bungalow and work at the family floral shop.
Liked the romance, sex, helping blind child, talk of flowers, braiding hair from the book she wrote and to find out about the girl in the photo and blackmail money...
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).
THE SECRET SISTER BY BRENDA NOVAK
Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why?
After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the South Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who's asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house. The last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago.
Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she'd prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He's back on the island, and to her surprise, he's raising a young daughter alone. Maisey's still attracted to him, but her heart's too broken to risk…
Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must've been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister.
Maisey's convinced that child existed. So where is she now?
Google Play Books: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Brenda_Novak
REVIEW: THE SECRET SISTER BY BRENDA NOVAK
The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A box of photographs causes a woman to question everything she knows about herself and her family. Brenda Novak surprised me with this one. The Secret Sister is an emotionally disturbing read. The root of the story is that secrets can destroy lives. As I was reading it I'm thinking this could be a story about anyone and that stirred something within my soul. Maisey is already having a difficult time within her life and when she finds evidence of a secret that has been hidden for years she wants answers. In her quest for the truth she is forced to take a hard look at herself. Ms. Novak's stories are always full of sentiment and emotion, but this one really proved to be thought provoking. A haunting scenario. The Secret Sister was given to me in exchange for an honest review.
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