Back in December, I was delighted to be part of the cover reveal for Faith Hogan’s second novel, Secrets We Keep. Described as a bittersweet story of love, loss and life, perfect for fans of Patricia Scanlan and Adele Parks, it was published in paperback and for kindle by Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus, on 1st February. I really enjoyed Faith’s debut novel, My Husband’s Wives – you’ll find my feature here – but this one? I honestly think it was even better…
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?
I’m always a pushover for stories with a dual time frame, but this one was something really different. We meet Iris as a young girl, caught up in the excitement of first love and youthful mistakes – then get to know her further as the devoted wife of a partner slowly succumbing to memory issues, with a depth of care and love enveloping the whole story that makes you ache for them both. And the story slowly unfolds about what came to pass in the time between – and its really quite a story of passion, intrigue, wrong decisions with a touch of villainy and mystery thrown in.
Then we have the present day story of Kate – a character I immediately took to my heart too – as she changes her life and tries to escape the heartbreak that has blighted everything prior to her arrival at Ballytokeep. Just sometimes, in stories with a split timeframe like this, one story can be less engaging – a wrench moving from one to the other – but there’s none of that here. I loved the way the links were maintained, the interactions with Iris and Archie and the complications of family history, the past touching the present with the reopening of the bath house with its reminders of its previous owner.
I think it’s that strongly drawn setting that really pulls the whole book together – I really enjoyed sitting with Kate for a coffee at the table outside the bath house, amid the colourful planters and with the sound of the sea, listening to the echoes of the past and looking forward to the promise of a brighter future. The modern story and its context – the very different world it deals with – is maybe a surprise, but it really works. And the subplots and lesser characters – all the fabric of life in Ballytokeep, past and present – work really well too, bringing in layers of friendship, support and a gentle humour.
There’s a quietness and lightness of touch about the story telling, but also moments of intense passion, edge of the seat excitement and a real tension – perfectly paced and balanced, and beautifully written. I really enjoyed this one – very different, a book to escape into, and an author I’m growing to love more with every book.
My thanks to author Faith Hogan, and to Yasemin Turan at Head of Zeus Books, for my advance reading copy and for my inclusion on the tour. Do follow the other stops, won’t you?
About the author
Faith Hogan was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers. Her debut novel, My Husband’s Wives, is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin. It was published by Aria (Head of Zeus) in 2016. Secrets We Keep is her second novel.