Last week I was lucky enough to attend the launch party of local author Lynda Stacey's debut novel, House of Secrets. It was a lovely night (with an incredible book-cover cake - I definitely want one of those one day!) and a few days later I had time, while travelling, to start reading House of Secrets. Naturally, once I'd started, I raced through the book in no time, but it's taken me a bit longer to get around to working out how to explain its charm. Here's my attempt...
House of Secrets by Lynda Stacey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love Choc Lit books, and House of Secrets is a great example of what Choc Lit do best: love stories with an added dimension.
At one level, House of Secrets is a classic love triangle: Maddie is fleeing Liam, whose love for her has tipped over into a frightening obsession, when she meets Christopher Lawless, nicknamed Bandit. Maddie is a clever, capable woman whose confidence has temporarily been damaged by an abusive relationship - a familiar character type from so many stories, not least Carole Matthews' delightful A Place to Call Home, which I read just before House of Secrets. Liam, the obsessive ex-boyfriend, could have come out of any number of domestic noir novels. Bandit is the ever-popular ex-Marine, rough and ready, and with plenty of his own demons to fight, but with a soft streak a mile wide when it comes to Maddie's adorable daughter Poppy.
If you think these characters sound a touch predictable, you'd be right, but it's the warmth with which they are drawn that makes them stand out, and I'm sure that's a big part of why this book won Choc Lit's Search for a Star competition. The other outstanding feature of House of Secrets is, of course, the house of the title: Wrea Head Hall, the beautiful country house hotel which brings Maddie and Bandit together in an exploration of past secrets which turn out to have a touching relevance to the present day.
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I wanted to finish off by sharing a photo of me and hubby at Wrea Head Hall itself - yes, it's a real place, just outside Scarborough, and we've been there once for afternoon tea - but I couldn't find one. Guess we'll just have to go again, then! In the meantime, you can check the hotel out here; http://www.wreaheadhall.co.uk/ and read more about Lynda on her website here: https://lyndastacey2912.wordpress.com/