When Izzie Dean’s beloved nan, Molly Blackshaw, passes away, Izzie returns to the Blackpool bungalow where she grew up, to say goodbye once and for all. When Izzie’s homecoming reunites her with her first love, Justin Swift, every emotion that Izzie has repressed since the day he broke her heart comes rushing to the surface. But then an unexpected discovery changes everything.
Between the pages of the battered secret diary Molly kept during WWII, Izzie discovers a story of love, heartbreak, and the incomparable hardship of life in a world at war. Reading her grandmother’s words soon puts her own story into perspective, and suddenly Izzie realises that the only thing holding her back from happiness, might be herself. Now she just has to convince Justin that they deserve a second chance at forever…
You Can Purchase the Book: Amazon
Lancashire born, I moved to Bedfordshire in the late seventies, married and started a family. I’m a past Hon Sec of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, have been a member since 1993 when I joined their New Writers’ Scheme as a probationer. That came about after winning a week’s historical writing course on the strength of the first chapter of my third Poldark-era romance. The tutor on the last day loved the story and handed me details of the Romantic Novelists’ Association – she said I absolutely must join as they would be able to help me towards publication.
Some four years later my first published book, Dark Canvas, won the RNA’s New Writer’s Award in 1997, the sixth, Illusions, won the RNA’s Romance Prize in 2003.
After working in the local library service for 18 years, during library cut-backs I took the leap to become self-employed as a writer and worked on releasing my backlist as eBooks for Kindle.
Most recently, I’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing Charlotte Ledger when she pulled me from the writing wilderness and have now signed a three-book deal with One More Chapter.
In The Secret Notebook, Izzie Dean is 29-years-old and is still grieving from the recent loss of her husband Rufus, a famous crime novel author, in West Hampstead. Seemingly, she unexpectedly receives a call from Justin Swift, whom she has a complicated history with as they used to be together. Justin and Izzie were together as friends turned couple when they were younger as their relatives were friends and neighbors. Izzie was a frequent visitor of her grandparents in her childhood and permanently moved in when she was 15. After Justin seemingly ghosted her on a promise to meet on her birthday one year, the two of them lost contact with each other, but Izzie has lingering feelings for Justin. Justin called Izzie as her grandmother is in the hospital in Blackpool. At 96-years-old and ten years after the loss of her husband (Izzie’s grandfather), Molly, Izzie’s grandmother is ready to pass away in peace. Before passing, Molly informed Izzie of a secret notebook that she requests Izzie to find. The story follows duel timelines with Izzie’s story in 2017 and Molly’s story, through entries in the notebook, in 1943 during World War II.
As Justin assists Izzie cleaning out Molly’s house, Izzie begins to reevaluate her life and begins to enjoy her time with Justin. Even though he hurt her many years ago, she cannot help that the feelings she thought were gone were merely suppressed. As she goes through Molly’s diary, she starts to get new insight into her grandmother and the hardships and heartache she experienced all during the turmoil of wartime.
Back in the 1940s, the reader meets a younger Molly. She is 21 years old and works at her stepmother’s inn that is frequented by soldiers. Her life there is not the best as her stepmother and others constantly belittle her, but she does have her best friend, Dora (related to Justin) who helps her out. One day she meets twin brothers Joe and Jack Blackshaw, who are both 23-year-old soldiers, and her life is forever changed. Molly finds herself in an interesting situation regarding both Joe and Jack, which on the surface would be a storyline I would not enjoy; however, it was incredibly well done in this story. Not only did it make sense with the characters, but also it made sense with the time period and circumstances of events in the story.
While I enjoyed Izzie’s story, Molly’s had a greater pull and I found myself anxious to reach the next part of her story more than Izzie’s. Duel timeline stories are hit and miss with me as sometimes they are connected in a well done manner and other times the two stories seem too disconnected and forced. This story seamlessly weaved the two timelines together as Izzie reads each entry and the emotions from the past relate to the ones Izzie is going through in the present. While the circumstances may differ in their lives, the emotions and decisions each character has to go through are related to the other.
Overall, this was a lovely and unexpected read. Typically, with duel timelines, I favor the historical one and while this was the case with this story, I still enjoyed the present-day story. Izzie was an interesting character and I loved her self-reflection after going through the notebook. Letter-writing plays a huge role in both stories and it was interesting to see how the same form of communication was used during each timeline. I definitely connected with the historical one more in this regard, but the reasoning behind its use in the present-day was interesting. There were a few questions that were left unanswered, like the fate of the other brother that Izzie had never met, but it did not take away from the general enjoyment of the story. This was an excellent and heart-warming read filled with love, secrets, betrayals, and growth.
**I give a special thank you to Rachel @rararesources and the publisher, One More Chapter, for the opportunity to participate with this enjoyable novel via Netgalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**