I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Secret of You and Me by Melissa Lenhardt
Published by Mills & Boon on 4th August 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon US, Buy on Amazon UK
TW: Homophobia, alcohol addiction, racism, islamophobia and cheating (quite a lot). Brief mentions of PTSD as heroine was in the military.
Generally, I don’t go out of my way to read cheating stories but occasionally I’ve come across some done really well and because the blurb promised some angst and pining I wanted to give it a try. I hadn’t anything before from Melissa Lenhardt either.
Set in a small town in Texas, The Secret of You and Me introduces us to Nora and Sophie. Nora Noakes was kicked out by her father at 18 after finishing high school. She went on to join the army and later becomes a language specialist. Sophie Wyatt at 18 got pregnant by her best friends boyfriend, went on to marry him and become the town’s Convention and Visitors Bureau president.
Nora and Sophie had been best friends since they were children and fell in love in their senior year. They had grand plans before everything came crashing down. They now have completely different lives than they once imagined. Coming face to face after 18 years of separation at Nora’s fathers funeral shows them their love and passion never died and this threatens their now safely constructed lives.
The Secret of You and Me falls under the second chance romance and friends to lovers trope.
This was a pretty easy book to get lost into, the drama and angst of it all keeps you intrigued. We see old hurts and lingering love in Nora and Sophie as soon as they meet. Clearing up their past and making up though might destroy their current lives and that is something they are both afraid of. The characters in this book are very flawed. Neither Nora and Sophie nor the rest of the characters are perfect. They are very complicated characters with baggage and old hurts still raw. We also see the struggles of finally coming in terms with who they are and yearning to be with the one person you always wanted and loved but couldn’t.
I enjoyed seeing Nora and Sophie finally come together, be honest, more open and finally committing to each other. It took them quite a lot of time to get there, with their stubbornness, their fights, family and ‘loved ones’ making it more difficult but they are finally happy and completely in love. I also enjoyed seeing/hearing young Nora and Sophie together, they were adorable. I was happy that Sophie finally was brave enough to come out and be open.
Quibbles (cause when don’t I have them): View Spoiler »There are some pacing issues and the last few chapters of the book felt pretty rushed to me. Wasn’t a big fan of the language especially the terrorist comment towards her Alima, just cause she’s muslim? and some other instances. I also felt they were having the same argument over and over again. « Hide Spoiler
Anyone looking for character driven romance who likes their romance to be a bit more messy and complicated along with the its always been you aspect would enjoy this one!
Also I do hope that Alima finds her HEA with someone deserving of her love. And that Charlie loses his election in this fictiony world.
Sophie waited until Mary was out of earshot before speaking. She took a deep breath and said, “I need to tell you something.”
“No.” The reply was automatic, and I realized I didn’t want her to ask for my forgiveness, nor did I want to give it.
“There’s nothing you can say to change what happened, and I’m not in the mood to be burdened by your guilt. If you even feel guilty.”
“Of course I do.”
“I’m over it, Sophie. I moved on years ago. I’m here to bury Ray and go home.”
Sophie stepped forward, towering over me by a good five inches, two of those from the wedge heels she wore. Her nerves had evaporated, and her brown eyes met mine, bright and challenging. I saw a glimmer of the girl I once knew, the girl who could see through me and into my soul.
“Bullshit,” she whispered. “Why did you come back?”
“Maybe I wanted to see how your choice worked out for you.”
She scoffed. “My choice.”
She inhaled and crossed her arms over her chest. “You came back to gloat, didn’t you?”
I mimicked her stance. “Maybe.”
She pursed her lips and nodded as her eyes searched my face. Did she see the girl she once knew or an entirely different person? I held her gaze as the silence lengthened, and the tension between us was palpable until finally, I wasn’t seeing her at all, but our history: becoming best friends the summer before fifth grade when Coach Cress had given me a tennis scholarship at the country club; riding our bikes all around town, always ending up at the bakery sharing a piece of buttermilk pie; making grunge mix tapes at Sophie’s; clinging to each other and crying when we learned that Kurt Cobain killed himself; going through a very regrettable matching flannel shirt stage to honor his memory; celebrating when Sophie made the cheer team; celebrating when I made the basketball, tennis and track teams; Sophie showing up to cold early-morning track meets with a thermos of hot chocolate for me (and even bringing a can of Reddi Wip); reading our required English lit books to Sophie, my head in her lap, Sophie playing with my hair until it was greasy and needed a wash; our senior year.
Feelings I thought I’d long since buried flared in the pit of my stomach as I remembered the best year of my life. I hadn’t been sure of my place in the world—what teenager was?—but I was sure of my place in my best friend’s life. Until the day it all fell apart.
Sophie remembered that day, too. She blushed and opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came. My throat thickened with emotion—hope—and kept me from saying what I’d longed to say since that June day in 1995. Sophie found her voice first.
“Congratulations. You won.”
She walked out of the barn, letting me down again.