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Review & Giveaway: The Secret of You and Me by Melissa Lenhardt

THE SECRET OF YOU AND ME
by
MELISSA LENHARDT
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance 
Publisher:  Graydon House (Harlequin)
Date of Publication: August 4, 2020

Number of Pages: 352Scroll down for the giveaway!

True love never fades—and old secrets never die . . . 

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband, and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites, and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.

PRAISE FOR THE SECRET OF YOU AND ME:

“A compelling story of second chances and being true to yourself.”
Harper Bliss, bestselling author of Seasons of Love


“Lenhardt convinces in her portrayal of the conflict between desire and control.” —Publishers Weekly
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(Personalized/signed copies available through Interabang)

A portion of royalties are going to the It Gets Better Project
(Click for more details.)

Review

The Secret of You and Me by Meslissa Lenhardt has been described by the author herself as a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I read Persuasion years ago and had to read a synopsis to refresh my memory. My takeaway? I saw some parallels, but Lenhardt’s story felt more tragic to me.

Persuasion was aptly named because that was the method used to rip Anne away from the man she planned to marry. If The Secret of You and Me was renamed to a single word description of how Sophie and Nora were separated, it would be something brutal like Slander or Intimidate. Living my whole life in Texas as part of a deeply religious Asian family, I could relate to the “my way or the highway” parenting that left relationships and confidences in shambles. There are moments that I look back and wonder how things would be different if I had been braver. But seeing the choices that Nora and Sophie made and how their lives panned out showed me that there are different ways of being brave. There also seems to be very a thin line between being perceived as a martyr (in the overdramatic sense, not the literal) and being selfish. Nonetheless, this book left me with this: Life is the series of choices we make and it is never too late to make new ones as long as we are still alive.

While the perspective shifts between Nora and Sophie, I got the distinct feeling that Nora was the main character. Reading the author’s acknowledgements at the end seemed to verify that for me. However, I never felt like I truly knew Nora. And I don’t know if it’s because we don’t get as much detail about what her life has been like the past 18 years. With Sophie, you meet the people she’s been around who have influenced her decisions – namely her mother, her husband, and her daughter. We meet the important people in Nora’s life, but the secrecy and the walls that are up are denser than those in Sophie’s circle. Because of that difference, I felt more for Sophie and was firmly in her corner as the two sparred for the upper hand in their relationship.

Lenhardt’s characterizations were a nice mix of qualities that are common in other books or movies, but different enough that I had several different actors in mind for each role while the story played out like a movie in my head. It is the multifaceted characters like Sophie and Charlie in particular that would be interesting to cast because of the changes in their character (or at least our perception of them) that occurs in the story. I think that their daughter, Logan, is also a very interesting person and I would enjoy seeing her character on the big screen.

While definitely a love story, this book was not the typical romance novel for me. Most romances are light and fluffy, like a yeast donut, while this one was like a mochi donut. Not cloyingly sweet, but super dense and much to chew on. What would you give up to be with your soul mate? Don’t wax poetic. Literally list everything and everyone that means anything to you, and then ask yourself if you could give that all up. That is how deep and heavy this book is.

Melissa Lenhardt is a women’s fiction, mystery, and historical fiction author. Her debut mystery, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and Sawbones, her historical-fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new sub-genre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. The New York Times called her sixth novel, Heresy, “An all-out women-driven, queer, transgender, multiracial takeover of the Old West.” The Secret of You and Me, her seventh novel and her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, was published on August 4, 2020.

When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s thinking, “I really should be writing,” and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight out of the jar. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons, and two Golden Retrievers.

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either a FaceTime call or virtual book-club visit with the author.
 August 11-21, 2020
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Excerpt
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Guest Post
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