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: 352
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.
I want to reread The Secret of You and Me after reading the author's acknowledgements! I was so swept away the first time through I did not step back to notice the inspiration. Lenhardt mentioned in her acknowledgments that The Secret of You and Me was inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, and Lenhardt was wanting to do a modern-day retelling. The story quickly took control of itself though after she identified her [version of Austen's] Anne and realized the only other character that matched Nora's passion and vigor was Sophie.
For an author who has mostly stuck to historical fiction and mystery genres, Lenhardt did an exquisite job debuting into contemporary literature. I was secretly hoping this was the author's story fictionalized because it felt so emotionally vulnerable that I was rooting for these two lovebirds and felt the struggle of this monumental secret after all they did to cover it.
I was so focused on my list of reasons why Nora was kicked out of town that I completely missed all the hints pointing to the actual secret. I laughed out loud when Sophie's daughter vocalized one of the reasons on my list: is there a dead body buried somewhere? Lenhardt's writing style was engaging and flowed so smoothly I became lost in the story.
The Secret of You and Me had a constant build without any low points or slow moments. By far my favorite scene was the paper plate dinner party drama! Everything about that event had me reading till the wee hours of the morning and at that point, I just refilled my coffee and hoped to finish before I had to head off to work. It was the perfect storm and I ate it up! Alima ended up being my favorite character in that scene from her threats and sarcasm to her confidence and translated insults!
The Secret of You and Me had humor and love but also pain and honesty. The story helped me empathize more with all the different pulls, especially in a small town, when deciding to come out even to your loved ones. I loved the real struggles captured as Sophia drowns her pain and fears with alcohol, and Nora continually chooses relationships that will never amount to anything, almost punishing herself.
I highly recommend this read to anyone who loves a good Southern tale, a family drama, or inclusive title because this does all three beautifully.
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.
TWO WINNERS each get a signed hardcover copy of the book and their choice of either a FaceTime call or virtual book-club visit with the author.
August 11-21, 2020
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