It’s a real pleasure today to share my publication day review of the latest book from Lizzie Chantree, Shh… It’s Our Secret: published by BHC Press, it’s now available for kindle, in paperback, in hardcover and as an audiobook via Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley.
This is the first of Lizzie’s books that I’ve read – and it’s really about time I did. I’m very aware of the enormous support she provides to fellow authors, and it’s good to give her a little support in return. It’s not the first time I’ve featured her books though – back in 2018, I shared news about the releases of both Ninja School Mum (you’ll find the post here) and If You Love Me, I’m Yours (post here), but sadly just couldn’t fit in the reading. But this time I can – so let’s take a closer look…
Violet has a secret that could change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works. After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them.
Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.
When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidently discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered?
I never like to retell the story when I write a review, because the author always does it so much better – I always try not to stray beyond the “blurb”, but you’ll notice that this one is particularly enigmatic and doesn’t give many clues about the story that’s about to unfold. I guess that’s the thing about secrets – and the importance of keeping them is rather central to this lovely, very different and well-told story.
The story develops from that pivotal moment when Kai, a big name in the music industry, walks into the neglected and run down café bar that Violet runs, desperate for a coffee and an escape from the demands of his busy life. Violet’s life has hit a bit of a low too – the bar is owned by her feckless boyfriend, who fails to appreciate that she’s the only one keeping the business going. I really liked Violet from first encounter – although the book does start with an intriguing glimpse of the present day, and how things have changed – with her edge of sadness after the loss of her parents, her strong friendships, her closeness to her sister and her young family. And the bar itself is a daytime refuge for the lonely – a lovely group of real characters who Violet has taken to her heart.
And now I have the dilemma of whether to share Violet’s secret – and I won’t, but I will say that Kai’s involvement in the music industry is fairly central to the story. But this is a story full of secrets, and the importance of keeping them – always a challenge, and beautifully handled, with quite a few surprises along the way. But it’s also a story about belief and courage, about taking chances in life and trusting others, about following your dreams, all wrapped up in a really original story that kept me entirely hooked as it unfolded.
The settings are excellent – the café bar itself as it undergoes some major changes, and then there’s Kai’s palatial home with some great insights into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. There’s a satisfying romance too, and a strong focus on families and friendship. It’s a story that hinges on the strength of its characters: it’s told mainly from the viewpoints of both Violet and Kai, and that takes you nicely inside their thoughts and feelings, but the supporting cast is strong too. I particularly liked the collection of misfits who frequent the café, and who support Violet as much as she’s always supported them – with a special mention for Esme and Doris, sharing their slice of cake and acting as a bit of a Greek chorus, with loudly voiced opinions on Violet’s life and just about everything else. And that supporting cast is very much part of the story – their lives change along with the fortunes of Violet and the café, and in a way that’s particularly heartwarming and uplifting.
Other than the opening chapter, the way the story is told is linear – and if I have a small criticism, I think I might have liked to see a little more variation, maybe to experience some scenes from Violet’s early life that so shaped her, rather than the “telling” that sometimes engages a little less.
But I did really enjoy the author’s writing – she’s a good storyteller, and this was a book that engaged me throughout, an easy read but with real originality and plenty of emotional depth. Something a bit different, and I enjoyed it – I’ll look forward to reading more from Lizzie Chantree.
About the author
International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a trending networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.