Yet lately, Rachel wonders about Ariel's increasingly erratic parenting and her clandestine love life. And Rachel can't reveal to anyone, even Ariel, how much she worries about her sullen, distant, younger son. When an unthinkable tragedy separates the two families, Rachel desperately tries to understand what went wrong. But as her assumptions are ripped away one by one, she must confront shattering revelations about the people she trusted and the suburban world that once seemed so safe.
Rosalind Noonan explores both the bonds and the gulfs that exist between parents and children, friends and neighbors, in a suspenseful novel that is honest, intelligent, and thought provoking.
Praise for Rosalind Noonan's And Then She Was Gone
"Noonan writes another gripping family story that handles sensitive issues with grace. The timely plot will hold readers in its sway." --Booklist
"Rosalind Noonan has done an excellent job tackling this difficult topic…The story is both sad and uplifting, an offering of hope that will remain in the forefront of your mind long after you finish the last chapter." --San Francisco Book Review
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By ROSALIND NOONAN
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Rosalind Noonan
All rights reserved.
The salon was hopping with all the music and conversation and laughter typical of a Saturday afternoon when his text came. The ambient noise was so loud that Rachel Whalen would have missed the message if she hadn't seen the screen of her cell light up on the counter as she swept up her station.
Maternal pride and fear swelled inside her when she saw that it was from Kyle James. Her oldest son, a junior in the home stretch of spring term at Green State, had been playing a friendly game of touch football with some friends when he'd hit his head and gotten his third concussion in eight months. The coach had immediately responded with concerns about his ability to play football next year. His role as the team quarterback was in jeopardy.
Rachel's pulse pinged a little faster as she opened the text. KJ had called back the coach that morning to clarify things.
Not kicking me off yet, but I think they want me to resign. I'm totally screwed. Meeting with them tomorrow. What do I do?
Her heart sank. She hadn't expected this — at least, not so soon — and she didn't have time to watch her empire crumble now. She texted back: At work. Let's talk later. Although it hurt to blow him off, she couldn't spare the time to talk with him now, without keeping customers waiting. Even when they did talk, there was nothing she could do to help him besides listen, and Rachel hated conceding to the unfixable. She was the fixer, dammit. But there was no easy solution to the situation, and the consequences on both sides were significant. Poor KJ. The sin of failure settled heavily on her shoulders. A mother was supposed to take care of her kids.
As she cleaned up her station, Rachel checked herself in the mirror — the beauty of working in a hair salon. She was having a good hair day, her dark-chocolate hair falling in fat curls at the bottom while the side bangs flipped back from her brown eyes. That new product covered those stray grays well. She smiled, glad that her dimples still appeared after forty-three years. "Mom's happy dots," the boys used to call them.
Her customer came out of the changing room to say good-bye, dragging Rachel back to reality.
"It's going to take a while to get used to it so short, but I love it." Mae Yang swept a hand over the back of her neck, then wrapped on a checkered scarf. "I feel a few tons lighter."
"It suits you." Rachel wiggled her fingers in a casual wave. "And I'm putting the Memorial Day Concert on my calendar. That's so exciting. You must be busting your buttons."
"Yeah." Calm as ever, Mae paused to check her hair in a mirror and outline one of the triangular sideburns with a fingertip. The subtle smile told Rachel that she was pleased. They had taken off a good six inches, "lightening the load," as Mae called it. Rachel had touched up the flaming crimson and combed Mae's red hair into a dense, wild stack atop her head. The new hairstyle seemed to represent Mae's new incarnation as a survivor, an artist, and a free woman.
Mae had looked quite different a year ago when she had appeared at the salon door, frightened as a trapped mouse. Her long, thick hair had been greasy on top, snarled and matted around her neck. Even Rachel had been at a loss for where to begin with it, but she had kept mum, sensing the young woman's pent-up anxiety.
"Just take a load off, and tell me what style you're thinking of," Rachel had said gently.
Instead, Mae had told her a tale of domestic abuse, the psychological kind. While Rachel worked conditioner into knots and detangled from the bottom up, the girl talked of a boyfriend who refused to marry her but refused to let her go. There were mornings in which Mae could no longer drag herself out of bed and into work, and nights of waiting up for him and then cowering when he finally came home in a drunken rage. With tears streaming down her face, she had admitted that she would leave except that she still loved him. She was sure that he loved her back. It was the booze that kept him from showing it.
"But you need to love yourself first," Rachel had said softly, seeing her own past in this broken young woman.
"God first, yourself second," Hilda had added from the next station. "But this man, he does not deserve your love. And he's not allowed to threaten you this way. ... This is no good."
That day, Rachel had extracted a simple promise from Mae; the girl vowed not to let her hygiene deteriorate again. It had been a small start, but as Hilda said, "You do what you can." Mae had kept her part of the bargain, returning every two months for a haircut and a check-in. Within four months she had gotten out of the abusive relationship and moved in with some girlfriends. After that, she had enrolled in evening classes, formed a band with some friends, and earned a promotion at work. At this point, all of the stylists had some knowledge of her past, and they joined in to celebrate her progress.
Rachel kept quiet for a moment, savoring the ladies' love for Mae.
"Wait," Sondra said, lifting her gaze from her scissors. "You're playing here on the square for Memorial Day?"
Mae nodded, her fiery-red hair bobbing as she shared the details of her band's upcoming gigs at farmers' markets and charity events. Most of the women in the shop were watching now, interested, promising to attend.
"Well, now you've got the right hairstyle to be a performer," Hilda said. "Very dramatic."
Mae tilted her head to one side, peering shyly from behind a lock of hair. "Thanks."
"Good luck to you, young lady," called one elderly customer, Trish Dwyer's mother, Hazel, and the group joined in a chorus of cheerful good-byes as Mae headed out.
"Rihanna's got nothing on her!" someone commented. "She's adorable."
"Right? She's got a great energy," Rachel said. "I can't wait to see her perform." It was moments like these that kept Rachel Whalen in the game at the hair salon she owned in the Portland suburb of Timbergrove. Rachel recognized the fact that women came to her because she was equal parts truth-teller and ass-kicker, and she knew they came to the salon because it was one place in town where they could get what they needed. Love and advice, therapy and transformation, all for the price of a haircut. This was how they rolled.
Her bit of euphoria was cut short when she checked the appointment book and saw that Tootsie Dover, grand dame of Timbergrove, was up next. The older woman with a penchant for plastic surgery and wine was one of the few customers who enjoyed reminding Rachel that she worked in a service profession. After an hour or two with Tootsie, Rachel felt like one of the scullery maids in Downton Abbey.
As usual, Tootsie was late. Rachel looked up from the appointment book, hoping to steal a minute to catch up with KJ, as Tootsie slinked in, jaw clenched and shoulders back in that imperious stance. All that was missing was her royal scepter.
"Hey, there. How's it going?" Rachel flashed her usual smile, extending a casual greeting as she came around the reception desk and pointed Tootsie toward her station.
"I'm so busy I hardly have time to breathe," Tootsie muttered, her puffy lips barely moving. A few years back she had gotten some sort of implants that made her lips bulbous and swollen. For months Rachel had thought of a bad bee sting reaction whenever she'd looked at Tootsie. "I'm trying to plan a European vacation and it's so hard to get what you want these days."
"I can imagine." Rachel did not have that problem. The last vacation she had taken was with her boys at the coast, and even there they had stayed in a friend's cottage. "Can I get you something to drink? Coffee or tea? Wine or soda?"
As usual, Tootsie wanted wine. While Tootsie switched her blouse for a gown, Rachel poured a hefty goblet of white wine. Tootsie took the glass without acknowledgment. You're welcome. Since when did money become an excuse for lacking manners?
With a small flourish, Rachel wrapped the cape around Tootsie. As she moved she caught a glimmer of silver in the part of her own dark hair. Damn. Time to freshen up her own roots. Usually Ariel helped her out with that, but her friend had been busy lately, coaching kids for the spring show.
"I'm looking for a little wow factor." Tootsie tipped up her well-sculpted nose and swirled her glass of white wine as Rachel pumped the chair higher. "Can we go blonder this time?"
Any blonder and your head is going to glow in the dark, Rachel thought, though she bit the words back. Some women wanted to hear the truth, but Tootsie Dover was not one of them. And if Rachel Whalen had learned anything in twenty years of styling hair, it was to give the customer what she wanted.
"We can put more umber into the golden highlights," Rachel suggested. "That will give it more contrast, more shine."
"I want that instant bling thing. That sparkle and pop, you know? I want people to notice when I walk into a room."
You mean, when you stumble in, Rachel thought, pretending to ponder a strand of the woman's hair. It was the consultation, the moment when Rachel listened, then proposed a fabulous transformation of her client's hair and, hence, life. Not everyone went for the dramatic consult. Some wanted just a trim, a color touch-up, a little chitchat, and a couple of laughs. But Tootsie always demanded the deluxe package: flattery, ass-kissing, and a magical transformation.
"I have some product with gold sparkles in it."
The plump lips curled into a beak that reminded Rachel of Donald Duck's. "I want that. Pour it on."
"And we can finish with a Brazilian blowout."
One of Tootsie's painted brows arched as she sipped the wine. "Mmm. What the hell is that?"
"A deep conditioning treatment we use after the color. It adds a layer of protective protein that gives your hair a smooth, healthy sheen. Lasts for weeks, and it'll bring out that golden-honey glow in your hair."
"Yes, yes. Do that, too."
"Perfect." Ka-ching, ka-ching. Rachel tabulated the rising profit on Tootsie's hair treatment as she started to mix the product in plastic containers. Right now Rachel really needed the money. She was a single parent operating her own business, and every month she seemed to come up short. With Jared heading off to college in September, she spent many late nights staring at the computer screen showing her online bank accounts and wondering how she was going to sew together the budget holes. And that was before she'd learned KJ's scholarship was in jeopardy. On the other hand, Tootsie Dover, heir to the Dover Pumpworks fortune, had money to burn. All was fair in love and commerce.
As Rachel applied color to layers of hair separated by waxed papers, Tootsie nattered on about her latest renovation, her newest car, her royal treatment at the country club, her wunderkind Cooper.
"He's made his final choice," Tootsie said. "Winchester College, down in California. Maybe you've heard of it?"
"I know it well. That's a great school." Rachel brushed the pale muck of dye into the roots of Tootsie's hair as she pictured the college with its low-slung adobe buildings, mosaic-tiled artwork, swimming pools, and lawns bordered by tall palm trees. It had been the first choice of her younger son, Jared, who had been accepted, but not offered a scholarship.
"Did you hear that Cooper's been given a football scholarship? A full ride," Tootsie tossed in, toasting Rachel with the wineglass.
"Fabulous," Rachel gushed, though inside she was seething. That scholarship was wasted on a wealthy family like the Dovers, who had the money to send their son to Stanford and build him his own dormitory, too. But Rachel had kept her mouth shut. Maybe she'd sounded just as greedy when KJ has gotten his football scholarship to Green State two years ago. Had she actually bragged about it back then?
Well ... maybe.
"Of course, I told him he doesn't have to play football, but he just loves it."
So does KJ.
"And I must admit, it's nice having a celebrity in the family. Have you been at the high school games when they chant Cooper's name?"
"I have." Back in October, Rachel and Ariel had attended the homecoming game. In a town the size of Timbergrove, a Friday night football game was quite the social event, with tailgate parties, marching bands, cheerleaders, and helicopters hovering overhead for TV coverage. Although it had been a fun, cheap night out, Rachel could not say she enjoyed hearing the crowd chant the name of their current quarterback. It had reminded her too much of her own son's ride to glory two years earlier, when the roar of fans had rumbled through the bleachers.
"KJ!" Clap, clap. "KJ!" Clap, clap. "KJ!"
At first KJ had asked people to stop chanting his name, explaining that he was no hero, that the entire team deserved a rally cry. But no one listened or cared. The chant was intoxicating and contagious.
"KJ!" Clap, clap. "KJ!"
For a seventeen-year-old kid who had grown up playing tackle football since he was five, the cheering fans were part of the thrill of football. KJ had admitted that, even as he'd tried to stay modest and focused, keeping his head in the game. "Football is my life," he'd told her, and Rachel had been so pleased and proud that her son had found a good, solid foundation in his life.
A foundation on the verge of crumbling.
Snapping herself back to the conversation, Rachel was relieved to find that the topic had changed to prom.
"Cooper is going with his girlfriend, and I've got to tell you, it's not cheap. I was going to book the limo, but then Cooper told me they needed a party bus. An entire bus? Can you imagine? Cost me a damned fortune, but I don't care." Tootsie was nearly growling now, her voice low as a sleepy tiger's.
"Usually the guys chip in for that," Rachel said. "I bet you'll get reimbursed for most of it."
"I don't care. I don't need the money. Not as long as my boy's happy, and he's happy as a pig in shit these days. Absolute shit."
Rachel was aware that her client was beginning to sour, typical of the degeneration during Tootsie's visits. She shot a look over to the next station, where Hilda was blowing out a young, pink-faced woman in the chair. A new mom who had left the baby with her mother to get a haircut, Irene had her eyes closed in meditation, and the noise of the dryer probably drowned out Tootsie's nastiness.
"Cooper's got a girlfriend." Tootsie let out a dry cackle. "A regular screw, is what my husband calls it."
"Come on, Toots. That's no way to talk about a seventeen-year-old girl." Especially a girl who's like a daughter to me.
"He's joking. I think you know the girl. Remy ... something or other. Indian girl."
"Native American," Rachel corrected, despising Tootsie for the not-so-subtle put-down. "Remy is a doll. But then, her mom is my best friend in the world, so I'm a little prejudiced."
"Well, she'd better be worth it, because I'm sinking a boatload of money into her. We're taking her on our family vacation this summer. Five weeks in Europe. England, France, Spain, and Italy. And some of those small countries that no one knows the names of."
"Sounds like a dream vacation," Rachel said. The chance for Remy to see Europe was the only bright light in Tootsie's brag. Rachel had known Remy and her sister, Cassie, since the girls were preschoolers. Many a summer day Ariel's girls had splashed around in the kiddie pool with Rachel's boys, and throughout the years there had been countless camping trips and sledding and hikes and picnics that drew their two families together. Rachel had always hoped that one of Ariel's girls would end up with either KJ or Jared, but you couldn't make that sort of thing happen.
"I've never been to Europe," Rachel said. "What's your favorite spot there? Like, if you could only go to one place."
"I don't know. A bunch of tourist traps, if you ask me. It was Cooper's pick, and it's his graduation trip. But first we have to get through graduation and prom." Tootsie finished her goblet of wine, leaving her lips moist and drooping open. "Who's your boy taking to prom? You have a senior, right?"
Rachel nodded, taken aback by Tootsie's sudden interest. In all the years that she had cut Tootsie's hair, she'd rarely fielded a personal question from the maven of mean. "Jared." Honestly, how could Tootsie not know his name? He was in Gleetime with Cooper. "I'm not sure he's going to prom."
Excerpted from Domestic Secrets by ROSALIND NOONAN. Copyright © 2016 Rosalind Noonan. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Domestic Secrets by [Noonan, Rosalind]Rachel owns the local hair salon. she serves many of the women in Timbergrove, Oregon. Her friend, Ariel Alexander, used to be a television star. Together they have helped each other through the adventures of single motherhood. Lately, however, it seems to Rachel that Ariel's parenting skills have been slipping and she has a secret love. In addition to worrying about Ariel, Rachel also has a son who has become distant. The two families are torn apart by an event that Rachel has a hard time understanding. This leads her to discover other things about those she has trusted in the town. I was taken in by the way the book explores things that tie people together and the things that can separate them. I had a little discomfort with how honest the writing was, but this is a personal feeling. Overall, I feel like Rosalind Noonan wrote a book which will leave the reader satisfied in choosing this book. I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Domestic Secrets by Rosalind Noonan is set in Timbergrove, Oregon. Rachel Whalen is single mother, has two boys, and owns Holy Snips (a hair salon). Ariel Alexander is a single mother of four children, an actress, and a voice (singing) coach. Her oldest daughter, Cassie (19) is in college and is critical of her mother (her lifestyle and choices as they affect the younger children still at home). Ariel had a hard time after her husband passed away. She checked out of life and holed herself up in her bedroom (leaving Cassie to take care of the children, house, etc.). Rachel and Ariel are friends despite their differences. Rachel is worried about her youngest son, Jared. He has been distant, angry, and sneaky around. What is going on with him? Then tragedy strikes both families. They are left devastated, angry, and on separate sides. What happened to destroy these two families? You will have to read Domestic Secrets to find out. I found Domestic Secrets to be a very slow paced book. The “incident” does not happens until you are sixty percent into the book (it too way too long to get to it). The novel is fine (okay), but not great. I was not a fan of the characters (especially Ariel was selfish, vain, and extremely self-centered). Rachel’s talk of “vibe” and “karma” was off-putting as well as the many scenes of her thinking (what was her son’s doing, are they making the right decisions, etc.). Domestic Secrets contains sex, violence (domestic and murder), and foul language. I give Domestic Secrets 2.75 out of 5 stars. One thing that I really disliked what the use of the word ennui. It was over used in this novel. I received a complimentary copy of Domestic Secrets from NetGalley in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel.
Every little town or big town has it's secrets. Some are well known, some are not. Even households have secrets that the towns don't know about, whether they are big or small, rich or poor. There are secrets everywhere. This book begins with secrets. Small secrets that most people know about. Sometime in the middle of the book a large secret starts to form. You don't understand the depth of it until later on in the book. You don't even know how or when it started to develop. It's pieces thrown here and there that slowly begin to develop and as a reader you pick up on them slowly. Some pieces have your mind going elsewhere thinking there is a sexual orientation problem or something going on here. Even when the biggest piece of the puzzle is shown, you still don't understand what's going on or how this could be happening. This is not in character, this is not how this couple acts. What's going on here? No way could this have happened. I read this part three times, I was dumbfounded. How could this have happened? Then Rosalind Noonan gives us more pieces of this puzzle and slowly the big picture comes into focus. And, we see it. We see how it could happen. Kudos to Rosalind Noonan for such a GREAT story. I was just reading along and then BAM, I definitely was not expecting what happened. I'm not giving any spoilers on this one. This one literally took me by surprise and I loved it. Great writing, I just could not put this down and the character development, I actually felt so many emotions for several of these characters, especially Cassie. Huge thanks to Kensington Books for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. It was entertaining, enjoyable, up and down the emotional spectrum and a fantastic read!