Review: The Secrets She Kept

The Secrets She Kept
The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Josephine Lazarow had a lot of secrets….

The Secrets She Kept, book 2 in the Fairham Island series, picks up 5 years after The Secret Sister. Josephine Lazarow is dead. Her death has been ruled a suicide, but her son, Keith Lazarow, is not convinced. His mother would never take her own life, he insists. Once a down and out addict, Keith has turned over a new leaf. Turns out he has a knack for real estate and operates a multimillion dollar company in California. His newfound wealth gives him the means to delve deeper into his mother’s death. After consulting with his sister Maisey regarding the mysterious circumstances surrounding their mother’s death, she supports Keith’s decision to pursue a more thorough investigation. If only he could persuade the beautiful, highly intelligent and efficient Chief of Police, Harper Underwood, to get on board. Keith realizes that his negative reputation precedes him, and that it will take great effort on his part to reverse others’ preconceived notions of him, including the police chief’s. Meanwhile, Keith is trying to contain his feelings for the woman whose heart he broke 5 years earlier before he got clean, Nancy Dellinger. Realizing he made a tremendous mistake in taking her for granted, he desperately wants to start over with her. But Nancy has continually resisted his attempts and Keith is having a difficult time accepting her rejections. Will these distressing circumstances in his life push Keith over the edge and back to the drugs he’s worked so hard to put behind him? Did Josephine take her own life or did someone murder her?

The Secrets She Kept was every bit as good as The Secret Sister, which was a 5-star read for me. In it we find a great mystery alongside a solid, second-chance romance story. Brenda Novak is very adept at conveying human emotion. Her characters’ feelings and expressions are authentic and relatable. I also appreciate how there’s a purpose for every one of her characters. At the conclusion of the book the reader is not left wondering “whatever happened to so and so?”. Everything comes together at the end, neat and tidy, with each person accounted for. Some of the characters that we were introduced to in The Secret Sister have evolved and matured in The Secrets She kept, and for that reason I recommend reading the books in order. If I had to list any cons for this book there would only be one. I wish it was free of the heavy petting and sensual scenes since I prefer wholesome romance. Just my own personal preference. Brenda Novak’s writing is so good it doesn’t even seem necessary. Being that the romance aspect shared space with the mystery, these scenes were few and I did my best to skip over them. Had everything remained the same, and the romance been strictly sweet, it would be a 5++ read for me.

Overall, The Secrets She Kept was an excellent read with a thoroughly satisfying mystery and a HEA that will melt your heart.

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Review: The Secret Sister

The Secret Sister
The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Brenda Novak tricked me!! Just when I thought I had it all figured out she blindsided me with a twist I didn’t see coming, and it was clever. As the title suggests, there could very well have been a secret sister that protagonist, Maisey Lazarow, didn’t know about. When a metal box that was keenly hidden emerges, the photographs inside incite vague memories of a girl she may have once been acquainted with. But how could that be? Keith and Maisey are the only two children of Malcolm and Josephine Lazarow. Or are they? Maisey doesn’t dare broach that subject with her mother. Josephine is an odious, overbearing and austere woman who exerts her power and influence on Fairham Island, the place where Maisey grew up and has now returned to help her brother, a weak and broken soul who can’t get his life together. Maisey’s relationship with her mother is so shallow that she refuses to stay in the family home, Coldiron House, preferring to take up residence on the far side of the island where her family owns a number of bungalows that are in desperate need of repair. Even a crumbling cottage is better than living in the same house with her mother. But when Maisey finds out that the contractor who’s been hired to do the renovations on the bungalows is none other that Rafael “Rafe” Romano, a guy she had a fling with in her younger days, and who now owns and lives in one of the bungalows nearby with his adorable young daughter, Laney, Maisey wonders how she’ll be able to divert her attention away from the alluringly attractive man that her mother would never approve of for her daughter. Bad enough she’s recently divorced from Jack, a man who her mother had advised her not to marry; a fact that Josephine will not let her forget. And now, finding the pictures of the young girl in that box raises many questions. Who is she, and why hadn’t her parents told her and Keith about her? Why aren’t there any police records about her, or small-town rumors circulating that she’s heard about? Could her mother have anything to do with the child’s disappearance? The implications of that thought alone are unnerving. Aside from trying to find answers to these lingering questions, she’ll have to make a decision about who she wants to have in her life romantically, Jack or Rafe; straighten out her careless, irresponsible brother, revitalize her writing career, heal from a personal tragedy, and put forth her best effort to mend the rift with her mother that’s been intensified by her reluctance to break things off with Rafe.
The mystery/romance combination of this story really worked for me. I love mysteries, and I love romance, so when they work in tandem I’m contented. This method of storytelling also gives more space to the plot rather than the bedroom scenes. That’s a plus for me because I prefer wholesome romance where heavy sexual content is non-existent. As was the case with The Secret Sister, my attention was drawn more to the mystery of the unidentified girl than it was to Rafe and Maisey’s relationship drama, although I was interested in knowing if their feelings for each other would overcome any obstacles that threatened to keep them apart. In the end, I had to suspend disbelief just a bit to come to terms with the rapid progression of their love, but isn’t that what enjoying fiction is all about sometimes? In conclusion, The Secret Sister was a tantalizing mystery that pulled a fast one on me, along with a romance made up of two unlikely, but very likeable adults, and secondary characters that consisted of all the traits that make for an interesting and absorbing read. I look forward to finding out more about the Lazarow family in Fairham Island book 2, The Secrets She Kept. Highly recommended.

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Review: Hanover House

Hanover House
Hanover House by Brenda Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I enjoyed Hanover House, a book I’d classify as a Romantic Suspense Thriller. It’s a prequel to Her Darkest Nightmare, which will be released in September, 2016. I used to read a lot of true crime stories back in the day, but nowadays I read more contemporary romance, historicals, and cozy mysteries. However, the desire to read a good thriller remains innate. Hanover House was just my speed as far as books about serial killers and psychopaths go. While the theme is chilling, it isn’t over the top gruesome. In fact, I wasn’t expecting the romance element. For me, it somewhat tempered the severity of the subject, which I found rather pleasing. Let me tell you what this little novella was about…..

Evelyn Talbot was violated as a teen by her psychopath boyfriend, Jasper Moore, and left for dead. She escaped the attack, but her three friends did not. Jasper murdered all three and Evelyn has had to live her life knowing that Jasper is still out there somewhere. He’s never been caught. Twenty years later Evelyn has fought to have Hanover House, a jail for psychopaths and serial killers built for the purpose of studying their behavior. The town’s folk aren’t too pleased with the location being in their backyard, and Evelyn has been threatened and Hanover House vandalized even before its completion. But where are these threats really issuing forth from? Could Jasper be intent on finishing what he started 20 years earlier?

This book was a nice little segue into the sequel, Her Darkest Nightmare, and I’d be interested to find out how Brenda Novak goes about describing the minds of these psychopaths, and what ultimately happens to Evelyn and her love interest, Sergeant Amorak.

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Review: Discovering You

Discovering You
Discovering You by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜 Upon completing Discovering You, book 10 in the Whiskey Creek series, I could see how Brenda Novak acquired her best-selling author status. This book was ALWAYS hard to put down, and NEVER hard to pick up.  Ms. Novak’s story struck a chord with me. It was chock-full of everything that would keep a person fully absorbed in the story; a seemingly inappropriate relationship, obsession, rivalry, intrigue, suspense and of course, romance. (Uhh….this is not a wholesome romance book. There were a few, not a lot, of sexy scenes, which I preferred to gloss over.)  I was fully invested in the suspenseful parts of the book since I love romance with a bit of suspense. Ms. Novak handled this beautifully. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how bad-boy Rod Amos was going to keep himself from being killed by his girlfriend’s (India Sommers) husband’s murderer; but he felt compelled to protect her, despite it meaning he might have to put himself in harm’s way. Rod and India certainly had many challenges to face in order to be a couple – India’s husband’s somewhat recent murder, her judgmental ex in-laws, Rod’s bad-boy image and blue-collar status, India’s guilt, her young child….  I really felt for Rod’s character. He was tough because of having lost his mother to suicide, and his father to prison. Fortunately he could depend on the love of his oldest brother, Dylan, who practically raised him. That’s another part of the book I loved, the brothers’ (five, including Rod) dialogue among themselves. It was portrayed in such a way that you cared about those men and their lives. Their affection for one another was palpable, even under the tough exterior, and this was endearing.

In a nutshell, Brenda Novak without question knows how to write a story. And even though I typically don’t comment on various errors I find in books, I noted that I didn’t catch even a spelling error in Discovering You.  It was flawless.

Aside from the fact that I prefer my romance sweet, this book, depicting modern-day relationships and contemporary life, was excellently executed and I thoroughly enjoyed the story.  Phenomenal.

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