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Secret Vow

Secret Vow

by Kathy Cecala

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When Rose, a beautiful young widow, meets Ellis, an extraordinary but troubled young priest, she believes she has found the answer to all her dreams and yearnings. They share a love like


When Rose, a beautiful young widow, meets Ellis, an extraordinary but troubled young priest, she believes she has found the answer to all her dreams and yearnings. They share a love like

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Middle-aged lovers who part and meet again are the protagonists of this ambitious but forced first novel that traces the resumption of a forbidden love affair between Rose Connolly Keating, a gifted gardener, and Father Ellis Barlowe, her tormented priest. The narrative is split between chapters set in 1965, in which the newly widowed Rose, nearly 40, spends a blissful summer in Ellis's rambling family home, in Maine, and those set in 1995, when Rose sets out to find Ellis, who has stopped writing to her and, she fears, may be in danger. In the intervening years since their affair ended, the two have been in contact only through letters. Rose has embraced a life of familial security and obligation, remarrying and raising children and grandchildren. Ellis, by contrast, has become a monk, retreating into a world where human connections are forged only with the terminally ill patients he soothes with the herbal remedies Rose taught him. It is often hard to sympathize with Cecala's unhappy, self-absorbed hero and heroine: Ellis believes that his gory war experiences were his spiritual high point, while Rose's sole reaction to the suicide of her mentally ill first husband is one of unvarnished relief. But when the couple finally reunite in the last chapters, they are honest with each other for the first time about their flaws, and about secrets long kept, and the novel turns out to be more about recognition and acceptance than about resurrecting a passionate and fraught past. (May)
Library Journal
Told in chapters that alternate between past and present, this story of the forbidden love of Rose and Ellis begins in 1965. Rose is a young widow when she meets Ellis, the assistant pastor at her Catholic church. Their flight and affair last almost an entire idyllic summer before Ellis returns to the church, leaving Rose bereft and pregnant. Now, 30 years later, Rose must seek him out again. Despite remarriage and three children, her love for Ellis has not dissipated. As Rose retraces her steps to their trysting place, Cecala slowly reveals why there is such urgency to her search. Ultimately, this is a character study of a complex man, with instances of child abuse, sex, and mental illness among the clergy reflecting recent headlines. A sexual encounter between two minor characters seems gratuitous, but this first novel holds the reader's attention. For larger fiction collections.-Andrea Lee Shuey, Dallas P.L.
Kirkus Reviews
Forbidden love, passion and insanity pack the pages of this debut, a Bridges of Madison County wannabe but to no avail—chilly characters and arbitrary action spell alienation for the reader.

For 30 years Rose Keating has led an ordinary life as a farmer's wife and mother in rural Connecticut. A dark passion lurks in her past, though, and it returns to haunt her just as her husband, Burt, is dying. Rose's passion was for a monk who, she learns, has recently disappeared from his monastery in Pennsylvania, and recalling that love affair impels her to seek the man out despite her husband's desperate condition. Her journey brings back memories of her first encounter with Father Theophane, then a Catholic priest in her small hometown, who sought out her homeopathic remedies to heal his excruciating headaches. When the priest abruptly abandoned his post, the lovestruck Rose followed him to his family mansion on a small island off the coast of Maine. The two became lovers, though the priest, reverting to his given name of Ellis, refused to let Rose in on the details of his traumatic childhood. Before the summer was over, the troubled priest impregnated Rose, tried to involve her in a double suicide, then disappeared. Abandoned, Rose married Ellis's homely cousin, Burt, and settled into the sensible role of a farmer's wife. It will be three decades before the soon-to-be-widowed Rose manages to corner her former lover and learn the answers to the mysteries surrounding him. In the end, Ellis must return to his monastery, but the late-in-life encounter eases his own psychological burdens as well as Rose's.

Cecala's tale never quite recovers from the cold-bloodedness of its hero, who so often turns his back on Rose, or of its heroine, who abandons her dying husband with hardly a thought. Passion and intrigue may abound, but another Bridges this is not.

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4.24(w) x 6.84(h) x 0.79(d)

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