The Family Secret - Sheryl Browne
Reading Challenge Category: Free ARC from NetGalley
‘You don’t know me, but I’m your sister.’ Claire is shocked when she receives a message out of the blue from Sophie, a beautiful young woman who tells Claire that she’s their father’s secret child. Having spent years nursing her sweet little daughter Ella through a life-threatening illness whilst dealing with the emotional fall-out of a devastating marriage breakdown, Claire feels tentatively excited to meet Sophie. Perhaps she might finally have someone in the family to lean on… As Claire welcomes her sister into her life, she’s delighted to see just how much Ella loves her new Aunt Sophie. But as the pair spend more time together, Claire begins to wonder where exactly her perfect new sister came from and what kind of person she really is. With their elderly father’s mind rapidly deteriorating, is it possible that he’s hiding something from Claire about Sophie’s sudden appearance in their lives? When Sophie suggests a family day at the seaside, little Ella is beyond excited. But as Claire takes an important phone call from her demanding ex-husband, leaving Sophie in charge of Ella, something unthinkable happens. And as Claire rushes into the ice-cold sea towards the small, limp figure of her daughter, she realises that Sophie was watching the whole time. But why would Sophie want to hurt Claire’s precious daughter? Was trusting her new sister with Ella the biggest mistake of Claire’s life?
Oh, I do hate it when I’m not too fond of a book by one of my favourite authors, and I have to write a review as I accepted an ARC. Most of the time, I love receiving advanced copies of books and shouting from the rooftops how great they were. However, there is the odd time when I come across a book that I was really looking forward to reading but am forced to write a disappointing review. This, unfortunately, is one of those times. I’m not sure what went wrong with this book, but it just didn’t hit the high standard mark that I am used to from Sheryl Browne. It felt disjointed, rushed and confusing. Claire, the protagonist, was a mercurial character. She was erratic and all over the place. She seemed to jump to conclusions based on no facts or anything at all really. She went from one thing to another at lightning speed, and you were left wondering how she had decided that outcome. She was paranoid before anything had even happened or before anyone had given her any reason to be. She called people liars before they’d proved to her that they’d lied (we knew they’d lied, but she didn’t). Unreal situations occurred, which just weren’t feasible or practical. Unfortunately, I can’t back any of this up with examples without giving spoilers; I did vent a lot of my frustrations to my husband last night after finishing the book. I knew he’d never read it so was able to tell him the many inconsistencies just to get them out of my head as I knew I wouldn’t be able to put them in my review. The characters were just unlikeable; they acted irrationally and unrealistically in irrational and unrealistic circumstances. The ending was very confusing, and I had to reread it twice to try and understand what was happening or trying to be conveyed. It was still left slightly ambiguous. I think the best bit about the book was the intrigue surrounding the deaths of the mothers and what happened in chapter one back in 1992. That was, in fact, the most interesting chapter and storyline, and finding out all the mystery surrounding this event was exciting. The little twists that were revealed were shocking, and I didn’t guess them at all. The big twist, however, I did figure out at around 10% of the way into the book, so that was no big surprise. Overall the book just lacked coherence. I only persevered to the end out of respect to the author. I have enjoyed the majority of her past books, and as I said, I was very much looking forward to this one. I’m sorry that this book wasn’t for me.