4.5⭐️ – This is by far my new favourite book by Donna Jay. I’ve enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read but this one is on another level for me.
Sadie never thought she’d end up living in her car and yet, here she is. Which in turn (and I won’t spoil how it happens) leaves her jobless too. When she gets a job interview as a cleaning lady in a beauty parlour, Sadie doesn’t expect to crush really hard on her new boss. She doesn’t expect either the beauty parlour to offer more than beauty services. Over the course of a few months, Sadie will get quite an education, about herself, about keeping an open mind, about judgement and pride, communication and love. As for Victoria, Sadie’s new boss and love interest, she’ll find that putting someone else’s needs before hers sometimes takes more than easy generosity.
The Secrets We Keep is an age gap (Sadie is twenty-five, Victoria is almost forty) rich girl/poor girl romance. The first part of the book is told in first person from Sadie’s point of view, the second part from Victoria’s. I liked both main characters, Sadie’s tough girl act that can’t hide her soft heart, Victoria’s ice queen personality that hides a different but no less real kind of hurt. The only thing I could have done without is how often Sadie’s lack of money growing up is mentioned. I’m not minimising it but we got the point and bringing it up every time adds unnecessary pathos.
The secondary characters are interesting too and I especially loved Hannah (Victoria’s best friend) and her unconventional family, and Soraya (Victoria’s oldest employee), who totally deserves her own story. An author’s note at the end of the book states that book two is in the making and that’s excellent news.
As I wrote above, The Secrets We Keep (and its pretty cover) is now my favourite book by this author. Which kind of surprises me, because I usually read Donna Jay’s books for the kink aspect and there’s none of that in this one. I like the way Jay writes power play and consent, and I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy a more vanilla romance, but Sadie and Victoria won me over. Also, the fact that there are some really steamy moments helps (this sentence feels like it needs a winking emoji).
Another reason why I always look forward to Donna Jay’s books is that she sets them in her own country, New Zealand, and doesn’t compromise on the language, doesn’t sanitise it for less adventurous readers. If you speak English, you’ll understand. You’ll grasp words that are unusual for you from the context and if you don’t, that’s what Google or your favourite search engine (I’m partial to Ecosia and Lilo myself) are for. A huge part of why I love reading fiction is escapism, finding myself immersed in another country, with different habits, different ways of life, different words and food is part of the fun and I want the whole package. So thank you, Donna Jay, for that. And for this story. I’m very much looking forward to Soraya’s now.