Public Secrets

Public Secrets

by Nora Roberts


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Public Secrets by Nora Roberts

New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts deftly blends romance and suspense in this compelling novel of a woman whose career, marriage, and very life are threatened by the truth about her own past.
Emma McAvoy may have grown up in the limelight, but some secrets are hidden in a darkness no light can reach. Now on the verge of a successful career, and having fallen in love with the man of her dreams, Emma is looking to the future. Yet it’s the past that is about to catch up with her.
For Emma, her childhood had been almost like a rags-to-riches fairy tale—until the tragic night that changed her family forever. But what Emma thinks she knows about that terrible night and the man she’s about to marry is only half the truth. The other half is locked away in the last place she’d ever think to look: her own memories. It’s a mystery a handsome and relentlessly driven homicide detective needs to solve in a case that’s haunted him for years—and a secret someone will kill to keep.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553386400
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/28/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 458,367
Product dimensions: 8.28(w) x 5.26(h) x 1.02(d)

About the Author

Nora Roberts is the first writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. The New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Sacred Sins and Divine Evil, she has become one of today's most successful and best-loved writers. Nora Roberts lives with her family in Maryland.

From the Hardcover edition.


Keedysville, Maryland

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Silver Spring, Maryland

Read an Excerpt

The first time Emma met her father, she was nearly three years old.  She knew what he looked like because her mother kept pictures of him, meticulously cut from newspapers and glossy magazines, on every surface in their cramped three-room flat.  Jane Palmer had a habit of carrying her daughter, Emma, from picture to picture hanging on the water-stained walls and sitting on the dusty scarred furniture and telling her of the glorious love affair that had bloomed between herself and Brian McAvoy, lead singer for the hot rock group, Devastation.  The more Jane drank, the greater that love became.

Emma understood only parts of what she was told.  She knew that the man in the pictures was important, that he and his band had played for the queen.  She had learned to recognize his voice when his songs came on the radio, or when her mother put one of the 45s she collected on the record player.

Emma liked his voice, and what she would learn later was called its faint Irish lilt.

Some of the neighbors tut-tutted about the poor little girl upstairs with a mother who had a fondness for the gin bottle and a vicious temper.  There were times they heard Jane's shrill curses and Emma's sobbing wails.  Their lips would firm and knowing looks would pass between the ladies as they shook out their rugs or hung up the weekly wash.

In the early days of the summer of 1967, the summer of love, they shook their heads when they heard the little girl's cries through the open window of the Palmer flat.  Most agreed that young Jane Palmer didn't deserve such a sweet-faced child, but they murmured only among themselves.  No one in that part of London would dream of reporting such a matter to the authorities.

Of course, Emma didn't understand terms like alcoholism or emotional illness, but even though she was only three she was an expert on gauging her mother's moods.  She knew the days her mother would laugh and cuddle, the days she would scold and slap.  When the atmosphere in the flat was particularly heavy, Emma would take her stuffed black dog, Charlie, crawl under the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink, and in the dark and damp, wait out her mother's temper

On some days, she wasn't quick enough.

"Hold still, do, Emma."  Jane dragged the brush through Emma's pale blond hair. With her teeth gritted, she resisted the urge to whack the back of it across her daughter's rump.  She wasn't going to lose her temper today, not today. "I'm going to make you pretty.  You want to be especially pretty today, don't you?"

Emma didn't care very much about looking pretty, not when her mother's brush strokes were hurting her scalp and the new pink dress was scratchy with starch. She continued to wriggle on the stool as Jane tried to tie her flyaway curls back with a ribbon.

"I said hold still."  Emma squealed when Jane dug hard fingers into the nape of her neck.  "Nobody loves a dirty, nasty girl."  After two long breaths, Jane relaxed her grip.  She didn't want to put bruises on the child.  She loved her, really.  And bruises would look bad, very bad, to Brian if he noticed them.

After dragging her from the stool, Jane kept a firm hand on Emma's shoulder. "Take that sulky look off your face, my girl."  But she was pleased with the results.  Emma, with her wispy blond curls and big blue eyes, looked like a pampered little princess.  "Look here."  Jane's hands were gentle again as she turned Emma to the mirror.  "Don't you look nice?"

Emma's mouth moved stubbornly into a pout as she studied herself in the spotted glass.  Her voice mirrored her mother's cockney and had a trace of a childish lisp.  "Itchy."

"A lady has to be uncomfortable if she wants a man to think she's beautiful." Jane's own slimming black corset was biting into her flesh.


"Because that's part of a woman's job."  She turned, examining first one side, then the other in the mirror.  The dark blue dress was flattering to her full curves, making the most of her generous breasts.  Brian had always liked her breasts, she thought, and felt a quick, sexual pull.

God, no one ever before or since had matched him in bed.  There was a hunger in him, a wild hunger he hid so well under his cool and cocky exterior.  She had known him since childhood, had been his on-again, off-again lover for more than ten years.  No one knew better what Brian was capable of when fully aroused.

She allowed herself to fantasize, just for a moment, what it would be like when he peeled the dress away, when his eyes roamed over her, when his slender, musician's fingers unhooked the frilly corset.

They'd been good together, she remembered as she felt herself go damp.  They would be good together again.

Bringing herself back, she picked up the brush and smoothed her hair.  She had spent the last of the grocery money at the hairdresser's getting her shoulder-length straight hair colored to match Emma's.  Turning her head, she watched it sway from side to side.  After today, she wouldn't have to worry about money ever again.

Her lips were carefully painted a pale, pale pink—the same shade she had seen on supermodel Jane Asher's recent Vogue cover.  Nervous, she picked up her black liner and added more definition near the corner of each eye.

Fascinated, Emma watched her mother.  Today she smelled of Tigress cologne instead of gin.  Tentatively, Emma reached out for the lipstick tube.  Her hand was slapped away.

"Keep your hands off my things." She gave Emma's finger an extra slap.  "Haven't I told you never to touch my things?"

Emma nodded.  Her eyes had already filmed over.

"And don't start that bawling.  I don't want him seeing you for the first time with your eyes all red and your face puffy.  He should have been here already." There was an edge to Jane's voice now, one that had Emma moving cautiously out of range. "If he doesn't come soon..." She trailed off, going over her options as she studied herself in the glass.

She had always been a big girl, but had never run to fat.  True, the dress was a little snug, but she strained against it in interesting places.  Skinny might be in fashion, but she knew men preferred round, curvy women when the lights went out.  She'd been making her living off her body long enough to be sure of it.

Her confidence built as she looked herself over and she fancied she resembled the pale, sulky-faced models who were the rage in London.  She wasn't wise enough to note that the new color job was unflattering or that the arrow-straight hair made the angles of her face boxy and harsh.  She wanted to be in tune.  She always had.

"He probably didn't believe me.  Didn't want to.  Men never want their children."  She shrugged.  Her father had never wanted her—not until her breasts had begun to develop.  "You remember that, Emma girl."  She cast a considering eye over Emma.  "Men don't want babies.  They only want a woman for one thing, and you'll find out what that is soon enough.  When they're done, they're done, and you're left with a big stomach and a broken heart."

She picked up a cigarette and began to smoke it in quick, jerky puffs as she paced.  She wished it was grass, sweet, calming grass, but she'd spent her drug money on Emma's new dress.  The sacrifices a mother made.

"Well, he may not want you, but after one look he won't be able to deny you're his."  Eyes narrowed against the smoke, she studied her daughter.  There was another tug, almost maternal.  The little tyke was certainly pretty as a picture when she was cleaned up.  "You're the goddamn image of him, Emma luv.  The papers say he's going to marry that Wilson slut—old money and fancy manners—but we'll see, we'll just see about that.  He'll come back to me.  I always knew he'd come back." She stubbed the cigarette in a chipped ashtray and left it smoldering.  She needed a drink—just one taste of gin to calm her nerves.  "You sit on the bed," she ordered.  "Sit right there and keep quiet.  Mess with any of my stuff, and you'll be sorry."

She had two drinks before she heard the knock on the door.  Her heart began to pound.  Like most drunks, she felt more attractive, more in control, once she'd had the liquor.  She smoothed down her hair, fixed what she thought was a sultry smile on her face, and opened the door.

He was beautiful.  For a moment in the streaming summer sunlight, she saw only him, tall and slender, his wavy blond hair and full, serious mouth giving him the look of a poet or an apostle.  As nearly as she was able, she loved.

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Public Secrets 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 639 reviews.
Readaholic101 More than 1 year ago
I wasn't always a Nora Roberts fan until recently. I just always thought of her books as harlaquin romance. Was I wrong!! Public Secrets was a great book to read and was so dynamic! Nora encorporated many different characters in this book who each had their own story to tell even though it all centers around Emma. I do believe that this book also gives you excellent insight to what a real rock stars life could be like. The talk about sex, drugs, alcohol, and rock and roll. Each one of Nora's characters has something that at one time in society or still to this day was viewed upon as disgraceful, shameful, etc. She brings up the topic of homosexuality, spousal abuse and how sometimes it's hard to turn away and how the abused feels it is their fault and that they deserve it. Then talks about Ahh just overall this book is an excellent read and gives you so many dynamics! Definitely suggest reading!
DEVILICIOUS More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite Nora Roberts book so far, not that I've read ALL of them, but I'm working on that! An exciting fairy tale ends when the young daughter of a rock star witnesses the death of her baby brother in a failed kidnapping attempt. Her young mind can't deal with it so the mind takes care of protecting her from the memory by blocking it for decades. There are wonderful, real characters, relationships and secrets to be found out. This book is touching, mysterious, suspenseful and romantic, all the elements to keep you from puttung the book down! I loved it!
Sappersis More than 1 year ago
This is, hands down, my favorite of Roberts romance novels. I first read it 6 years ago and have found myself returning annually. I spend half the book biting my nails and the other half falling in love. I invited my book club to break from our classics and give it a try. They loved it just as much as I have. It also allowed us a number of deep conversations (abuse/rape/control/love/homosexuality and perserverance... just to name a few) If you are a Nora Roberts fan it is a must read. If you have yet to fall victim to the Roberts fever then I say READ THIS ONE!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! I can't believe all of the information that was put in just one book. So much happened from beginning to end. It was definately a page turner. It did make me very sad in alot of parts though. A very good read!!
cobras More than 1 year ago
This was another hit by Nora Roberts I don't know how she does it but I was so involved with the story that it had me crying in parts. There is nothing like a Nora Roberts' book. When you are reading this book you feel you are there. Thank you Nora Roberts for many hours of enjoyment.
Marthabeth More than 1 year ago
Loved the story! Great way of pulling you into the mind of the main character and keeping you guessing. Who's good? Who's bad? Who broke your heart? Loved the plot and the ending!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I, too, am a "child of the 60's" (was 19 during Woodstock), so loved this story and the details seem very authentic. Loved these characters with all their flaws and good points. Emma succeeded despite enormous difficulties across her entire childhood - will read again someday.
HEDI09 More than 1 year ago
Another hit! How does she keep cranking them out!!! Just adding my 2 cents worth to the already long list, and counting, of five star reviews!! Need to recommend another fabulous book and author I recently stumbled across, EXPLOSION IN PARIS by LINDA MASEMORE PIRRUNG...I'm totally in love with this book and am hopeful for a sequel! Check out the reviews! They hooked ME!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book , but unfortunately it is a re-release from 1998. If you haven't read it before it's definately worth reading. But just about anything that Nora Roberts writes is worth reading. So, get something to drink and eat, find a comfy spot and settle down cause once you start you won't want to put it down.
Megb715 More than 1 year ago
I just recently started reading Nora Roberts, but I now love her. Public Secrets is one of favorites I have read so far. I completely fell in love with the characters, especially Michael. WHAT A MAN!!! The story starts with Emma as a toddler and follows her life and relationships through her twenties. It has everything: it's thrilling, sad, happy, funny, and completely romantic. I loved the sparks between Emma and Michael!! It's a must read!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This has to be by far my favorite Nora Robert's book! It is so hard to choose as I love them all however, the characters, the plot, the suspense, the romance...I could just go on and on about this book. I loved the relationship between Emma and her father. Nora's characters are so well written that by the end of the book you feel as though you have made some new friends. This is why I continue to pick this book up and read it over again! Five Stars, Highly Recommended!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the only book I have ever read by Nora Roberts, and I intend to check out her other ones!!! I fell in love with the characters and plot right away. I was mesmerized and could not put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very well written. It was also a suspenseful book especially when the main character remembered who killed her brother.
Melreader More than 1 year ago
This book I have I read at least once a year and have been doing so since 1999. I am a 30 year old woman. Let me tell you this book makes you cry (and I am not a cryer), laugh, hold your breath. Basically every human emotion you have you will feel. This was the first book I ever read by Nora Roberts and to this day I still feel is the best. I'm not going to retype what it is about because you can find that out and I know you don't know me but it is such a good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read many of Nora's book, but this is one of the best. Emma seemed so real that I swore I could feel what she was feeling as I read. The book keeps you involved in all of the characters lives instead of just focusing on one thing throughout the whole book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love Nora Roberts, but this tale is a departure from her evolved style. It is a rambling family saga following a traumatized 3 year old though young adulthood. I found it an uneven book -- a slowly unfolding tale of complex families and hidden agendas. The glimpse into the life of rock stars is interesting, but stereotypical. Not as tautly crafted as her best works.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i love this book and as a 12 year old girl it is the best.with the cute emma and the hot and sexy i read this it makes me wont to be mad,sad,happy,and good.i love this book i can read it over and over and still dont wont to put it from me you should read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book. Its by far one of Roberts best books. The people in the book felt very real and it was different than alot of her other books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I`m 16, and as a dedicated reader of Nora Roberts, this was the one I recommend for great thrills, romance and suspense. I really couldn`t put this one down. I think i read it in less than a day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This one has it & roll..drugs etc. It's one you'll want to read again. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you & please keep them coming..I want to read more..Martha Byrd
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a new Nora Roberts reader and i have read 5-6 books of hers so far and this one was by far my most favorite. This book really sucked me into the authors world and it was almost impossible for me to put the book down. I just had to know what happens next. I highly recommend this book!!!!
Walkerjay More than 1 year ago
A great read, true to form Nora Roberts keeps you turning pages with every twist and turn. I found this to be a hard book to put down once I started it.I would highly reccommend this book. Thanks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book bt Nora Roberts. I would reccommend this to friends
Anonymous 4 months ago
This is my favorite Nora Roberts book.