Everyone who regularly reads Linda’s Book Bag knows that I love travel as much as I love books so I was thrilled when Rosanna Ley wrote a fabulous guest post on Travel and Research when The Little Theatre by the Sea was published. You can read that post here. I also reviewed Rosanna’s Last Dance in Havana here and that book made it onto my favourite reads of the year here.
Today, as Her Mother’s Secret is about to be released in paperback on 14th June, I’m reviewing this latest book from Rosanna that transports me to another place once again. And if you have a look at this blog post, you’ll know why I’m thrilled to be featuring Her Mother’s Secret on the blog!
Her Mother’s Secret is published by Quercus and is available for purchase here.
Her Mother’s Secret
For many years Colette has avoided returning to her homeland – the magical island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany – afraid to confront the painful memories she left behind. She is living on the Cornish coast when she hears about her mother Thea’s failing health and realises that the time has come for her to go home. But can Colette ever forgive Thea for what she has done?
Despite Colette’s wariness, romantic Belle-Île still fascinates her. She takes on the running of her mother’s flower shop and makes friends with Élodie from the Old Lighthouse where Thea once worked as a nanny and with the enigmatic Étienne who shares Colette’s mixed feelings about the island. As Thea opens up to her for the first time, Colette finds herself softening and being drawn back into the landscape of her past. But can Belle-Île also be a part of her future?
The ghosts of that past still linger. What happened all those years ago and how did it cause the rift between mother and daughter?
It becomes clear that the beauty of Belle-Île hides a devastating family secret – one that Colette is determined to unravel at any cost.
My Review of Her Mother’s Secret
Colette’s return to Belle-Île will bring more than just a reconciliation with her mother.
I expected that I would enjoy reading Her Mother’s Secret by Rosanna Ley, but I hadn’t realised just how much of a siren call this book would have. Life interfered so it took me a week to read it, but in between each reading session I found myself wondering how the characters were getting on without me and what was happening in Belle-Île.
The characters in Her Mother’s Secret are so three dimensional and realistic that it is impossible not to feel totally engaged with them. Indeed, although I understood Mark, I would quite happily have punched him quite hard on a couple of occasions and I’d like to have enveloped Étienne in my arms and held him close. Rosanna Ley employs the men partly as effective backdrops to the women in her narrative so that it makes them all much more vivid and human. I found it fascinating how Thea, who actually has little action as she is dying, is the glue that holds the whole story together, giving a coherence and emotion that ripples though every part of the book. What I found so moving is the exploration of how we not only deceive others, but often we delude and deceive ourselves too. There’s such a strong sense that life is for the living and a message that we need to make the most of our lives, to forgive others, and, more importantly, to forgive ourselves.
The plot is a cracker. So much guilt, so many half-truths and secrets swirl and settle, only to be shaken again, that Her Mother’s Secret is hugely entertaining and frequently quite mysterious. I thought the use of ellipsis was inspired as it tantalises the reader and the smatterings of French add authenticity and realism. Reading Rosanna Ley’s writing feels a bit like having silk next to the skin. It’s smooth and luxurious but a change of pace movement can create a gasp too! I also thought reading Her Mother’s Secret is a bit like watching the ocean around Belle-Île. It ebbs and flows like the tide. Occasionally it is calm and unruffled and occasionally stormy and tempestuous. It is ever changing and mesmerising. Her Mother’s Secret has a real ‘lingerability’ (and if you’ve read it you’ll appreciate that word) – through its story, but equally through its setting.
Rosanna Ley really has a skilful ability to transport a reader to another place. Every sense is catered for so that I genuinely felt as if I were in Belle-Île too as I read. The depth of research that has gone into the plant and flower references, the artistic elements and the geography and tradition of the region mean that the reader trusts the author entirely and can luxuriate in fabulous storytelling.
I so enjoyed this story. Her Mother’s Secret led me away from my own life for a while and I was completely absorbed by it. I think it is the perfect summer read because it has depth, emotion, a fabulous sense of place and, above all, wonderful storytelling. Don’t miss it.
About Rosanna Ley
Rosanna Ley is the bestselling author of novels including Return to Mandalay and The Villa, which sold over 310,000 copies. In February 2015 Return to Mandalay was shortlisted for the RNA Award for the Epic Romantic Novel. She has written numerous articles and short stories for magazines, and her novels have been published in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Lithuania, Turkey and the Czech Republic. The Villa is also published by Quercus in the US.
Rosanna has also worked as a creative writing tutor for over 20 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and runs her own writing retreats in the UK and abroad in Italy and Spain. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in Creative Writing for Personal Development in order to support this. She also runs a manuscript appraisal service to appraise and mentor the work of new writers. She is married with children and lives in Dorset.