The Secret Sister

The Secret Sister

by Brenda Novak

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778317807
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 07/28/2015
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best, The Bookbuyer's Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com. To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

Read an Excerpt

MAISEY LAZAROW'S BROTHER met her at the ferryalone. Part of her, a big part, was grateful her mother wasn't with him. Even after ten years, Maisey wasn't ready to confront the autocratic and all-powerful "queen" of Fairham, South Carolina. The fact that Josephine hadn't deigned to come with Keith made it clear Maisey would not be easily forgiven. Only after her mother had punished her sufficiently would she be welcomed back into Josephine's good graces.

Although Maisey had expected as much, coming up against that reality nearly made her balk. What was she doing here? She'd sworn she'd never return to the small island where she'd been raised, that she'd never again subject herself to Josephine's manipulation and control.

But that was before, when she'd set off to build her shiny new life. And this was now, when that shiny new life had imploded on her. She was coming back to Fairham because her brother needed her but, truth be told, she needed Keith, too.

At least her mother wasn't currently married. The men Josephine chose were almost as bad as she was, just in different ways.

What Maisey needed most was her father, she realized as she stood at the railing, peering through the passengers crowding the gangway. Breathing in the island air, smelling the salty ocean and wet wood of the wharf, it all reminded her of him. But Malcolm had died in a boating accident when she was ten. That was when her mother had grown even more overbearing. Without Malcolm, there was no one to soften Josephine's sharper edges, no one to hold her in check. Not that the buffer he'd provided was the only reason, or even the primary reason, she missed him…

"There you are!" Keith called across the distance, waving to make sure he had her attention.

Grabbing the handles of her two suitcases, which contained everything she hadn't shipped to the island in boxes, she stepped into the flow of people so she could disembark. It was too late to change her mind about moving home. She'd given up her apartment in Manhattan and depleted most of her savings, thanks to the exorbitant fees of the divorce attorney she'd had to hire.

"You look great," Keith told her as she moved closer.

Maisey conjured up her best approximation of a smile—she seemed unable to smile spontaneously these days—and embraced him. "Thanks." She was wearing an expensive white tunic with Jimmy Choo shoes and Chanel jewelry, but she'd never looked worse and she knew it. She hadn't been sleeping or eating well—not since that day two years ago, the worst day of her life. It didn't help that her brother was also going through a difficult time. Once she'd learned about his suicide attempt, she'd been so manic about selling her furniture and what she could sacrifice of her other belongings so she could return to Fairham to be with him that she hadn't bothered to do much shopping or cooking, which had caused her to lose even more weight. Her color wasn't good, either.

But her brother didn't look much better. Nearly six-foot-six with a set of broad shoulders that gave him a nice frame, he could stand to gain some weight, too. And he had dark circles under his eyes—the same blue-green eyes she possessed that always drew so much attention.

"You look good, too," she lied, and suppressed a wry chuckle. She was home, all right. The pretense was already starting. Her ex-husband's frank honesty was one of the things that had attracted her to him, which made his actions at the end of their marriage seem especially ironic.

"How was your trip?" Keith pulled her thoughts away from the past, where they resided far too frequently.

"Not bad," she replied. No way did she want to regale him with stories of how difficult she found it just to walk out of her apartment building. She'd spent weeks at a time holed up in bed, but he didn't need to know that only the urgency of his situation had been sufficient motivation to get her on her feet again. "How's Mom?"

He shot her a look that acknowledged the tension any reference to Josephine created. "The same. She might not act like it, but she's excited to have you home. She's had a room in the east wing prepared for you."

The guest wing? The significance of that didn't escape Maisey. If there'd been any doubt that she was to be treated with cool disdain until she'd done her penance, this proved it.

The anger that flared up, making her stiffen, surprised Maisey. Apparently she wasn't completely cowed and broken. The idea of walking into Coldiron House—named after Josephine's father, Henry Coldiron, who'd owned most of the island before Josephine inherited it—brought back a hint of her old defiance. She couldn't cope with living there, couldn't submit, as she would have to submit, in order to regain her mother's approval.

"I won't be staying at Mom's," she said.

Keith had started to reach for her suitcases. At this, he straightened. "What do you mean?"

"I mean I have to find somewhere else."

He measured her with his eyes, and she found them so hollow she grew frightened for him all over again. Was he doing as well as he claimed? He didn't seem to be particularly robust—in body or spirit.

"I understand it'll be a bit uncomfortable for you at first." He glanced away as if he could tell she was trying to see behind the front he was putting on. "But trust me. Mom will come around. You'll piss her off if you don't stay at the house, and that'll only make matters worse. After a few weeks…"

"No." She broke in before he could get any further into his appeal. "I can't do it."

He stared at her. "You're serious. You've barely arrived, and you're going to make her angry? She has too much pride to put up with the rejection."

"She rejected me first. And I don't have a relationship with her, anyway," Maisey said. "We communicate through email or her housekeeper, for crying out loud. I've spoken to her only a handful of times over the past decade." And when they had talked, there'd been more silence than anything. There'd even been silence when Maisey had desperately craved consolation.

"You need her," he said. "We both do. And that means we'll always be under her thumb."

Although she was secretly frightened that might be true, Maisey scoffed at it. "No. I'll help you, stand by you. I just need to…to get back on my feet, and she can only hurt my ability to do that." The thought of walking through those heavy doors, dragging her belongings behind her, almost gave her a panic attack. At least, if she didn't stay at Coldiron House, she'd retain some autonomy, some independence. She had to protect the little peace of mind she had left.

He rubbed his gaunt face. "So where will you stay?"

"I could rent a room from someone in town." She had enough money for that, didn't she? Her reserves would last six months or so.

"Here on Fairham?" Her brother shook his head, adamant. "That would provoke an all-out war."

He was right. To maintain some semblance of peace, she couldn't cross certain lines. She couldn't embarrass her mother by revealing that there was any strain inside the family. Appearances were everything to Josephine. They were Coldirons, even though their surname was technically Lazarow, and they needed to comport themselves as such.

How many times had she heard that lecture?

"What if I got an apartment in Charleston?" she asked, but decided against it almost as soon as the words passed her lips. Charleston would cost too much and, left on her own, she wouldn't recover. Being sequestered in a cheap, unfamiliar apartment would be worse than living alone in New York with the furniture Jack hadn't taken.

"I don't see." he started, but she cut him off again.

"Wait." The solution had occurred to her, and it was so obvious she couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it before. "Why couldn't I stay in one of the bungalows?"

"The vacation rentals? They're on the far side of the island!"

"So?" Going back and forth to Coldiron House wouldn't require a ferry, like it would from Charleston. And it was September, when the small influx of vacationers who visited Fairham each summer returned to their regular lives. One of the nine units should be available. "We're talking ten miles if I take the bike path. I'll buy a bike and ride over whenever you want me to. Or you can come hang out at my place."

Maisey felt that would be even better. Not only would living in Smuggler's Cove enable her to avoid their mother, it would provide Keith a place to go occasionally, a place where he wouldn't have to deal with Josephine—meaning he wouldn't have to resort to drugs as his escape.

"Most of them haven't been refurbished since Hurricane Lorna last fall," he said.

"I could've sworn you told me months ago that Mom was hiring a contractor." That was well before Keith's last big blowup with Josephine, when he'd stormed off to "live his own life." He'd disappeared for several months before ending up on another drug binge, which had culminated in the black moment that had brought him home again—the same black moment that had ultimately brought her home, too.

"She has hired a contractor," he said, "but she didn't get around to it until I got back a couple of weeks ago. Construction's just begun."

Her mother had waited a year to rebuild? "Why'd she wait so long?"

He took her suitcase, and walked toward the sleek gray Mercedes he'd parked in the lot. It was their mother's car. He no longer owned anything to speak of. Although he'd turned thirty-six in February, an age by which most people had managed to accumulate a vehicle and some furniture or other personal property, he'd sold everything for drug money. What he hadn't sold, he'd given away while he was high or destroyed out of anger and frustration.

"She was in another relationship with some off-islander, so she couldn't be bothered," he said in response to her question.

"But I'm sure she'll tell you the delay was all my fault. As you know, I haven't made things easy on her—or anyone else."

Including himself… Keith had caused nothing but heartache. But it disturbed Maisey that her mother always had to assign blame. "The future doesn't have to be a reflection of the past." She touched his arm for encouragement. "We'll get through the coming months together. It'll be okay now that we have each other."

When he didn't respond, Maisey wished she hadn't questioned him about the delay in construction, hadn't made him accept responsibility for it. He needed to look ahead—not behind. "I'm sure the bungalows will be ready by next summer, which means we only missed one tourist season."

He was putting her suitcases in the trunk, so she couldn't read his expression. "That's the goal," he said.

"Have you been out to see them recently?" she asked as they slid into the sun-warmed interior of the Mercedes and buckled their seat belts.

"Mom's sent me over once or twice, yeah."

"How bad are they?"

"Pretty bad."

She cringed. "Structurally?"

"Units 1 to 4 need structural repairs."

"What about 5 to 9?" They were set back off the beach, in the trees. Maisey assumed the wind hadn't hit them as hard.

"They're sound, but they still need a lot of work."

Maisey hated that the bungalows had been damaged. Since the eighties, when her father'd had them built, Smuggler's Cove had been a magical place for her, a place where she could find him, or some essence of him, even after he was gone. She had so many fond memories of tagging along to the rentals that, when he died, she'd wanted to scatter his ashes there on the beach. But her mother retained control of his remains, like she did everything else. His ashes were kept in a decorative urn on the mantel of the formal living room at Coldiron House. Not for any sentimental reason. But because it allowed Josephine to pretend he was her one great love, since she hadn't been able to get along with anyone else—not for long, anyway. Every other relationship had fallen apart within two or three years.

"I don't mind helping with the cleanup and repairs, maybe doing some painting, that sort of thing." There was a period when she and Jack, her ex-husband, had watched almost every do-it-yourself show on TV, and used much of what they'd learned to improve their small cabin in the Catskill Mountains. It had been sold, as stipulated by the divorce decree, but she'd always loved it there.

Keith backed out of the parking space. "I'm not sure the contractor's going to like having you in the middle of everything."

"I'll stay out of his way." She tucked her dark hair behind her ears. It was getting too long; she needed to have it trimmed. "Who'd Mom hire? Anyone from around here?"

"Raphael Something. Can't remember his last name. I didn't ask where he was from. I know he's done other work on the island, though, because I've seen his sign—High Tide Construction."

Maisey had never met anyone by that name or heard of the company. But then, plenty could've changed since she'd been gone. "Can we go to Smuggler's Cove now, see if it's even a possibility?"

He hit the brake, stopping before they could exit the lot. "You're not thinking of moving in without asking Mom…"

Knowing that she had a viable alternative—if she did have one—would help her get through that daunting first encounter. "I can't imagine she'd refuse to let me live in one of Dad's bungalows. He'd turn over in his grave if she did." They were something her father had created and paid for with the money he'd brought into the relationship. "Besides, I'm supposed to inherit the development, remember?" "If she follows his wishes."

Maisey had to acknowledge that the future of the cottages rested in her mother's hands, since Josephine had inherited them first. "Well, you've heard the cliché—it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission."

He pursed his lips. "Not with her."

The complexity of Keith's relationship with Josephine accounted for a lot of his problems. Maisey wished he could get out on his own so he wouldn't need Josephine's help. Then he could also reject her advice and any unwanted intrusions into his life. But, so far, that hadn't happened; he and Josephine were mutually dependent on each other. She provided financial support, and since she couldn't be satisfied with any of her romances, he gave her companionship—when he wasn't acting out. They loved each other but hated each other, too. But because Maisey was coming home with almost nothing, she wasn't exactly the perfect example of how to get away, so she hesitated to say too much.

"Come on, I'm on her shit list, anyway," she said, pretending more indifference than she felt.

He released a sigh. "Fine. Then why not really piss her off, huh?"

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The Secret Sister 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
JaymeBowman More than 1 year ago
I'm always a fan of Brenda's books, but I'm always skeptical reading the first book of a new series because I'm so spoiled by her others that I never think it can live up to the expectations I'm used to! By now, if you've already read the description of the book, you get the basic ideas of what everyone has already discussed. What I feel has NOT been mentioned is that Novak does personal research on every setting she creates in a book. The research she does by visiting places like the Carolina Coast (where this book is set) is why her books are always so in depth and realistic, with believable characters and stories. This is what I love about her novels, and why I am an avid reader. The only reason this didn't get five stars from me was it was a TAD bit slow in the beginning for me, I'm more into the mystery side of stories than romance, but there is plenty of both for all :) If you want to read more of her 'romance' side books, Whiskey Creek is great or any of the earlier books from the Dundee Idaho series...historicals? Try Through The Smoke, if you like mystery with a LITTLE romance, try the Last Stand series (my FAVORITE)!!!! She has something for everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read!!! I could totally relate to Maisey; even though I’d never grown up in a mansion, or had such a devastating loss, or an emotionless and mean mother. Rafe is a hunky dad, wow. Their chemistry was perfect. Although there was a sex scene, it wasn’t too graphic. Author Brenda Novak is great at visualizations. There was enough to get the atmosphere of the story and the dwellings, people, and surroundings in it. Ms. Novak writes emotions so that readers feel them, too. I highly recommend this book!
Cora More than 1 year ago
Fabulous book. The characters immediately came to life to me. This is one of those books that you have to fight with yourself to not jump to the end to see how the story is going to turn out. I wasn't expecting the tears that developed when I read the end.
Tl44 More than 1 year ago
The perfect blend of romance, family drama, and mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story dragged on for the first three-quarters of the book, that i almost put it down several times. The characters are so flawed and damaged that their angst is consuming. The author dwells on the angst. The story details are leaded out ever so slowly, making for a sluggish read, which makes the constant re-hash boring. Then suddenly, everything changes and all of the characters are happy, rosy and everyone gets along. This was not a favorite and in no way did it deserve an award.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! All of her books are just wonderful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
A box of photographs causes a woman to question everything she knows about herself and her family. Brenda Novak surprised me with this one. The Secret Sister is an emotionally disturbing read. The root of the story is that secrets can destroy lives. As I was reading it I'm thinking this could be a story about anyone and that stirred something within my soul. Maisey is already having a difficult time within her life and when she finds evidence of a secret that has been hidden for years she wants answers. In her quest for the truth she is forced to take a hard look at herself. Ms. Novak's stories are always full of sentiment and emotion, but this one really proved to be thought provoking. A haunting scenario. The Secret Sister was given to me in exchange for an honest review.
GwenL More than 1 year ago
Not all authors can make the transition from mass market to trade paperback, but Brenda Novak has done so with ease with her new title THE SECRET SISTER. Novak's characters are well-defined and interesting -- even Maisey's mother whom I wanted to hate but couldn't. Imagine escaping your hometown and your dysfunctional family until knocks you so far down you have no choice but to go home again. While you're trying to heal yourself, your domineering mother makes sure you know every mistake you've made. Then you find evidence of a sister you don't remember and you want to know what happened but you're also afraid of what you'll find. With a plot that could have degenerated into cliché, Novak strikes all the right notes. All the characters have weaknesses and flaws but we understand them. Even those I didn't want to like made me keep reading to see whether they would be redeemed even a little. And I'll admit that, although all the clues were there, the answer to the mystery still surprised me. Don't miss this newest title from Novak.
Ksiddall More than 1 year ago
This is a heck of a start for a new series. 5 Stars! Maisie Lazarow returns home to Fairham, North Carolina, the island of her childhood after suffering the double tragedy of losing both her only child, Ellie, to SIDS and her husband, Jack, to an affair with another woman. But the island is not a refuge, she returns to help her brother, Keith, who is dealing with his own problems - the pains and the ups and downs of addiction and their cold, controlling mother, Josephine. Complicating the situation, Maisie discovers that her first love, Rafe Romero, is renovating the vacation cottages on her family’s property and is living right next door with his young daughter, Laney. Brenda Novak has written another wonderful and complex story of heartbreak, mystery, renewal, and romance. The characters quickly became real people to me, with lives and back stories all their own. Supporting characters are solid and help develop the complications and give completeness to the novel. The beautiful island gives us a perfect setting for mystery and romance. I found the little touches, such as the texts from Maisie’s ex-husband, gave the story another feeling of reality as well. The interplay between the mother and EVERYONE always had me holding my breath to see what she’d say next. Great! I can easily recommend this book to my friends and family or anyone that enjoys a good family drama or their romance involved with a good mystery. As I said before, this is a heck of a start for a new series!
BookwormBrandee More than 1 year ago
*4.5 Stars* Can you imagine starting to have vague memories of someone - possibly a sibling - but someone you don't really recall? Someone no one has ever mentioned? And having those memories corroborated by the sibling you did grow up with? This was just one of the many things Maisey Lazarow faced upon her return to Fairham. Maisey has returned home after a 10 year absence, in order to support her brother as well as heal her own wounds following her divorce. In coming home, she's putting herself in the firing line of her mother, who has never been happy or supportive of how Maisey's chosen to live her life. Being home also puts her in the path of Rafe Romero, a man she knew when she was a teen and would rather not see at this point in time. Being home pits Maisey against her mother once again, leaving her to buck against her mother's strict demands, expectations, and rules. There's so much going on in The Secret Sister, with both Maisey and Keith trying to carve out new lives for themselves and hold their won against their formidable mother. Then there's the mystery sibling - did she or did she not exist? And if she did exist, what happened to her? And finally, there is the romance between Maisey and Rafe. I think Novak brilliantly balanced all the elements of the story. I enjoyed watching as Maisey made decisions on living her life even when they went against what her mother wishes. When we first meet Maisey, she's rather broken. I enjoyed seeing her blossom, become so vibrant and full of life. It was difficult to watch Keith struggle with his issues and act so horribly at times. I was happy when he seemed to get his life on track. Maisey and Keith's mother, Josephine, was a piece of work. Coming from a wealthy family, she was so focused on appearances, reputations, etc., and wasn't a nurturing type - at all. The events that transpired over the course of the story had definitely effects on all the characters - good effects. My favorite part though was seeing Maisey and Rafe connect. Although Maisey is divorced and suffered terribly during her marriage, seeing her light up and regain her confidence as she spent time with Rafe and his daughter, Laney, left me feeling warm and fuzzy. :) Rafe is such a kind and gentle man. He's settled down since his wild youth and witnessing how he is with his daughter was heartwarming. I did feel like a few resolutions were too easily gained. But overall, The Secret Sister was exceptional. **I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.**
ALBordner314 More than 1 year ago
Where to start?! Another great start to a new series from Brenda Novak! This was definitely different than any of the books that I have read recently, but I am glad that I took the time to give it a chance! The Secret Sister tells us the story of Maisey. She has returned to Fairham after a divorce. She doesn't want to stay at her childhood home with her mother, but instead decides to stay in a rental. Come to find out, she is staying next door to the very last person she wants to see, the man she lost her virginity to, Rafe Romero. Her time back at home takes another turn when she ends up finding a box of photos at home that brings back a ton of memories for Maisey. Everything starts to change as she begins questioning these memories of a little girl that she believes is her sister. This book was a GREAT beginning to hopefully more by Brenda like this. It was a nice change for me, and it truly kept me guessing and reading all the way to the very end! I will definitely be re-reading this book. Keep them coming, Brenda!
KNIngram More than 1 year ago
The Secret Sister has elements of romance, mystery and women's lit. Maisey returns home to ostensibly help her sometimes drug addicted brother and his stormy relationship with their often cruel mother, but Maisey's own life is in such chaos she's not in the position to really help anyone. Add to that the hunky next door neighbor and the growing evidence that their mother is hiding the existence of a sister and the rebuilding of Maisey's life seems further away as she tries to make a fresh start. The Secret Sister moves quickly and makes for a good, fun read.
KayKaykm2 More than 1 year ago
MsChris1161 More than 1 year ago
THE SECRET SISTER is the first book in a new series by Brenda Novak set on Fairham Island. The main character being Maisey Lazarow who has come back to her childhood home after suffering a terrible loss that ended her marriage. She’s been gone ten years and is hoping that she will be able to not only get her own life back on track, but her brother Keith’s as well. She’s looking forward to finding some peace back from spending time in a cottage in Smuggler’s Cove where she has wonderful memories of time spent with her deceased father. What she finds is the grownup version of a young man she has a crush on as a teenager and still finds hard to resist. Rafe Romero is a local contractor and Maisey’s neighbor who is more than willing to get to know Maisey better. But Maisey comes with a lot of baggage… childhood issues, her failed marriage, and a career slump, among other things so she’s resistant at first to the second chance at romance Rafe is hoping for with her. What really drives this story is the mystery and the strong personalities of the characters. I definitely had a strong reaction and opinion of them all. Ms. Novak is a pro at making her characters come to life in a very realistic way. The mystery of what happened to the secret sister is built slowly as you get to know the various characters and their roles in the world of Fairham Island. There was so much going on in this well-written story as each character’s situation is woven together to reach that cohesive end and solve the mystery that I could not zip right through as I might other books. I can’t end without saying, my favorite parts of the story were those with little Laney, that sweet girl stole the show in every scene she was in! 3.5 stars
deeeee More than 1 year ago
Maisey Lazarow came home to Fairham Island help her brother and to heal. In the last two years, tragedy had torn her family apart and she was no longer able to write her beloved children's books. Maybe going home would help her get her life back. But she also wanted to help her brother Keith who has a serious drug problem and keeps undermining his life. To make matters worse, her mother is the wealthiest woman on the island and rules the island and its occupants with an iron fist. Maisey wants to heal the rift between the family members, but every step she takes seems to make matters worse. Instead of coming home to the "homestead", she goes to the cottages the family owns to give her some space and a sense of independence. The cottages were damaged in the recent hurricane, but surely one is inhabitable. Rafe is a licensed contractor hired by Maisey's mother to repair the cottages. In his agreement, he was allowed to purchase one of the cottages. Rafe and his daughter Laney (who was born blind) are Maisey's neighbor. Many years ago, Rafe and Maisey had a "one-night-stand", but the chemistry is still just as strong. While rehabbing one of the cottages, Rafe came across a metal box with pictures of a young girl he assumes was Maisey, so he takes the pictures to her. Maisey realizes the photos aren't of her, yet her mother and father and brother Keith are in some of the photos, too. Who was this little girl? The mystery begins to unravel. Could this be a secret sister? The Secret Sister is filled with passion and mystery. You can feel the angst the characters feel. There are so many puzzles to solve, so much healing to be done, and so many bad feelings to overcome, yet the story is beautifully woven by Ms. Novak.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hockeygirl1 More than 1 year ago
Brenda Novak is truly an amazing writer. I'm lucky to have an ARC of the The Secret Sister. I could not put it down. This story is not only a romance, but a mystery. Maisey returns home after getting divorce. Its an emotional time as she tries to rebuild her relationship with mother, addicted brother and an old high school one night stand. Then there is a twist when a family secret comes to light that puts a new light on her relationship with her family. I highly recommend this book.
annmarie318 More than 1 year ago
Brenda Novak's books are hard to put down. The Secret Sister had not only romance, but mystery. Within the story it dealt with relationships between old friends, siblings and mothers. After Maisey's return home, she finds herself involved with an old friend and trying to do her best to build relationships with her mother and brother. Along the way a family mystery is discovered which puts a whole new twist on all of the relationships.
Lisamillercot More than 1 year ago
This book seems to have every emotion in it! Happiness, sadness, elation, love, romance all rolled into a little mystery as well. The story takes us on a journey of Maisey's life, from divorce moving forward. When she meets an old high school friend, she never dreamed there would still be a spark there between them. She just has to ignite the flame. This was a great read that wasn't too long and has a great ending. Well worth the read!!
ganderson523 More than 1 year ago
I was given an ARC by the author for an honest review. Maisey Lazarow left her home of Fairham Island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina ten years ago when she married her husband, Jack, and moved to New York City. They had a happy marriage until the death of their infant daughter to SIDS two years ago. Jack cheated on Maisey with a friend from high school saying that he is unfulfilled in their marriage. Maisey has a successful career as a children's author and illustrator until baby Ellie's death and now has writer's block. When her brother Keith calls for her help dealing with emotional issues, she returns to Fairham Island. There is nothing to keep her in New York. Keith and Maisey had a very dysfunctional family life with their father dying when they are young leaving them in care of their mother, Josephine, who was not very loving. Maisey decides to stay in one of the family bungalows on the island that is usually rented out to tourists. At the time the bungalows are being renovated by Rafe Romero, a local contractor, because they have been damaged by a hurricane. She finds one that she is able to stay in even though Josephine wants her to stay in the family home. She doesn't want to stay with her mother. Rafe and Maisey had a one night stand in high school and at first there is some awkwardness between them but a relationship soon develops. Rafe purchased one of the bungalows to live in along with his blind daughter so that he will be close to his work. In the process of Maisey getting settled in the bungalow, Keith leaves town without informing Maisey or his mother where he is going. Maisey is concerned about Keith's mental state especially since he won't return her calls. Rafe helps Maisey get set up in the bungalow. Josephine offers Maisey a job in a floral shop that she owns on the island where Maisey worked until she finished college. Keith had been working there before he disappeared. While Rafe is renovating one of the bungalows, he finds a box containing pictures that appear to be Maisey and Keith. However, Maisey soon realizes that the girl in the photos is older than Keith and can't be Maisey as she is younger than Keith. The photos trigger memories that make her think that maybe there was an older sister. She leaves Keith a frantic message about the photos that finally he responds to. Maisey wants to find out about the girl but Keith is determined that they might dig up family secrets that they would not want to hear. Rafe offers to help Maisey in her search. Keith finally returns to the island home where he lives with and is dependent on their mother. He does eventually get interested in finding out about the girl. The relationships in the story are all complicated because of family history and the mystery of the missing girl in the photo. On top of everything else, ex-husband Jack wants to make amends with Maisey and shows up on the island. I love a good mystery and this one doesn't disappoint. Things do end on a good note that I didn't think was possible. Ms. Novak always does a great job with character development. The characters were very real to me full of human flaws. I felt that I could visualize the island off Charleston, a lovely old town. The coastline along South Carolina and Georgia is beautiful with the huge oaks, marshes and beaches. I enjoyed reading THE SECRET SISTER and recommend anyone interested in reading a romantic suspense to pick it up.
BooksAndSpoons More than 1 year ago
Heartbreaking story about a family tragedy, second chances at love, and new beginnings. Maisey returns to her home, a little island at South Carolina coast, at the time when her life is a complete mess. She is still grieving for her daughter, who dies two years ago, at the age of six weeks. Her husband had cheated on her and left here for the other woman, her career is at a standstill, as she lost her creativity, her brother is battling a drug addiction, and her mother, well she has a reputation of being a cruel and a cold woman. And the first thing she finds out after arriving to the island is, that the boy whom she lost her virginity to live next door. If all this would not be enough of drama in one person's life, she might have had a sister. And all the evidence is pointing out that a family member might have killed her. The story is well written and build, there's a good balance between the drama and the romance. The relationship with Rafe is developing fast. His daughter is an absolute joy, and the moments with her one of the highlights of the story for me. The mystery of the third child brings lots of old feelings, to the surface, causing tension and strain, not only in the family, but also in the town, it seems. There are several twists in the story, that took a surprising turn in the tale. Can't say it was predictable in any way. The characters are well built, had depth in them, they are not perfect in any way, but realistic, with problems and flaws. The love and affection Rafe shows to Maisey is tender and dear. He is supportive and protective, willing to take the extra steps and effort, her dysfunctional family seems to need. Many deep and difficult issues are brought forward in this story, that made me thing and ponder. Not a book you can internalize in a couple of hours, but something to be savored over time. ~ Five Spoons
momlina More than 1 year ago
I recently discovered Brenda Novak in December of 2014 when I read “The Heart of Christmas (Whiskey Creek)”. I spent the next couple months systematically reading and enjoying the entire Whiskey Creek series. So when I received an email from NetGalley offering the next books available for review and saw The Secret Sister, I knew I had to read it. The book strives to bring together a family that is in crisis. A recently divorced daughter, who is still suffering from the loss of her child, returns home at the request of her brother who is suffering from drug addiction. She tries to maintain her independence by refusing to stay in her family home with their overbearing mother, thus placing her next door to a man from her past that she’d rather not have come in contact with. Things seemed bad enough when an old box of photos is found, and she realizes that she isn’t the little girl in the photos. Brenda Novak knows how to write a good story. I always feel as if she writes from firsthand knowledge of the situation. The characters are interesting, well developed, and likeable. They are set in believable situations that are easily relatable to readers. She has a way of delivering insight to her characters without a lot of excess detail. Her dialog is always precise, not filled with useless words, or relying on trendy phrases or slang. The story is encouraging. It had me routing for everyone to have their happy ending. The photo mystery is intriguing, many clues are offered, often leading to possible scenarios, but never so obvious as to give the ending away. I think this would be a great read for any book club. The story grabbed me from the beginning, and didn’t let me go until I finished it. There are so many things I’d love to discuss about the situation and the characters.