[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Mira
Formats: Paperback, Kindle, eBook, Audio Book
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks[/alert]

Maisey Lazarow reluctantly returns to her family home off the coast of North Carolina after her life suddenly crumbles. She is looking for a place to heal, but things won’t be easy with Keith, her brother with an addiction, and her mother, an exceptionally proud and difficult woman, sharing the same house. In an effort to maintain some semblance of independence, Maisey bunks down in one of her father’s seaside bungalows, but she doesn’t count on her next-door neighbor to be sexy Rafe Romero, the playboy she lost her virginity to years ago. Amidst all the existing chaos, Rafe discovers a box of photographs hidden in the walls of one of the bungalows. The pictures suggest that there may have been three Lazarow children, but if that’s the case, what happened to their older sister?

Brenda Novak’s The Secret Sister is an engaging romance, with a helping of mystery on the side. The book deals with complicated family dynamics, proving once again that things are not always as they first seem. Money doesn’t guarantee a happy childhood, and a wild youth does not guarantee that a human being is going to be useless in their adulthood.

The romance between Maisey and Rafe comes across as a very organic one, despite the short time in which the story takes place. Their past connection helps start the fire, but the slow burn builds due to the two of them having grown in the intervening years, and having been struck by hardships that made them grow. Due to their current delicate situations, it is clear that both the characters are looking for more than a quick fling and their caution as they approach this new romance is touching.

The mystery aspect of the novel helps give the book an extra dynamic, as the truth of Maisey’s inquiry could have dire consequences on one or more members of the family. The mystery also manages to add to the story and make it stronger, rather than distracting from the romance aspect. The conclusion of the mystery is very satisfactory and Brenda does a great job of managing to keep what really happened under wraps until the big reveal at the end – although some people may find the ending of the book a little rushed.

The Secret Sister is a sweet story that touches on the trials of life and illustrates how death, loss, abuse, despair, and unexpected trials can make us stronger, but also points out that it is perfectly acceptable to find someone to lean on when you really need the help. This is a great book that romance readers and fans of general fiction are bound to enjoy.

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