REVIEW: The Summer of Secrets by Barbara Hannay

In brief: When Chloe find out her boyfriend is not the man she thought, she leaves Sydney for the small Queensland town of Burralea. Working on a small town newspaper with ex-foreign correspondent Finn turns out to be a lot more interesting than she first thought…

The good: A delightful book of mystery, friendship and romance.

The not-so-good: Why is Burralea so warm and here so cold?

Why I chose it: Barbara Hannay is on my must-list to read. Thank you to Penguin for the copy.

Year: 2018

Pages: 376

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Setting: Predominantly Queensland, Australia

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

It’s kind of painful to be shivering under a mountain of blankets while you read about a lovely warm town where the sun is nearly always shining. But the trade-off of a lovely read takes the edge off somewhat. Barbara Hannay’s latest novel, The Summer of Secrets, is draped in all kinds of warmth from friendship to romance and good old Queensland weather. It’s a great story of second chances with some fascinating historical insights to top things off.

The story begins as Chloe, a journalist at Girl Talk magazine, broaches children with her partner. Previous discussions have been fobbed off with excuses but this time Chloe gets to the heart of the matter and realises her future is not with him. She’s decided to be a single mother and to get far away from Sydney. That’s how she ends up as the second journalist on small town Queensland paper, the Burralea Bugle. Things don’t get off to a good start after her editor, Finn, forgets to pick her up from the airport. Then Chloe discovers him in the middle of a bottle of whiskey. It’s not what she signed up for, but the rest of Burralea is a delight and she begins to make friends. But Finn isn’t who she assumed he was and the pair fall into a friendship. But all of Chloe’s new friends have secrets – Jess at the café, Emily the newspaper owner, Tammy the hairdresser and Finn himself. Over the course of the summer, the secrets will be revealed, along with the case of the missing baker.

There is a lot going on in The Summer of Secrets but Barbara Hannay takes it all in her stride, never once losing the pace or the plot threads. It’s a pleasure to read and watch as the story unfolds with critical information coming to light at just the right moments. I also enjoyed the flashbacks into town stalwart Izzie’s childhood and time as an ATA pilot in World War II. I think Izzie’s story could make an excellent book of its own (yes, that’s a hint). I thought a plot twist using something every day and seemingly innocuous in the modern world was very clever.

Barbara Hannay’s books are always so welcoming, as a reader I feel enveloped in the small town of Burralea. I think it’s because the characters are realistic and relatable, but also have the touch of the exotic about them (such as Finn’s previous life overseas). Glimpses of characters from previous books were also delightful to catch up on too. Chloe is an everyday heroine – there’s nothing overly remarkable about her appearance (which was quite refreshing – not all women have auburn or raven shiny locks unless they’ve just been to the hairdresser). She’s intelligent, but not a genius. She’s simply a good person which is what Finn sees in her. Likewise, he isn’t a buff ex-model but a clever man bogged down by the past. The approachability of all the characters (with perhaps the exception of Izzie because she just shines awesome) was a major highlight for me. The Summer of Secrets is enticing, well written and a lovely respite from a cold winter.

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