by Marilyn Tyner, contemporary (2000)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-105-7
Secrets Of The Heart has several elements going for it: a rather adorable and reliable hero, an unusual plot for a contemporary, and very well-done relationship between the two main characters. Against it are rather one-dimensional baddies and a heroine so insecure and devoid of self-esteem that the latter makes me want to strangle her at times.
Seventeen-year old Amanda Reynolds married Drew Connor, the son of her employer, six years ago. It all started when Amanda showed signs of pregnancy and her father - evil, evil man indeed - makes a fuss that Drew has done the dirty with her. Drew is Amanda's friend, however, and he weds her to let her flee her household. At 17, overworked and exhausted, Amanda is given a chance at starting a new life.
Amanda couldn't be on good conscience stay married to a man who doesn't love her. And her mother-in-law, to put it mildly, is a female dog from hell. She leaves a Dear John letter to him and walks out one fine day.
They meet again one day six years later and their feelings flare anew. And their slow recourtship makes some lovely reading as sensitive and loving Drew slowly brings Amanda forth from her timid shell. These quiet moments are the best things about SOTH, and should the author remained content with these moments, SOTH would've been a keeper.
But in comes the rather messy external conflicts. There's the usual female dog fare in Drew's really irritatingly nasty mom, a really unpleasant creature who ruins the romantic mood. Amanda's daddy comes into the picture too. Worse, Amanda starts hogging secrets, and she has to do it incompetently, making a mess out of everything. I have a headache.
SOTH has some great quiet moments and some really bad, contrived noisy ones. Still, there are enough moments to savor in the quiet, tentative second chance at love between Drew and Amanda to make this book worth reading. I'll just pinch my nose and try not to breathe when the Problems start coming in.
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