The Secret Wife

The Secret WifeThe Secret Wife by Gill Paul
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“To feel that another human being truly understood the core of you and loved what they saw, while you felt the same about them – that was the best feeling of all.

What if Grand Duchess Tatiana of Russia, daughter of the fallen Tsar Nicholas II had escaped execution and lived? What would her life have been like? Would she ever have revealed her identity or let her secret die with her?

After reading The Lost Daughter, Gill Paul’s latest novel about another Romanov daughter, Maria, I absolutely had to read this. I found the premise intriguing, and I love fictionalized history that is based on true events. The book has an interesting and creative vibe that makes one think about the true nature of love, lost love, the sanctity of marriage, and the value of family.

Told in parallel stories both past and present, you will keep the pages turning because you want to know how the stories are linked. The reason this book is captivating is because it evokes all types of emotions with its characters; anger, sadness, pity, anticipation, disgust, surprise, fear, and joy, nothing is off-limits. Because I found the protagonist Dmitri weak and underwhelming, I took .5 of a star off. 4.5!

The Lost Daughter

The Lost DaughterThe Lost Daughter by Gill Paul
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia, daughter of the fallen Tsar Nicholas II had escaped execution and lived? What would her life have been like? Would she ever have revealed her identity or let her secret die with her?

Flash forward to the 1970s. Val Doyle’s estranged father has passed on and left cryptic, haunting words on his deathbed. Who was this solemn, oppressive man that barely raised her?

This is the sweeping saga of one woman’s fight for the survival of her family. It is a story of motherhood, love, hope, heartache, endurance, and redemption. Exquisitely written, the novel follows the parallel stories of two women decades apart.

I could not put this book down. It was a beautiful story empowering two female characters to overcome the impossible barriers of their times. Narrated as both a mystery and an epic, this is a novel for those who love stories about women finding out how strong they really are. You will be routing for both of them the entire way through. Highly recommended.

Big Lies in a Small Town

Big Lies in a Small TownBig Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was excited to receive this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to Goodreads and St. Martin’s press!

I have read several of Diane Chamberlain’s books through the years and was thrilled to receive this book in a giveaway. The story goes back and forth in time from 1940 to 2018 and follows the lives of two women, Anna Dale and Morgan Christopher, decades apart. The plot centers around a painting that must be restored for a gallery opening and the hidden symbols painted within it. As the novel moves along, the women’s lives become mysteriously interwoven with Morgan feeling a strong connection to the enigmatic artist.

I was drawn to this story because I knew nothing about art restoration and I found the subject extremely interesting. I loved the descriptions of Morgan restoring the painting and finding the secrets that it hid beneath the layers of dirt. The heartwarming friendship between Anna and Jesse was a sweet touch at a time of racial turbulence. A little lackluster was the development of Lisa, a central character who I wanted to know more about. I also found the writing a bit mundane. Regardless, a solid story that will keep you reading until the very end. 3.5 stars

The Outsider

The Outsider (Holly Gibney, #1)The Outsider by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Once you eliminate the natural, whatever remains must be supernatural?”

For the record, I am NOT a fan of Stephen King. That’s not to say that I would never become one, I just haven’t read enough of anything of his that I have really LOVED. That said, if creepy, dark, and twisted is what you enjoy, this book will not disappoint. The Outsider was an unnecessarily longwinded partly enjoyable police procedural turned supernatural creepy monster thriller. The unspeakable heinous sexual acts of the creature turned me off from the start, and I don’t think such brutality was needed for what otherwise was a good story. The characters were bizarre, offbeat, and totally awesome. I LOVED Holly Gibney and old lady Lovey. I appreciated the strong female cast of this novel. It was also great to see both unbelievers and believers work together to create a cozy, investigative team concerned with seeking the truth, whatever that may be. Was this book creepy? That would be a big HELL YES! One particular scene had me turning all the lights on in my house. A hint of folklore adds a nice touch. This book was just too damn long. Three stars.

The House We Grew Up In

The House We Grew Up InThe House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Ah, well you see, your Nana is a very special lady. She’s really quite magical, you know. And when she looks at the world, she sees it in a very special way, like it’s a party bag or a toy shop, and she likes to keep bits of it, and she feels sad when she throws things away”.

I’ve LOVED many of Lisa Jewell’s other novels, but sadly this one was a train wreck. Such a long-winded tale with nothing really riveting about it. A multilayered dysfunctional family with a hoarder at the center could make a remarkable story, but this was just SO unremarkable. Loralei was the most annoying character I’ve read in a long time. (Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss). Trying to feel empathetic or connect with her was just impossible. All along I was patiently waiting for the shocking reason for Reece’s suicide. Nothing really there. The only thing I could even say was a bit interesting was the relationship between the three remaining siblings as the years went by. Overall, this novel was a huge disappointment and a waste of my time.