|This is a taut, suspenseful tale that kept me engaged. It was hard to put down. Hidden Secrets has a romance that is enjoyable, and plenty of intrigue.
The little town of Godfrey Washington, nestled in the Cascade Mountain range, has seen its share of death. First, one of the prominent families lost its matriarch, Margaret Royston to heart attack. A few years later, Traci Gerhard and her estranged husband died when their car plunged off a cliff. Their three-year-old son Cody was with them, and is assumed dead, although his body was never found. Within the year, Ted Royston, Margaret's husband, was murdered in his home. Shortly thereafter Traci's mother Elsie, whom Ted was dating, died in her home from a fall.
Spence Gerhard, son of Elsie and brother to Traci, spends his time searching the mountains for signs of Cody. He is emotionally tortured because he was not there to protect Traci and Cody, nor was he there when his mother was hurt. His father abandoned the family when he was just twelve, so he has always felt they were his responsibility. He does investments out of his home, but his job is as a guide for those who want to camp in the mountains. He seems aloof and many think he is a bum, having never recovered from all the deaths in his family.
He is currently living in a cabin in the mountains, even though he maintains his mother's home. He is living with another free spirit, Cherry Parker, in a platonic relationship; even though the whole town thinks they are shacking up. Cherry likes Spence and he likes to protect her. She is often na´ve and yet, loves to flirt with men. Cherry is also good friends with Marlo Malone, another girl who grew up in Godfrey. Marlo is a furniture and house designer who left Godfrey and worked to pay her husband's way through college. When he graduated and dumped her for his girlfriend, she came home to lick her wounds.
Marlo likes order and consistency. She likes everything planned and scheduled. She has a boyfriend, Keith Royston. They have been dating six years, have never made love or been really intimate and even have a scheduled night for their dinner date. Keith is holding out for marriage and Marlo has never really committed. Marlo starts off being a little anal about this need for organization and this relationship really makes more sense as the story goes on because of some of the secrets that are revealed.
Cherry is her antithesis and her friend. Cherry also understands Marlo, who has "feelings." She often knows things before they happen. At times, this gift, which she often fights, can be of premonitions and at times she can calm people through an emotional connection.
The intrigue in this story line is really intense and keeps the story moving. When Cherry gets attacked and then Marlo's mother's shop gets broken into, things start to feel personal. Marlo and Spence have a history, having dated when they were in high school. Spence realizes he still cares deeply for Marlo and slowly she discovers she loves him too. Their relationship is woven throughout the story as they try to figure out the details. The killer makes appearances but the unveiling of who will surprise readers. This is a well-written mystery. Cherry's little romance with a truck driver is cute and an enjoyable addition to the tale.
The main romance has its moments and the sexual tension between Spence and Marlo is strong. They argue, fight, spar, embrace, have hot foreplay and then push each other apart. Overall, the romance is satisfying, despite this overlong give and take. The intrigue is full of taut suspense and ends with a surprise. There is a little melodrama at the end, but the strength of the story makes this a minor annoyance. Hidden Secrets is a rich story that keeps the reader turning the pages.
-- Shirley Lyons