3.8 17
by Freya North

View All Available Formats & Editions

"A fab read!"

They drive each other crazy. And they both have something to hide. But we all have our secrets. It's just that some are bigger than others ...

Joe has a beautiful house, a great job, no commitments—and he likes it like that. All he needs is a quiet house sitter for his rambling old place by the sea. When Tess turns


"A fab read!"

They drive each other crazy. And they both have something to hide. But we all have our secrets. It's just that some are bigger than others ...

Joe has a beautiful house, a great job, no commitments—and he likes it like that. All he needs is a quiet house sitter for his rambling old place by the sea. When Tess turns up on his doorstep, he's not sure she's right for the job. Where has she come from in such a hurry? Her past is blank, and she's a bit of an enigma. But there's something about her—even though sparks fly every time they meet. And it looks like she's here to stay ...

"Intimate and involving ... romance bubbles." —Metro

"Secrets will make you smile, sigh, and cheer as this story proves love can be found in the most unexpected places." —Sunday Express

"Another surefire hit for Freya!" —Heat

Editorial Reviews

RT Book Reviews
RT Rating: 4/5 Stars

It is simply a very well-crafted story of two people who find themselves and their future in each other.

From the Publisher
"RT Rating: 4/5 Stars It is simply a very well-crafted story of two people who find themselves and their future in each other." - RT Book Reviews

Secrets is a surprisingly quick and engaging read. The story is generally well crafted with subplots to support the romance

I could practically feel the brisk sea breeze, hear the waves lapping on the beach, and smell the tang of the seaweed. I wanted to be there.

With likeable characters, humour and warmth, Secrets is a pleasant romantic fiction novel.

"I highly recommend this book for any fan of heroines with heart and stories with real class." - Between the Pages

"This was a great book that helped me find a few hours of needed escape during an intense time of stress." - Under the Boardwalk

This was a charming love story of two very different individuals who find what they want in life through each other.

I give Secrets 4 out of 5 stars

Overall a fun and interesting book, perfect to curl up with to beat those winter blues.

I really enjoyed this book.

I completely recommend this book to anyone interested in a sweet contemporary read that is very enjoyable

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Freya North

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Freya North
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4022-6015-5


There was something about the way the small red hatchback slunk onto the gravel of the drive, coming to a shuddering standstill as if it was giving up, as if it was about to conk out, that reminded Joe of an animal in need of a rest; some poorly-kept packhorse exhausted from an arduous day's work. He watched through the window of his study, on the ground floor, through the tangle of honeysuckle branches which clambered around that side of the house and provided useful camouflage at moments like this. Nothing happened for quite some time; whoever was in the car was staying put. Eventually, the car door opened and Joe watched as a woman climbed out. She stared and stared at the house while still clinging to the open door as if it was a shield. She ducked back in and Joe was prepared for her to drive away, for this woman not to be the Tess of the bizarre phone call last night. She looked nothing like the people who had house-sat for him in the past. But now she was out of the car again, walking around to the other side of it, opening the door, leaning in, apparently rummaging around.

And then, when she reappeared, Joe thought, oh, for fuck's sake.

But by now, she was walking slowly toward the front door.

He considered disappearing elsewhere in the house, feigning not to be at home. But even from this distance and through the network of honeysuckle, her look of awe placated him. Suddenly he wasn't staring at his worst nightmare, but at a scene straight from Thomas Hardy. From his vantage point, he watched as she stood timidly on the weathered slab of doorstep like a peasant girl braving the estate of the wealthy squire. Joe hastened to open the door before she rang the bell, fearing the old mellow clang would all but finish her off.

"Hullo," he said. "Are you Tess?"

Still he couldn't be absolutely sure. Over the phone she'd sounded older, somehow bigger and physically rather more nondescript. If this was Tess, he hadn't accounted for strikingly amber eyes darting from behind a privacy screen of an overgrown fringe. Despite the droop of mousy brown hair, he could see that her features were fine, her skin porcelain pale. Her lips were pursed, as if to imply something on the verge of being either said or swallowed. She was not tall and her slimness diminished her further, yet she stood square and defensive. Joe wondered why she would drench her frame with a drab hooded sweatshirt which fell to mid-thigh length, emblazoned with a college crest that made good design whether or not the establishment existed. He saw that her jeans were old but too scruffy to be acceptably vintage and her trainers were scuffed, with laces that were inexcusably dirty. He thought about first impressions, and why she would choose to turn up looking like this. Previous house-sitters arrived very spruce and professional. But then he glanced at himself and thought he'd better change the subject.

"Well, Tess, I'm Joe."

From his brusque manner on the phone, she had him down as a suit-and-tie dour businessman. At any rate, she'd envisaged him much older, sterner. She hadn't considered his wardrobe to contain jeans and a well-worn grey woollen turtleneck. Nor that he'd answer the door shoeless, in socks of the same yarn as his jumper and similarly bobbled. Least of all did she expect quite a handsome face, even if it did need a shave. Good hair, she noted, for someone in his — say, late forties? Thick, short, salt-and-pepper. Dark eyes. Dark brows. Arms folded nonchalantly.

But her arms were obviously too full to shake his hand so he hadn't offered it. Instead, they nodded at each other. She looked up at him through her fringe and he tried not to look down on her with an expression that was too patronizing. But then he regarded the reality staring him in the face — and once again his dominant thought was, oh, for fuck's sake.

* * *

"You never said anything about a child," he said.

He watched her freeze, shift the infant higher on her hip, suck in her bottom lip and knit her brow. Oh Christ, she's not going to cry, is she? But her eyes darkened as a scorch of indignation crossed her cheeks.

"And you never said anything about a dog," she retorted.

Wolf had been standing casually at Joe's side. Tess glanced at him with distaste, noting that his coat appeared to be fashioned from the same material as Joe's jumper and socks. Or was it vice versa.

"I could be allergic."

"And are you?"

"No. But that's not the point."

"Maybe I'm allergic to children."

"No one's allergic to children."

"Do you not like dogs?"

"That's not the point either."

"Wolf is a soppy old thing."

"Does he come with the job, then?"

"Yes. Sometimes I take him with me. Not if I'm abroad, obviously."

"Does he like children, though?"

"He prefers Pedigree Chum."

Tess looked at Joe. It was a bad joke but the timing was perfect. She clamped down on a smile, wanting to cling onto the upper hand and invent a moral high ground despite knowing that actually, she was in the wrong. Because she hadn't, on purpose, told him about her eighteen-month-old daughter, had she? Whereas he simply hadn't thought to mention his enormous dog.

"Shall I come in?" she asked more jauntily, because she was suddenly aware of the threshold still between them and feared the job offer might be rescinded.

Joe looked at her; wondered again how old she was. Thirty? Or possibly late twenties and just tired?

"Sure," he said, "come on in." He turned and walked into his house.

Nice doggy, he could hear her saying in a voice that was for the baby's benefit and not Wolf's, nice doggy. He heard the infant attempt to emulate her mother's words. It was a very odd sound to hear in the house. Joe had been the last baby here. And that was forty-four years ago.

He thought of the bustling Mrs Dunn from the agency, and her doughy forearms. In comparison, this Tess was a slip of a thing. The flagstones would surely defeat her. The flagstones were not baby friendly. The flagstones alone could be a deal breaker, to say nothing of the draughts. The rickety banister. The occasional whiff of gas that no one had been able to find or fix. The water that sometimes ran brown. The pipes that bickered loudly. The mutant spiders. Wolf. The wasps that returned to the eaves each summer and fell about the house drunk, drowsy and aggressive each autumn. And then Joe thought how Mrs Dunn would not have tolerated any of this and he looked over his shoulder at Tess standing there in his entrance hall, all wide-eyed in inappropriate teenage clothing. Her baby: wild curls, rosebud mouth and beautifully, perfectly, appropriately dressed. And Joe thought that there was something about Tess's poise and the fact that she'd taken the job without it being offered and had made the long journey in that old red jalopy at a moment's notice, that suggested to him she was here to stay. That it would take more than wasps and a Wolf and water that runs brown to see her off.

"Tea? Coffee?"

"Tea, please," said Tess.

"And the — what's your daughter's name?"


"Full stop? Or, as in —?"

"As in Emmeline." She saw Joe raise an eyebrow. "You were thinking Emma or Emily like most people. She's named after my grandmother."

"And was Granny known as Em?" It came out wrong, Joe could hear it. It implied no lady of that generation would tolerate such a diminutive of the name. "I just meant — it's unusual. It's pretty. Shame to shorten it."

"Well, you can call her Emmeline," Tess said a little tartly. "I like to call her Em Full Stop."

"OK, I will," he said. "Emmeline, what would you like to drink?"

"She's eighteen months old."

"Don't they drink at that age?"

Tess paused. It was like the Pedigree Chum remark and she was unsettled to feel simultaneously annoyed yet amused.

"Emmeline," he said very slowly, "what would you —"

"It's OK, I have —" and Tess contorted herself to keep the child on her hip while she delved around the large holdall dragging on her shoulder. "Somewhere in here —" Finally, she retrieved a colourful beaker with a spout. "She's fine."

Joe looked from mother to daughter. Silently, he agreed with Tess. Emmeline was fine. The house might be fine too, with the two of them. Certainly, the set-up wasn't what he'd had in mind, what he'd had before, but if Tess agreed to Wolf, then he'd agree to Emmeline.


The adults swung their attention to the child.

Clever Em, he heard Tess whisper and there was pure joy in her voice.

* * *

The tea was good.

"Builder's tea," Joe said. "We don't do gnat's pee in this house."

They sat opposite each other, with more than just the expanse of a particularly large farmhouse table between them. On it was a veritable mountain range too, complete with landslides and crevasses fashioned from books and mail and newspapers and documents and something scrunched up that appeared to have foodstuff on it. Tess eyed it all.

"What exactly does a house-sitter do?" she asked. "Am I to tidy and clean then?"

Joe tapped the side of his mug thoughtfully and Tess sensed he wasn't thinking of an answer, he was thinking of the best way to make it known. "Well, it's not really a defined role like house keeping. For me, I need someone here for times when I'm gone — and I'm away for work a lot for varying periods of time. In the past, I've had people stay for a few weeks — and that hasn't really worked. That's why I want someone who can stay long-term. I don't want you buggering off after a month. You need to really learn the ways of this house. If lights aren't switched on, they soon enough don't come on at all when you need them to. If rooms are left untended, a staleness hangs in the air that is troublesome to clear. The water, especially, needs to run. The freezer tends to frost up. The sofas go hard and lumpy if they're not sat on. At this time of year, some of the doors can warp and can't shut or others can't be opened. So, unlike some house-sitting jobs you may have done, I don't designate quarters for you. And so — yes, a little light cleaning is part of the deal. And you're OK about the pay?"

It struck her that he presumed she'd house-sat before — whereas she'd always assumed house-sitting was more a brief opportunity than a profession. A stopgap. But he said that this position was potentially long-term. She hadn't thought of that. Perhaps she should have packed more. And then she thought she might make quite a good house-sitter. She thought how there might be muck and mess in her life but she'd always kept her surroundings tidy and clean. She thought back to the flat at Bounds Green that she'd left just that morning and as she did, she felt a plug of lead plummet straight through her, buckling her a little and causing a blear to glaze her eyes. Landlord, nasty man, breaking and entering. Finding her gone. Chucking her stuff out with the rubbish in disgust, even though she'd left her TV set behind in the vague hope it might go some way toward the outstanding rent. Perhaps he'd called the police.

"Excuse me, are you OK?"

Tess looked up from having been miles away, 250 miles south, and she was momentarily surprised to see Joe and not Landlord, nasty man, sitting there. She nodded and kissed Em, over and over. She gave Wolf an energetic rub discovering that his coat was far softer on the hand than it was on the eye.

"I'm just tired — it was a long haul to make my way here."

"Well, here you are — and I have work to crack on with so how about the guided tour?" And, as Joe led the way out of the kitchen, into the utility room, through to the boot store before retracing the route back to the expansive entrance hall, he thought to himself that there was something gently peculiar about all of this, something oddly compelling. However, his prevailing feeling was that it was OK for Tess and the child to be here, for the knackered red hatchback to take up a little patch of the sweeping driveway alongside his Land Rover. For a baby's voice to enliven the stillness of the old house, adding variety to Wolf's low woofs and whines. For a woman's touch to dissuade the dust. For Wolf to have company. And, on the occasions he himself was to be home, for Joe to have company too.

"Am I allowed to watch your TV? I had to leave mine in London. Do you have a record player and am I allowed to play it?"

Joe stopped and turned. "Most house-sitters I've known bring their own stuff — but if you want to watch my TV or play my music, or play your music on my equipment, you are welcome."

Though he was friendly and obviously at ease, Tess found him slightly detached; he met her questions with a quizzical expression, a rather aloof response. Tess's mind scurried over possible rules that a more experienced house-sitter might want to establish.

"Should I keep my food separate from yours? Is there a shelf for me in the fridge? Are there times when the heating or hot water isn't to be used?"

"Start running a bath early," Joe advised, "the hot water takes a while. And I'd much rather you availed yourself of whatever's in the fridge or cupboards — as long as you restock when I'm due back."

It occurred to Joe that this woman had never done this before. Some previous house-sitters had even brought their own compact fridges. Most brought their own televisions. They didn't enquire about his hi-fi. They all but stipulated private cupboard space in the kitchen. They usually marked up their food with stickers. And then he thought to himself that, if she didn't really know what was expected of her, then he could change the rules and alter the conventional set-up. He quite fancied doing things a little differently. He was rather amused by the idea of coming across her watching something on the box that he'd planned on viewing himself anyway.

* * *

There were times — they were infrequent and it had taken some time for her to feel comfortable in acknowledging that they existed — when Tess really would rather not have Em around. Not permanently, of course, but just for those moments she'd prefer to be on her own. Meeting this marvellous, vast old house was one of them. Room after room where she craved time by herself to drink it all in, see the view from that window, look back into the room and regard it from this aspect or that corner. Run her hands over the wood panelling. Feel how cold, or warm, the marble mantelpiece was. Let her fingers bounce along book covers — the way she used to bounce a stick along the wooden fence which ended at the wall heralding her grandmother's house. Instead, she found herself having to assess rooms in a glance, attempting to absorb what Joe was saying while trying to be low-key and even-toned when repeating, don't touch, Em, don't touch. Come back here. No, no — put that back. Careful!

It wasn't that Tess actually minded Em touching or exploring; rather, she didn't want anything to jeopardize this job being hers. This job now seemed more than the answer to her present predicament; it seemed to be the embodiment of long-held dreams. This house was a haven, if a slightly unkempt one.

And if I look after it, it'll care for me.

* * *

"Sorry?" Joe was looking at her.

Tess, appalled that she might have spoken out loud, quickly turned to her child. "Em! Mummy said be careful."

"This is the other sitting room," Joe was saying as he led them into a room whose walls were dark red, with two sofas of well-worn brown leather, curtains half drawn. Tess wondered, if you sat still enough, whether no one need know you were there at all.

"When do you use this room?" she asked.

"TV," Joe said. "I know it's naff — but look." He opened a cabinet door to reveal a sizeable flat-screen set.

"Do you have CBeebies?"

"What's that?"

"It's a kids' channel," Tess said, brushing the air as if her question was unimportant and an affirmative answer was no big deal.

"Probably," said Joe and he zapped at the remote control. "Is this it?"




"How about this?"

"No. It doesn't matter. It's not a problem. I brought DVDs that Em likes. If that's OK, I mean. If you have a DVD player? Oh — and if it's OK for me to use it?"

"Sure. Why not. See here — and you need this remote control. Now, come through. This is another loo. And this is a room that — well — I just keep stuff like this in. Quite a useful room, really — though it's become a bit of a dumping ground. Now upstairs. This is my floor — I'm down there. But I keep the hoover in this room here. Slightly extravagant — and actually, there's another hoover downstairs. But I'd say life's too short to lug a lone vacuum cleaner up and down all these stairs."


Excerpted from Secrets by Freya North. Copyright © 2012 Freya North. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Freya North gave up a PhD to write her first novel in 1991. She has written ten novels, all of which have been bestsellers. She lives in London with her family. In 2008 she won the RNA Award for Romantic Novel of the Year for Pillow Talk.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Secrets 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read pillow talk as it was a daily deal at B&N and loved it. So i jumped on when I saw SEcrets and wasnt disappointed. Loved this one too. I so wish i could find some of her other books here in the states. B&N only has these two books available :(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought it was a sweet little English villagge by the sea story and all of a sudden it was raunchy sex I deleted it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved Pillow talk. But this one :(.... I found it boaring. Couldn't finish reading it. Tess has a very boring life and the author repeats her rutine over and over again. I
TrP60 More than 1 year ago
I really like Freya's writing style and stories. She tells it in such a way you feel as though you are there beside the characters. I wish more of her books were on the Nook or ebooks!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sandi701 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SharonRedfern More than 1 year ago
The book opens with Tess and her daughter Em hiding from someone who is banging on their door. Tess then takes a job as a house sitter for Joe, a world travelling bridge builder. She takes her ancient car, her meager belongings, and heads to Saltburn and escape. When she gets to the house, she discovers a large seaside home complete with handsome owner and large scruffy dog. Tess and Joe work out her work schedule and Tess settles into a routine. She works on the house, meets the locals, and starts to develop an attraction to Joe. Joe on the other hand, has a girl in every port where he goes to work. He starts to find comfort in having Tess at home for him when he returns, but he is not ready to give up his life and freedom. There are other forces at work in the relationship; both have secrets that will cause problems. I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting to see Tess become part of the Saltburn community and become less fearful about her life. She builds a whole new life for herself and her daughter that may or may not be permanent. Her secret is always there ready to come out but the reader likes Tess and hopes it is something that can be resolved. Joe is a nice guy who sometimes behaves selfishly, especially when he starts to have feeling for Tess but continues his freewheeling ways. His secret comes out earlier and doesn¿t add to the nice column but there is a twist that is revealed later. Both Tess and Joe have to put the past behind them and work towards happiness. The telling of the routines of their lives helps us understand them and what their issues are. Loved the book, loved the ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not usually a mooshy love story kind of girl, but this was a sweet story. The only thing I didn't care for was her beach secret. I thought it was far fetched and didn't really go well with the theme. Glad that was toward the end of the book. The ending was very predictable, but necessary. Definitely recommend the read, though.
rp33 More than 1 year ago
I found it was not as good as the first one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Secrets by Freya North is a great book, but a little lengthy. When I started it, I was like 400 something pages, "groan". But once I got started, the pages started flying and I was like, "moan" when it was all over. I'd give it a 3.5/5 if I could. Tess and Em Adams have run away from London and moved North to house sit for Joe Saunders. Joe wasn't really looking to hire Tess, but she takes the job over the phone and they meet the next day. Tess is 30, Em is 2, and Joe is in his 40s. Right off the bat, each is surprised because Tess didn't say anything about a child, while Joe never mentioned Wolf, his dog. And Joe knows Tess is not your regular house sitter because he's had them in from the agency before and Tess is set on making his house a home for her and Em. Joe is not relationship kind of guy. He's a bridge builder and has a woman in every city. Tess is attracted to Joe, but she's afraid to make a move or give him a sign. She's not sure he wants her or not. The title of the book is Secrets, and while yes they each have their own secrets, they really aren't secrets of the Earth shattering, or life shattering type. But I didn't feel too let down by that, because even when Joe and Tess were getting it together, they still kept secrets from each other. I've read all of Freya North's previous books, and I enjoyed Secrets. She's done a great job at writing her characters and making them lovable and you can understand them to some extent. The setting by the sea is lovely and her descriptions of the house, bridges, and the town are very picturesque and vivid. I was impressed by the amount of detail she put into the book. She has another book coming out this year and I am eagerly looking forward to it. Ms.North is one author who's books have only improved with time and one whose books should not be skipped.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all the books by Freye North and they are all great! I wont give away the story but this one is for keeps. Love, heartbreak and romamace what more can a girl need? You fall in love with the main man then not so much till he redeems himself. True riverting reading, where is the next one?