Welcome to my stop on the fabulous Secrets We Keep blog tour. Today I am sharing an extract from the book as well as my thoughts.
About Secrets We Keep
Published: 1st February 2017 (Aria)
Two distant relatives, drawn together in companionship are forced to confront their pasts and learn that some people are good at keeping secrets and some secrets are never meant to be kept..
A bittersweet story of love, loss and life. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan and Adele Parks.
The beautiful old Bath House in Ballytokeep has lain empty and abandoned for decades. For devoted pensioners Archie and Iris, it holds too many conflicting memories of their adolescent dalliances and tragic consequences – sometimes it’s better to leave the past where it belongs.
For highflying, top London divorce lawyer Kate Hunt, it’s a fresh start – maybe even her future. On a winter visit to see her estranged Aunt Iris she falls in love with the Bath House. Inspired, she moves to Ballytokeep leaving her past heartache 600 miles away – but can you ever escape your past or your destiny?
Sometimes crossroads appear in the last place you expect them. Kate Hunt knew, as the Atlantic winter air dug hungrily into her bones, that she was standing at one now. The beach was empty, save for an occasional reluctant dog walker; certainly, she was the only holidaymaker. Was she a holidaymaker? She was staying with her great-aunt Iris and her husband Archie in their quaint hotel as far away from her real life in London as it was possible to get. Even if it was only an hour by plane to the west of Ireland, Kate felt like she was in a different world. Iris was her only real family now, unless you counted her mother and well, she and Adaline had never been close.
Ballytokeep did not get many tourists outside the summer months; none at all at the end of December. Kate booked the break on Christmas night. It was a whim, she needed to get away, to jump off the treadmill her life had become, just to breathe. Since they met at Pamela’s funeral, Iris sent a Christmas card each year. Just a card. ‘Hope you’re well, thinking of you, love if you had time to pop across,’ it was the kind of thing people said. Probably, you never took them up, but Kate saw it as a sign, a lighthouse in a vast ocean – maybe a place, or people, to call her own. Alone in her London flat, it felt like the whole world was sharing the holidays without her. The city outside twinkled with festive cheer. She convinced herself for so long that it didn’t matter. It was a time for drunks, rows and disappointments and, for almost a decade, she managed to ignore the silly cheerfulness around her. This year, she’d cracked open a bottle of champagne, a gift from work, had it made her maudlin? Rumour had it; her boss, Lyndon Tansey had just bought a winery in South Africa. He brought in a crate of white and red for their Christmas drinks and they’d all got nicely sozzled. Maybe, Kate thought that Christmas night, as she eyed the half-finished bottle of champagne, maybe that was what had made her feel restless, as though she was missing something. While other people were buying vineyards, she was wading through divorce papers for the rich and famous.
She booked it on a whim. Now, she was pleased she’d come here to this antiquated little place that was too big to be a village, too small to be a town. Ballytokeep, for all the desertion of the summer trade, was a place like no other she had ever been to. It was built on a stony hill, a picture postcard of gaudily painted shopfronts and houses looking down to where the powerful ocean swept up to the weathered promenade. The sea, with its rolling surf whispering slowly and determinedly up the golden sand, seemed to promise the cleaning rejuvenation she so badly craved. Far off in the distance, the towers of a Norman castle keep rose high into the skyline and Kate knew she would visit here again to sit beneath its stoic turret. She loved the little hotel; her room the only one with a guest, peeped out of the centre of the Victorian building. The view was spectacular, small blue and white fishing boats bobbed on the icy waves that beat against the old harbour.
In London, they’d call Hartley’s Guesthouse boutique, shabby-chic or maybe bohemian. If the place was a little faded, its chintz too threadbare to be fashionable, its varnishes dulled with age, it was no less charming for all of that. Here, it was what it was; there was no pretension about the Victorian building with all its original features and impressive views.
On New Year’s Eve they stood looking out across the harbour, just the three of them and toasted the year ahead.
‘To family,’ Archie said and Kate knew she had done the right thing in coming here. The night air was fresh, it seemed that every lighthouse in the distance might wink across the blue-black ocean waves. If Kate could wish for anything, it was that she could have these people close forever.
Iris and Archie were genuinely delighted to have someone to fuss over in the off-peak season, even more so because it was Kate. They made sure there was a dancing fire in the cast-iron grate for her every day and a hefty basket of turf that never seemed to empty. They offered hearty full Irish breakfasts and seemed relieved when she told them she was happy to muddle along with them and she did not want them going to any trouble. Even so, the aroma of freshly baked scones, a medley of fruit, cinnamon and malt seemed to waft through the hotel every day. Iris had a light touch and her warm scones tasted like heaven when Kate was ravenous after the fresh sea air.
‘We can’t have you fading away with all that walking you’re doing, can we?’ Iris said as she dropped a laden tray on the writing desk that filled the bay window. Here, they were facing the long promenade that kept the sea mostly at bay.
Kate is disillusioned by her life as a successful divorce lawyer in London so when she meets her Great Aunt, Iris for the first time at her Grandmother’s funeral she is quick to take her up on the offer of a visit to Ballytokeep in Ireland. Iris runs as hotel with her husband Archie and whilst Kate is staying with them she falls in love with the abandoned Bath House that Iris and Archie closed the doors on for the last time decades ago. Kate decides that it is time for a huge change as she’s lived in the past for far too long after being jilted at the altar 10 years previously so purchases the Bath House from Iris and Archie, leaves her job and relocates to Ireland where she integrates herself into the community and makes new friends. Sounds perfect….but things are never so easy, there are lots of secrets hidden which start to unravel.
I adored Hogan’s writing style, I was drawn in by the warmth of the characters from the outset. It was wonderful how Iris’ life story, and well-hidden secrets, unravelled through the use of narrative both in the present and the past. This transition between the two time frames is seamless and adds so much to the story. In addition to Iris, and of course Kate, there are a number of other voices that come through the narrative which provides a well-rounded view on what is happening.
I must also mention Ballytokeep itself, the location is just idyllic and the sort of place that you would want to lose yourself in. The Bath House sounds a fabulous place to relax!
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of love and loss, Hogan’s writing is real, warm and endearing, captivating her readers from the first pages.