It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Sing Me A Secret, the latest book from the wonderful Julie Houston: published by Aria on 7th May, it’s now available from Amazon for kindle, and also for Kobo and via Google Play. My thanks to Vicky at Aria for the invitation and support, and for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Lest you should remain in any doubt, I unreservedly love Julie Houston’s writing. I’d already thoroughly enjoyed Looking for Lucy way back in 2016 (you’ll find my review here, along with an interview), and I really liked An Off-Piste Christmas too (review here) – but I think it was A Village Affair (review here) that finally secured Julie a place on my “very favourite authors” list (and I rather think quite a few of the 120,000+ people who bought it might well have rather enjoyed it too).
And the wonderful books have kept on coming – I so loved Coming Home to Holly Close Farm when I read it in February 2019 (review here). And with Sing Me A Secret, we were off to Westenbury once more… and I was SO looking forward to it…
The four Sutherland sisters have all had very different paths in life, but one secret and a slighty tense production of Jesus Christ Superstar are about to bring them all back together again…
When the news that pop-superstar Lexia Sutherland is returning to Westenbury, not everyone is thrilled by the news – including Lexia. There are too many memories she doesn’t need to face – or need re-surfacing. Meanwhile, Juno Sutherland just wants a little peace and quiet.
As the local village doctor, she’s got her priorities in order; kids, job, husband, tenacious pony, a role in the village musical… So when the sexy new locum turns up – and steals her office – the last thing she needed was to be hit with rising temperatures and an over-active imagination.
Will these sisters be able to uncover the past, deal with the future and put on the performance of a lifetime?
Return to Westenbury this spring and find out.
Whenever I review one of Julie Houston’s quite wonderful romcoms I really can’t help saying the same things as I sing their praises – the wonderful humour that ranges from gentle to totally over-the-top, the unexpected poignancy when you find you have a stray tear in your eye, the believable central love story, the strongest of story-telling, the edgy family drama, and that glorious touch of unmistakable Yorkshireness. And she anchors it all with the most superb three-dimensional characters – people you feel you know, and often take to your heart – whether they’re central to the story or just making the most peripheral of cameo appearances.
Juno is a doctor, working part-time at Westenbury village surgery, and I loved her. The husband and wife team who run the practice (although office manager Marian would probably suggest that she’s the one who’s really in charge – what a great character!) decide to recruit another doctor, and Juno finds herself working in a (newly decorated) cupboard to give him a suitable working space. Her husband is working abroad, and she’s perhaps missing him rather less than she should – but after a particularly unfortunate first encounter, she really doesn’t expect new doctor Scott Butler to get her quite so hot under the collar, particularly in view of his atrocious reputation.
At home, she has another husband and wife team, a distinctly eccentric pair who “do” for her (again, the most wonderful characters!), and two children that she needs to wrangle. I must particularly mention her horse-mad daughter Tilda (I’ll leave you to meet the horse yourself – just don’t make any sudden movements or turn your back), because she’s one of those great youngsters who’s middle-aged before her time, and I really loved her varied observations on life (and her passion for her teacher).
And then there’s the wider family – two (very different) sisters who live in Westenbury, and another (Lexia) whose life has followed a very different path. Pandora has aspirations rather above her station, and runs the village choir (with a particularly firm hand) – but musical theatre beckons, and her attempt to win a national competition with her production of Jesus Christ Superstar adds a lovely extra storyline laced with characters and laughs. Ariadne’s a classics teacher, witty and dry, a great counterpoint to the scatty one and the control freak – but it’s Lexia’s story, when she unexpectedly returns to the village, that sees the uncovering of some long-hidden secrets that rather blow everything apart.
I read this book in one afternoon in the summer sunshine, and I was totally enchanted by it – I laughed (lots and lots), I cried a bit, and at times it had me right on the edge of my seat wondering where on earth the story was going. And at the end – one of those perfect endings that fill you up but make you wish there were another few hundred pages – I felt I’d had one of those totally perfect afternoons. One reviewer said of A Village Affair “books like this are the reason I read” – I do wish I’d been the one to say it first, but I really think this one was even better.
If you’ve never tried one of Julie Houston’s books before, do try this one – I adored it, and it’s absolutely guaranteed to be one of my books of the year.
About the author
Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me, A Village Affair, and Looking For Lucy, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle #1 bestseller. She is married, with two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.
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