The Book Of Secrets was certainly an interesting read. It took me a while to get used to the book jumping back and forth from the past to the present back to the past again, but once I had the hang of this I was able to enjoy the story. The main character, Chloe Sinclair, has a seemingly perfect life on the outside. Pretty much straight away we find that Chloe’s life is far from perfect, her husband Nate has disappeared leaving Chloe a cryptic message and no clue as to when he might be back. Searching for answers Chloe discovers that Nate has left his mobile phone behind as well as not having ordered something for an important customer. Chloe discovers that their business is not doing so well and to honour the purchase for their client she’s going to have to purchase the item he requires and pay for it using her credit card. Chloe does not understand the business account system that they have on the bookstore’s computer, she contacts their friend Daniel it was only too happy to come over and help her. We discover that Chloe and Daniel have had a sort of fling, Chloe feels immensely guilty about this but she knows that Daniel is only too willing to be there for her. Chloe does not feel right about having Daniel round while Nate is away despite the fact that she has had this fling with him. Choosing to try and sort her own problems out Chloe sends Daniel away and begin searching for clues as to why Nate would return to his family home where his father is after what his father has done.
As Chloe searching for clues as to why Nate would have returned home she uncovers a secret notebook that contains messages to somebody and written in secret code. Racking her brains Chloe remembers the secret code that her and Nate used as children, along with Nate’s two sisters. Cecilia and Grace. The book then delves into the past of Chloe and the Sinclair children, dealing with how they met Nate and how Chloe was inextricably drawn to them. Chloe is enchanted by the Sinclair children and their mother. She spends as much of her time with them as possible, but always having to leave before Mr Sinclair comes home We discover that the perfect life that the sink Chloe imagines the Sinclair’s have is less than perfect due to Mr Sinclair’s actions. Throughout the book we are left guessing as to what those actions actually are, the way that the narrative describes Mr Sinclair and his treatment of his children we are left in no doubt that some form of abuse is taking place. When Mr Sinclair finally does meet Chloe he sends her away and she is unable to see her friends for several days. But they all find a way to be together again, learning how to hide their meetings with Chloe at their home.
As the years pass Chloe and Nate become really close, more than just friends, but it takes them awhile to understand what their new found feelings actually mean. Throughout the time that Chloe had spent with the Sinclair’s it had become apparent that Mrs Sinclair was ill. When Chloe reaches the age of 17 Mrs Sinclair’s condition deteriorates and Chloe was unable to see her as she ends up in the hospital and nobody dares allow Chloe access to her for fear Mr Sinclair will find out. Shortly afterwards Mrs Sinclair dies and upon her death Mr Sinclair sinks to a whole new level of extremely controlling behaviour. This only serves to bring Chloe and Nate closer together, but at the same time Grace is fighting her own personal demons and Chloe and Nate devise a plan to get her away from Mr Sinclair. Mr Sinclair discovers Chloe and Nate meeting in secret on the outskirts of their garden, and once again he forbids his son from having anything to do with Chloe. But Nate is not having any of that and they meet in secret by the stream that runs a little way behind their house. It is during this time that Chloe and Nate become intimate that soon afterwards Nate fakes his own suicide in order to get away from his father. With Grace already gone to a convent Nate is worried about Cecilia and so he makes arrangements for her to stay with Chloe and her mother whilst he finds somewhere for them all to live, far away from Redbridge and Mr. Sinclair. Cecilia goes back to her father, believing he won’t dare harm her. It is during this time that Chloe discovers she is pregnant. She sets off with her mother to find Nate and bring him back home. Nate returns home and confronts his father but his father is still hellbent on keeping Chloe away from his children and devises a plan to keep them apart for a further 5 years. Bizarrely, Nate agrees to the conditions his father lays down and Chloe spends most of her pregnancy alone. Nate returns home for the birth of their son, Gabriel, but Chloe is angry at him and ends up pushing him away.
For the next 2 years Gabriel is kept a secret from Nate’s sisters and the rest of the community, people believe Chloe has had a brief fling with someone else and she got pregnant by him. Chloe struggles to keep to the terms of Mr. Sinclair’s conditions, keeping away from her beloved friends Cecilia and Grace and not letting them meet their nephew, but when she discovers Cecilia is to marry she devises a plan to take Gabriel to the church and introduce him to everyone after the ceremony. However, she is so enchanted by what Mr. Sinclair says to his daughter during her wedding ceremony about his love for Mrs. Sinclair that she cannot spoil Cecilia’s big day. Deciding to leave the church undetected she quietly moves past the guests who are moving towards the wedding party, but Grace has seen her and Gabriel and her shock is written all over her face. Grace seeks Chloe out the following day and confronts her about the lies that have been told by all of them. After she speaks with her brother and they confront their father it is decided that grace can no longer live with him and plans are made to start afresh somewhere new. Nate also decides that he is no longer going to adhere to his father’s ludicrous plan and he proposes to Chloe. But the happy ever after does not happen. Gabriel goes missing and Mr. Sinclair gets arrested for the murder of his Grandson, after evidence is found at his church.
With Grace away and Cecilia married, Chloe and Nate eventually marry and spend their lives in their bookstore. Their relationship has always had a tension to it that stems back to the early days of their relationship where Nate was absent for much of the time. When Nate goes back home to see his father, upon his release from jail, Chloe cannot understand why he can even bear to be anywhere near the man that murdered their son. Something is niggling away at her though, Nate has kept things from her throughout their marriage, things she discovers as she goes through his secret notebook.
So far into this story I knew it was too obvious that Mr. Sinclair murdered his Grandson. When I found out what had actually happened to Gabriel at the end I was left wondering how Chloe had never suspected the truth, but the author cleverly blinds Chloe to the truth by her hatred for Mr. Sinclair. Towards the end of the book Cecilia and Nate talk of how they are finding they can forgive their father , and at first I was appalled by this. It was only when they went into a detailed explanation about their father that you realise that most of the narrative surrounding Mr. Sinclair has come from Chloe’s point of view and is so wrapped up in her hatred towards him.
This book is brilliantly written and the plot is very good. Right from the start the author engages the reader, even if, like me, you get a little confused with the constant back and forth from past to present to past again. As you get further into the book you become so used to the jumping back and forth that you find it is crucial to the storyline. The book can feel a little dark in parts, but again, that is central to the plot and all makes sense towards the end. Gabriel’s fate, when finally revealed, is so obvious that if you had not already got it you will find you did know all along when it is revealed, it is obvious but not blindingly so.
Highly recommended and probably one of the best books I have read in a while.
***** 5 stars.