Maisey Lazerow is coming home to Fairham Island to help her brother, who recently attempted suicide in the despair of drug addiction. Perhaps they can help each other, because Maisey is feeling broken herself after her infant daughter died of SIDS just two years ago. As often happens when a child dies, her marriage has fallen apart. She needs to heal and hopes to heal her brother Keith.
The Secret Sister is the first in a series from Brenda Novak that focuses of the children of the indomitable matriarch Josephine Lazerow, a wealthy, beauty and status-obsessed woman who has withheld love and approval from her children all their lives. Maisey has hardly spoken to her during her ten years away and remembers well how harshly she treated Keith. Maisey wonders how much of Keith’s troubles come from her mother’s failure to be a loving, warm mother.
Unwilling to live at the family estate, Maisey decided to live in one of the Smuggler’s Cove rental bungalows her father built long ago. They have been damaged by a hurricane and a local contractor, Rafael Romero, is living in a bungalow, too, and repairing the others. There’s a strong mutual attraction that she resists because her failed marriage has caused her not only to lose faith in men, but in herself. She is unable to resist Rafe’s daughter, Laney, though. Her bright spirit and loving acceptance of Maisey draw her out and bring the two together despite her doubts.
Meanwhile, when Rafe finds old photos in one of the bungalows, long-forgotten secrets are brought to light. Secrets her mother and her brother want left alone. Leaving things alone is not Maisey’s strong suit.
I liked the character development and sense of place in the novel. Maisey, her brother and her mother are all flawed people. Rafe is a bit of the perfect romantic hero, tailor-made for this heartbroken woman who has lost a daughter, but at least he has his inept high school encounter with Maisey to balance against his romance novel hero checklist. There is a mystery about what happened when Maisey was a child, but the investigation is not very suspenseful. There is never a real sense of jeopardy to justify this as a suspense novel. It’s a romance and as a romance it succeeds better than most. As suspense, though, it falls flat.
The Secret Sister
Published July 28th 2015 by Mira
ISBN 0778317803 (ISBN13: 9780778317807)