Monday 23 September 2013

Book Reviews: Covet by Tracey Garvis-Graves, The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty & The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman.

A thoughtful, touching and timely tale from the author of the best-selling On the Island, Covet by Tracey Garvis-Graves examines the effects of redundancy and resulting long-term unemployment on a one-time golden couple.

When we meet Chris and Claire Canton, the worst is over – or so it would seem. After a year out of work, in which he struggled with self-image and depression, Chris has recently started a new job. The last year has been tough on Chris and Claire, and, as it stands, they are like strangers living in the same house. Their physical relationship is non-existent and the only common ground they seem to have these days is their kids. However, Claire is sure that with this new job, she’ll get the old Chris back. That’s easier said than done, though, especially since Chris’s job involves a lot of travel. In fact, these days he’s barely home at all leaving Claire with a lot of time and a lot of lonely nights on her hands.

Enter Daniel Rush – a cop with a past who just happens to be a whole lot of hot. When Daniel pulls Claire over during a routine traffic stop it signals the beginning of a connection that leads to a fun, flirty friendship and maybe something more. Claire is aware that she’s treading on dangerous ground and yet she can’t seem to resist Daniel. Will Claire cross the point of no return? Or will she remain true to her vows, even though lately it seems that Chris barely notices her at all?

Thanks to Garvis-Graves’ engaging style Covet is a compulsively readable tale, although the detail bestowed upon the routine happenings in Claire’s daily life may grate on readers who prefer a faster-paced read. Not so for me; I enjoyed reading about Claire’s life, her interactions with her neighbours, who incidentally, provided a great secondary cast here, and of course Claire’s torn emotions as she struggles with a marriage where all seems to be lost, and a connection that she knows is so much more than just a simple friendship; it’s an emotional affair that is teetering on the brink of something so much more. Covet deals with a topic that for many will be taboo, but with this book, just as with her first, Garvis-Graves’ is not out to shock with the dramatic or overblown, instead Covet considers what it takes to remain true to oneself and to others in the face of temptation. 

Covet by Tracey Garvis-Graves.  Publisher: Dutton Adult.  Released: September 2013. Ages: Adult.   Rating:  4 out of 5.   Source: Received from publisher for review.  


‘My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…’

So reads the letter to Cecilia Fitzpatrick from her husband John-Paul, to be opened in the event of his death. Thing is, John-Paul is very much alive, and now that Cecilia has the letter in her hands, she’s itching to open it. Cecilia would never betray her husband’s trust, though, or his wishes, so for as long as John-Paul is alive, the letter stays unopened. That is, Cecilia has the best of intentions, but when she mentions the letter to John-Paul, he starts acting like he’s got something to hide, even returning from his business trip early so he can destroy the letter and find out the dark secret he’s been hiding for years.

But Cecilia gets to the letter first and the secret she finds will change her life and the lives of all those around her, forever…

Wickedly humorous despite its dark subject matter, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty explores the consequences and sometimes devastating effects of the secrets we keep from ourselves and from others. I will say that right from the start, I didn’t really connect with the characters in this book. Their situations and their lifestyles were such that I couldn’t really relate to them, and with characters ranging in age from early forties to late sixties, this one took me way out of my usual YA/NA/sometimes-I-push-it-to-late twenties/early thirties-reading-zone. That said, I think a lot of readers will really enjoy the sharp twists and turns offered in The Husband’s Secret. Moriarty is a great storyteller and I loved how the stories of three women intertwined in this book: There’s the afore-mentioned Cecilia, a pillar of the community who seems to have it all until she finds out that she’s pretty much been living a lie her whole married life; Tess, who has just discovered that her husband is having a (non-sexual-as-yet affair with her best friend, who is just so happens is also her cousin; and Rachel a school secretary who has suffered a devastating loss, and who is about to suffer another.

And what of the husband’s secret?  I figured out the truth of the title pretty early on, but what’s so interesting about this book, is not so much the secret itself, but the consequences of it. John-Paul’s secret has been years in his keeping, but once its out in the open it takes on a life of its own, and it’s safe to say there’s no going back to the life they once had for John-Paul, Cecilia, or many of those around them.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.  Publisher: Penguin.  Released: August 2013. Ages: Adult.   Rating:  3½ out of 5.   Source: Received from publisher for review.  


Two haunted souls run from the past to find the future…

Twenty-something adrenalin-junkie adventure guide Jamie returns to Bali a year after the terrorist bombings that rocked the island and robbed her of her boyfriend, Miguel. One year on Jamie has returned to attend a remembrance ceremony and is seeking closure, but there’s something else on her mind too: she’s back in Bali to seek out the man who brought her to safety and nursed her back to health a year ago.  Though she still feels the loss of her boyfriend, Jamie felt a connection with this man, and now she wonders if the key to her future might lie in her past.

Gabe Winters, though, has other ideas.  When Jamie finally tracks him down with the help of a not-so-trusty young native and his dog, Gabe tells Jamie to go home. He doesn’t want to listen to what she has to say. Haunted by the ghosts of a tortured past, Gabe has closed his heart to happiness. And, yet, he can’t stop thinking about this woman who one year ago gave him hope and made him smile even in her darkest hour.

A short yet satisfying read, The Paradise Guest House explores the impact that the terrorist bombings had not only on the individuals detailed in this book, but also on the island of Bali, its residents and its previously-booming tourism industry. The narrative switches from present to past and takes us back to the night of the bombings where we learn the true extent of Jamie’s grief and the guilt that haunts her every waking moment. Gabe, too, has suffered in his life. For him, Bali is his escape from reality, but in the aftermath of the bombings, he feels his paradise may be lost.

A tale of second chances and hope in the face of devastating loss, The Paradise Guest House may lack in detail at times, but there is something beautiful too in the simplicity of this latest book from French Lessons author Ellen Sussman.

The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman.  Publisher: Corsair.  Released: March 2013. Ages: Adult.   Rating:  3½ out of 5.   Source: Received from publisher for review.  


  1. ChristinaBookAddict23 September 2013 at 14:56

    Fantastic reviews. All three books have been on my radar, but it seems Covet may be the one for me. I really liked On the Island and although this doesn't sound as good, I still want to check it out. The character of Claire sounds intriguing and I like that there are some strong secondary characters too. I will definitely be checking this one out.

  2. Covet was my favourite out of these three. I thought I'd enjoy The Husband's Secret more than I did. The Paradise Guest House is good - but short.

  3. I am quite curious about The Husband's Secret now. I WANT TO KNOW!!!! I like that's it's funny despite also sounding v dark and Bluebeard-esque.

  4. Jenny @ Supernatural Snark24 September 2013 at 15:57

    Ahhhh! I still need to read On the Island Leanna! I've heard so many great things bout Tracey's books, and I want to start with that one for sure. Covet sounds amazing though, and while cheating (even of the emotional variety) is usually something I stay well away from, it's clearly done well in this case and I can't help but want to know how everything ends up for Claire! Beautiful reviews!

  5. I'm really happy to read that you enjoyed Covet! I loved On The Island and just got this from Netgalley. I'm hoping I'll love this one too!


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