Veil of Secretsby Shannon Ethridge, Kathryn Mackel
"Knowing that one of the authors is a life coach with a counseling degree who portrays the experience realistically, may make readers who are considering a step in that direction feel more comfortable making that choice." —Romantic Times
Can a woman face—and forgive—her own painful past before her house of cards crumbles . . . and/b>
"Knowing that one of the authors is a life coach with a counseling degree who portrays the experience realistically, may make readers who are considering a step in that direction feel more comfortable making that choice." —Romantic Times
Can a woman face—and forgive—her own painful past before her house of cards crumbles . . . and before her own daughter makes the same mistakes?
Melanie and Will Connors are the perfect power couple. Will is the chief campaign strategist for a rising presidential candidate; Melanie is a prominent advocate for protecting children in an over-sexualized culture. Their devotion to one another is admired, even envied.
But their marriage isn’t what it appears to be.
Will maintains an apartment in Washington, DC, and over the years his visits home have grown fewer and farther between. The long-distance marriage has enabled Melanie to avoid intimacy—and has only increased her shame about her secretive past. But then Will issues an ultimatum: We work on the marriage . . . or we work on the divorce.
The Connors commit to marriage counseling in the most brutal of environments—snowy New Hampshire, a tiny state that is first in the nation for presidential primaries and a prize to be won at any cost . . . and the price of victory keeps rising.
As Melanie sifts through the debris of her past, she obsesses over the fear that she hasn’t done enough to protect her teenage daughter. When Melanie sees her facing some of the same temptations, she knows she must intervene . . . but how can a woman with so many veiled secrets guide a daughter honestly?
While the country struggles with threats to its integrity and security, Melanie can no longer ignore the dangers looming in her own world. She can never undo the mistakes of her youth, but perhaps she can still save her marriage and family—if she can surrender her guilt and learn to open herself to her husband once again.
“Ethridge and Mackel merge their talents into one amazing novel.” —Romantic Times for To Know You
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Veil of Secrets
By SHANNON ETHRIDGE, KATHRYN MACKEL
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Shannon Ethridge
All rights reserved.
Melanie Connors knew all about pizza runs. She needed to make it clear to Sophie that there would be no more pizza runs.
She sat in stalled traffic on the Everett Turnpike, staring at a sea of brake lights. To her right, she could see the Merrimack River, laced with ice. The wind surged, rattling the windows of the rental car. Even with the heat blasting, frigid air snaked down Melanie's back.
November was New Hampshire's ugly secret. The brochures boasted about the state's sparkling lakes, flaming autumns, and serene snows. No one talked about trees ripped raw and skies tarnished to soot.
The flight from Nashville had been poorly heated with blankets nowhere to be found. The wait for the shuttle bus was endless. By the time Melanie took possession of the SUV in Boston, her icy fingers could barely wrestle the key into the ignition.
It never should have come to this. Why wouldn't Will listen to reason?
She scrolled through her phone, clicked on Will's private number.
Will answered on the first ring. "Hey, sweetheart. Can I call you back in a whi—"
"No? Are you all right?"
I'm here, she should say. I'm here and I can't wait to see you. "You told me she'd only be in New Hampshire for two weeks."
He sighed. "Not this again."
The traffic bucked forward. "A couple is two, Will. Weeks—not months."
"Honestly, Lanie. You're being irrational about this."
Melanie tugged at her scarf, trying to release the sudden heat under her collar. Talk about irrational. Flying all the way from Nashville to wrestle her daughter away from a loving father—who was deep in the weeds of a presidential primary. "Is she with you?"
"No, she's at the call center."
"Campaigning for the best candidate this country has seen in years. How old were you when you started for your father—fourteen? Our daughter is living her heritage."
"I cherish Dave Dawson as deeply as you do, Will."
"And if Sophie's not with me, she's with the Dawsons. Or with Caroline."
"Carrie? And that's supposed to make me feel better?"
At twenty-eight, Will's half sister was bright and politically savvy. But she was untamed, a live wire shooting sparks.
Melanie riffled her fingernails on the steering wheel. When was this traffic going to move? She was so close to the exit for downtown Manchester—twenty cars at the most—and yet the distance might as well put her back in Tennessee.
"Carrie is showing her the ropes," Will said, "like I did for her when she was Sophie's age. So whatever your problem is with this, we'll have to talk about it later."
"Sophie told me that she does pizza runs."
He laughed. "Bless her heart, on occasion she does."
"I don't like you letting her drive in a place she's not familiar with."
"She knows all the roads, Lanie. She's got an innate sense of direction."
"She's barely sixteen years old. She doesn't have an innate sense of anything."
Melanie shivered at the thought of Sophie caught in this cold mass of steel and insane drivers.
"Lanie, please. I really need to go."
Will clicked off before she could tell him she was less than a mile away.
Inching now. Close enough to see the roof of the Radisson in the city center. Close enough to wrap her arms around Will and feel his heart beat and remind him about how tricky pizza runs can be.
You make four or five campaign stops in one day. You can't eat because everyone wants to talk to you when they can't get to the candidate. You need to make them think you've promised them the world when you've made no commitment whatsoever.
Even though your hunger makes you cranky and light-headed, you don't dare shovel something down fast. Everyone has seen the YouTube video of the governor who choked on a buffalo wing and coughed it out with a chaser of vomit.
You can save the economy and soothe the soul of a nation, but throwing up on camera can dump a candidate faster than a boatload of mistresses.
So you get back to the hotel around midnight, ready to chew the wallpaper. If you're on a grassroots candidacy, some lower-level functionary grabs you to get the pizza because in Manchester they only deliver on weekends, and don't forget the gum, breath mints, and NoDoz.
The run itself is a shared experience; exhausted laughter as you and a stray pal unravel the day and poke gentle fun at the chanting crowds or narrow-eyed reporters. You arrive back as a conquering hero. The feast becomes a grand communal experience, cheese and crust the great equalizer of candidate, staffers, and you—the kid who literally brought home the bacon. There's no big world pressing down, no victories to be won, only the four walls of a hotel suite that smells like pizza and beer and microwave popcorn.
And sometimes, when you're the one left cleaning up the mess, someone senior will stay and help. Quick glances and spilled secrets fill the late-night vacuum until the sun rises and caffeine bubbles and you're climbing in the thick of the action all over again.
"Stop it," Melanie told herself. She scrolled through her phone, found Will's itinerary. An interview with a local ABC affiliate. The spin: Dave Dawson, shoe-leather candidate.
Dave and Will were due in Concord in less than an hour for the next event. Before Melanie even got to the downtown exit, they would be heading north. They'd know to use the back roads because that's what grassroots was all about—shaking hands, driving the dirt roads, making people believe things could be better.
When Melanie worked for her father, she knew every back road in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina. And she knew every twenty-four-hour pizza joint.
Traffic stopped again.
Melanie gave the driver next to her a pleading look. He shook his head and crept forward into the gap. Behind him, the UPS truck waved her into the breakdown lane. She nosed onto the shoulder, chiding herself because the ticket she was about to earn would cost a fortune, and the rental car company would not be amused at their SUV getting towed.
Some things just had to take priority.
She grabbed the keys and her suitcase, locked the car, and started walking.
An angry wind roared off the river. So much for global warming. She wheeled her suitcase up the exit ramp, breathing in exhaust fumes. Stoplights cycled through three times and still no cars moved.
On River Street, the traffic continued its chaos. Everyone was stuck in a red-tailed, honking morass that seemed to have its origin on Manchester's main thoroughfare. Even small cities could have big traffic issues.
Dragging her suitcase, Melanie headed for the Radisson. Her feet were numb with the cold, her face flushed with worry. Will would be upset that she didn't tell him about this trip. Dave Dawson and his wife, Miranda, would beg her to stay, join the campaign because she had the experience and the passion.
Melanie turned the corner. A mob of people crowded the little park across from the Radisson.
She ran, because all she could think was, Dear God, don't let this be something bad. She pushed into the crowd, asking, "What's wrong?" until she heard the thwap-thwap of heavy tarps flapping in the wind.
She caught her breath and let her heart settle. So they were here now.
They were called MoveIn, a protest group made up of former Occupiers, hippies, and do-gooders. Activists scurrying out of their tents right before rush hour so they could cause a ruckus and make the evening news cycle.
Will should have told her that they'd set up a camp across from headquarters. Instead, he had gone on and on about the documentary Sophie was developing for her college portfolio. Standing witness as history is being made, he had said. So many things Will claimed their daughter was experiencing. Things Sophie would never forget.
Yet he missed the danger of pizza runs.
And the allure of powerful men who could turn the head of an impressionable young girl even faster than a vomit video gone viral could sway a public-opinion poll.
* * *
Melanie checked into the Radisson and left a keycard for Will at the front desk. She unpacked, then climbed into a hot bath. Sophie wouldn't be back until late this evening. So close and still so out of reach.
That Sophie and Hannah Dawson were like sisters was no reason for Sophie to be this close to a presidential campaign. Waters got murky when the prize was so precious.
Melanie watched the local news as she soaked in the hot water. A television in the bathroom—when would the public's obsession with media ever end?
The local news had a promo clip from Dave's upcoming interview. Hopefully this would stir some attention to Dave's candidacy. He was the perfect man for a hurting nation.
"They call you 'the General' in the war on families," the interviewer said.
Dave smiled, showing jowls that hadn't been there three months ago. Hurried meals and junk food on the bus did not make for a healthy lifestyle. The added bulk actually suited him, though. With his salt-and-pepper hair and calm demeanor, he projected confidence and accessibility.
"I wear that title proudly," Dave said.
"Really?" The interviewer raised his left eyebrow while simultaneously leaning forward on his right elbow. This guy must have been practicing that quizzical gesture for the last four years, waiting for primary season to roll around again.
"The truth is," Dave said, "I want to tear back the veil and show the true war on families. The schools, pushing birth control on our children from elementary school. The culture, telling our daughters that anything you want to do is fine as long as you do it safely. Preaching to our sons that they can't be men unless they have a chip on their shoulder and a gun in their hand. We never measure emotional or spiritual safety, do we? The barrage is constant. The music. The clothing. The video games. Movies and television. When was the last time you or your station took a critical look at your own programming?"
"Are you"—the interviewer sat back, as if stunned—"talking censorship?"
Dave leaned into the space that the interviewer had vacated. "I'm talking responsibility. Turn a mirror on yourself and see if you are proud of what's there."
The local anchor cut in with the promo. "The interview airs Sunday night at 6 p.m. The senator's comments will raise some eyebrows," the anchor said. "And some hackles," his female counterpart responded.
Melanie gasped, instinctively covering her breasts with crossed arms.
Will came into the bathroom. "Hey, hey. I didn't mean to scare you."
"Just startled, that's all. Let me get a towel," she said. She reached past him for the towel and wrapped herself tight.
Will touched her cheek. "Let's move your stuff up to my suite."
"I'm already settled in here."
"Okay," he said. "I'll stay here." He unbuttoned the top button on his dress shirt and pulled it over his head.
"She's in Concord overnight, with the Dawsons. They're doing an early-morning diner stop." Will unfastened his belt buckle. "Miranda is so grateful that Hannah has her for companionship."
"Stop selling that to me." Melanie grabbed her suitcase, found her flannel pajamas.
"Selling what?" Will said.
"Our daughter as campaigner in chief."
"You had the book tour, Lanie. And then that conference in Dallas, and that other deadline. So it was either have Sophie come here or ship her off to Destiny. And we know how that would've turned out. In a week, she'd have a ring through her nose and a butterfly tattoo on her bicep."
"I didn't expect her to get so involved up here."
"She's sixteen," Will said, all pretense of humor gone. "Lanie, please. It's late. Let's just go to bed."
The crease next to Will's right eyebrow was new, and the gray in his sideburns had advanced into his hairline. He needed a haircut. His sandy-brown curls were rowdy, showing track marks where he had worried his fingers. His blue eyes were shadowed.
He had lost weight. While Dave endured pancake breakfasts and chicken dinners, Will kept an eye on everything in the campaign—except his own well-being. She should stay and watch out for him.
If she stayed, Sophie would have to stay.
Will undid the button she had just fastened. "The years pass and yet ..." He pressed his mouth to her throat. "You are as beautiful as the day we met."
"Will, please." She buttoned her shirt.
"Don't. Don't hide from me."
"I'm not hiding. I'm just cold."
"Then come to bed with me."
"I told you, not until we discuss Sophie being here. It's time to come home."
Will stepped back, frowned. "You. Me. That's what we need to talk about."
"Don't avoid the topic, Will."
"And don't you reframe the argument, Lanie. This isn't about Sophie." Will grabbed the duvet from the bed and in a quick swoop draped it over Melanie's shoulders. "Happy now? You're all wrapped up—and I can't get to you."
"I flew all the way up here, Will, so we can talk about Sophie."
"No. We are the primary topic here, Melanie. You and me."
"This me is exhausted. Can't we sort this out tomorrow?" He grasped the edge of the duvet and pulled it around his shoulders so they were both covered by it. He smelled like coffee and sweat.
"Do you love me, Lanie?"
"I do. Of course I do."
"Kiss me. Kiss me so I know."
Melanie leaned into him, aiming for his lips, but at the last split second the heat of his breath made her turn—ever so slightly—and she kissed the corner of his mouth.
Will gently tipped her head back. "Let's not lie anymore."
"I'm not lying."
His gaze traveled slowly from her head to her feet. She felt naked even with her pajamas on and the duvet wrapped around her.
"I've been seeing a therapist," he said. "Sorting things out. The truth is I can't live like a monk anymore. When the campaign runs its course—or God willing, Dave becomes president—we need to talk about a divorce."
Melanie willed her knees to keep her upright. None of what Will said was unexpected, and yet she had persuaded herself that things would go on as they always had.
"I don't want that," she said.
"Something needs to change. I'd like you to meet my therapist," Will said. "Can you do that for me? For Sophie?"
She touched his cheek. "I don't know."
"Think about it. I'll see you at breakfast." Will left the room, pulling the door shut with a bang.CHAPTER 2
Tuesday early morning
Four o'clock in the morning. Each minute had passed like drips of hot wax as Melanie waited for Will to come back and tell her that he had overreacted. That he hadn't meant to use the word divorce.
If he wouldn't come to her, she would go to him. Melanie put on her jacket and flip-flops, found the keycard he had left for her, and went to the elevator.
Campaigns were tough, and a presidential campaign was relentless. Will would make himself a cup of black coffee, stretch out on the sofa, and sift through priorities. Identifying key people they'd meet later that morning. Reading the revised draft of Dave's stump speech to ensure the narrative had been honed to fit the occasion. Checking any overnight polls for New Hampshire and Iowa. Worrying about Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Florida and praying they'd chosen the best strategy they could afford.
Melanie slipped the keycard in the slot for Will's suite. The lock flashed green. She opened the door. The sitting room had been converted into the campaign's "situation room." Papers, soda cans, and coffee cups littered the tables. Sofas and chairs were pushed against the wall. Power cords and chargers snaked haphazardly to surge protectors on the floor.
Her father would have loved the instant news and social media. Bobby Joe Fallon would have wielded the new technology like a conductor's baton. What trick of nature had condemned one of the greatest political minds in history to a haze of Alzheimer's?
Melanie worked her way around the tables, avoiding extension cords and take-out boxes. The bedroom to her right—Sophie's room—was empty. How did she study or sleep next to the situation room with activity going deep into the night?
Excerpted from Veil of Secrets by SHANNON ETHRIDGE, KATHRYN MACKEL. Copyright © 2014 Shannon Ethridge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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
Shannon Ethridge is a best-selling author, international speaker, and certified life coach with a master’s degree in counseling human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to youth, college students, and adults since 1989, and is the author of 21 books, including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman’s Battle series.She is a frequent guest on TVand radio programs, such as The Today Show , The 700 Club , New Life Live! with Stephen Arterburn, and Life Today with James and Betty Robison. She also mentors aspiring writers and speakers through her BLAST Program (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers and Teachers). Although grateful for the opportunities to influence this generation as a writer and speaker, Shannon remains most passionate about her role as a wife and best friend to her husband, Greg, and a mother to daughter, Erin, and son, Matthew. Learn more at www.ShannonEthridge.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is a book I really I have mixed feelings about. I liked it, really I did, but there are some things I didn’t care for. So let’s start with the good. The back cover blurb doesn’t really do the story justice. There is so much more going on in this book then just the storyline of Melanie and Will. I would say Will’s sister, Carrie, has just as much of a part in the book at Melanie and Will. There’s a lot going on this book and a lot of bouncing back and forth between view points. For that reason I did feel it was difficult to get a good grasp on the characters. But the plot kept me reading. I wanted to see what would happen with each of the characters and there really is never a dull moment. It was interesting to be in the throes of a political campaign. The authors did a great job of making you feel like you never had a moment to yourself. The problems between Melanie and Will seemed pretty real. Melanie closes off sexually to her husband and her thoughts are thoughts I could very much relate to. What I didn’t care for so much was all the touching and kissing. Not anything passionate, but it seemed like Carrie was kissing every guy she came in contact with and I didn’t know who she really cared for. I suppose this was done to show the intimacy that is gained during a campaign but she even did this with a guy who wasn’t part of her campaign. My other issue with Carrie was she was portrayed as a Christian, as almost everyone else in the book was, but I had trouble finding anyone with strong faith. I think it might’ve been more affective to have Carrie seeking, or falling away, but it doesn’t seem as if she had a falling out with God or was angry at Him, just that she hoped He wouldn’t see her sin as she was about to do it. As someone who did choose sin over Jesus I can say I never prayed during that time, I never asked Him not to see what I was doing. I just didn’t talk to Him. That seems more realistic to me than praying that He wouldn’t see what I was doing. I understand that many of us struggle with our faith but I would’ve like to see more stability. I felt like everyone used God instead of relied on Him. I was also confused by Melanie and Will’s hot and cold relationship. One minute they are yelling at each other the next they are holding each other, and this would happen several times in one conversation. With all that being said, I did like reading this book and seeing how the characters would work out their difficulties. I was rooting for them to make the right choice and gain a deeper faith in Jesus. As always, these are my thoughts only and I encourage to you form your own opinion and see what you think. A copy of this book was given to me through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review.
This page-turning novel feels like 24 meets Law & Order...only in book format. With tough hitting topics: abortion, affairs, etc. it is bound to touch your heart in more ways than one.
Some aspects of this story hit close to home, and in some ways, touched me more deeply than the nonfiction books I've read by Shannon Ethridge. Aside from being a page-turner, this novel has helped me face renewed efforts to change and improve my own heart and attitude in my relationship with my husband, so I'd like to thank the authors for listening to God's call to write it and the first novel, To Know You, which I also greatly enjoyed.
All the pieces were there but... this book just didn't work. I was intrigued. I wanted it to. I really tried to like this book. The topics broached were fascinating, challenging ones. I really liked some of the characters. But... ...it just didn't work. "Veil of Secrets," a cooperative effort by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel strives to immerse its reader into the soap opera of the political campaign world, what that might look like when the players are followers of Jesus, and the challenges and very real struggles they face. There are several key characters, and that may have been the books downfall. I wanted to know more about them, wanted them to come alive and become real people and not just two dimensional curiosities on the page. Yet that never happened. I was never clear if Melanie (the wife) or Carrie (the sister) was the key protagonist and was always left feeling slightly cheated, as a reader, that neither story was explored to the depth it could have been. The "terrorist threat" was cheesy and did not connect well with the other elements of the story. It wasn't even truly frightening. Most of the characters seemed more self-absorbed than truly interested in their worlds or those around them - and this was supposed to be in a Christian campaign center. With the exception of Carrie, my favorite characters were ones the authors barely touched on - the therapist and the coordinator of the MoveIn protesters. My husband asked be about the book after I put it down and my comment was something like, "All the pieces seemed to be there, but woven together, the resulting tapestry had huge gaps and thin places. Perhaps if the authors had made a longer book... or a series... with the time to truly look at the many issues they introduced, the book might have been a satisfying read." It's just my opinion, but if you are considering this book, I'd have to say, "Don't bother..."
This book really toys with the mind. Part of this is because it's a busy maze of scenarios, running here-there-and-everywhere trying to keep up with the demands of a political agenda. There are so many characters to keep straight in Veil of Secrets that I felt like making an attendance book. It was difficult to relate to any one character in particular, probably because my life is so different from the high-profile personas in the book. No one in my life has a trust fund, goes on tours, or regularly shuttles off between Nashville and D.C. for their line of work. The most intriguing part of the story was the hacking mystery that kept escalating to huge proportions. The biggest struggle I had with Veil of Secrets was knowing whose side to be on. If I felt so conflicted, as an outside person reading this fictional story, I can't imagine how difficult it would be to live this kind of life. I received this book to review. The opinions shared here are 100% mine.
This book's blurb doesn't do it justice. Veil of Secrets has well crafted characters and an intricate storyline that moves at a great pace for its material. Admittedly, I was bemused for the first 25% of the book, which was pretty high on the political intrigue, the threats to national security (given a brief mention toward the end of a long blurb), the supporting characters Carrie and Tuck and their corresponding subplots, and pretty low on what the book blurb and cover image indicate are the main characters and story: Melanie and Will Connors and their dying marriage. Authors Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel deal well with this imperfect but clinging-to-faith husband and wife who still plainly love each other, even like each other, while they're mutually grieved over what's happening to their relationship in the middle of a stressful campaign. However, my bemusement dissipated after I, who normally doesn't put a whole lot of stock into book blurbs anyway, settled into the idea that this book is about so much more than a power couple's intimacy struggles and immediate family concerns, and I would venture to say that much of the novel is a political thriller. My assumption: the blurb must have focused on Melanie and Will's marriage to leave room for another character or two to expand their own stories, and possibly the politics and suspenseful plot, into another book. With the bigger picture of a nation heading toward crisis and the more intimate look at human hearts caught in the balance of fears surrounding their insecurities, this novel is quite an engaging read. ________________ BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.