I’m back with Lone Star Book Blog Tours and another engrossing tale by Melissa Lenhardt. The Secret of You and Me was nothing like I expected and entirely engrossing.
Read on to learn more about author Lenhardt’s first venture into the women’s contemporary fiction category and enter the giveaway! I was provided a copy of the book via NetGalley; all opinions are my own.
THE SECRET OF YOU AND ME
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance
Publisher: Graydon House (Harlequin)
Date of Publication: August 4, 2020
Number of Pages: 352
Scroll down for the giveaway!
True love never fades—and old secrets never die . . .
Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.
Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband, and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.
But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites, and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.
PRAISE FOR THE SECRET OF YOU AND ME:
“A compelling story of second chances and being true to yourself.”
—Harper Bliss, bestselling author of Seasons of Love
“Lenhardt convinces in her portrayal of the conflict between desire and control.” —Publishers Weekly
Melissa Lenhardt’s writing made me fall in love with the western genre with her Sawbones trilogy, so I was curious to see what she would do as she published her first contemporary women’s fiction. The Secret of You and Me is billed a modern take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and more intriguingly, is an LGBTQ romance.
Well, Lenhardt pulled no punches with this one by setting it in a conservative, judgmental, homophobic Texas town, which immediately set the bar for conflict pretty high. The story begins when Nora, who left Sophie, her family, and everything else behind at 18 when she is caught by Sophie’s mother, returns home for her estranged father’s funeral. Sophie, who stayed behind and married Nora’s boyfriend, has been living a lie for the past 18 years, and the pain of the lie resulted in alcoholism. Oh, and Sophie’s husband is gearing up to run for office.
This was a complex tale, and Lenhardt’s world-building and character development shine (although this is definitely a world I wouldn’t want to occupy). Both Sophie and Nora are complicated, flawed women. Nora has avoided getting to close to anyone since she was 18, and in the process is a bit selfish. Sophie has been in denial since she was 18, trying her best to live the life she has, which is far from the one she imagined.
This is a story of forgiveness and one of romance and second chances. There is betrayal and disappointment in the past, and as amends are made, more of the story behind the betrayal comes to light. Sophie seeks forgiveness from Nora, but I think she ultimately also forgives herself. They find themselves with a second chance at love, but given where Sophie is both personally and literally, I couldn’t see a way for the couple to have their happily-ever-after.
The story is dialogue heavy and at times, the conversation is exhausting. Nora and Sophie have a lot of baggage to work through, and there is a back and forth of anger and then forgiveness, and then another argument crops up, and then forgiveness follows. The town is steeped in homophobia, and you can easily imagine the weight of pressure and fear Sophie feels at the prospect of being outed. This is not, generally, a lighthearted love story. Many of the side characters were genuinely unlikeable, emphasizing the difficulty of their relationship there should they come out. The problems felt authentic, as did the stress both characters were under.
The quick dialogue back and forth between Sophie and Alima was a delight, even when it wasn’t quite nice. There are some touching moments between Sophie and her teenaged daughter too. The love between Sophie and Nora feels real, even if at times I wondered if they could come together after all the time they’ve been apart. Lenhardt manages their resulting steamier scenes in a manner that gives heat but isn’t graphic.
The story alternated between uncomfortable, frustrating, and hopeful, and the author found a resolution to Sophie’s dilemma that was both believable and inspired. I found myself invested in the characters even when I didn’t entirely like them – which is proof of good storytelling in my book.
I’m giving The Secret of You and Me four stars.
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Melissa Lenhardt is a women’s fiction, mystery, and historical fiction author. Her debut mystery, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and Sawbones, her historical-fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new sub-genre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. The New York Times called her sixth novel, Heresy, “An all-out women-driven, queer, transgender, multiracial takeover of the Old West”. The Secret of You and Me, her seventh novel and her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, was published on August 4, 2020.
When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s thinking, “I really should be writing,” and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight out of the jar. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons, and two Golden Retrievers.
TWO WINNERS each get a signed hardcover copy of the book and their choice of either a FaceTime call or virtual book-club visit with the author.
August 11-21, 2020
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Or, visit the blogs directly:
|8/11/20||Author Interview||All the Ups and Downs|
|8/11/20||Review||Tangled in Text|
|8/12/20||Review||Momma on the Rocks|
|8/12/20||BONUS Post||Hall Ways Blog|
|8/13/20||Review||Carpe Diem Chronicles|
|8/14/20||Top Six List||Texas Book Lover|
|8/16/20||Guest Post||The Page Unbound|
|8/17/20||Review||Rainy Days with Amanda|
|8/18/20||Audio Spotlight||Book Bustle|
|8/19/20||Review||Chapter Break Book Blog|
|8/19/20||Review||Reading by Moonlight|
|8/20/20||Review||It’s Not All Gravy|
|8/20/20||Review||That’s What She’s Reading|