Carol T. (Ankeny, Iowa)
Too many secrets
As a whole, The Secret of Everything is not bad. A good light read. The children and dogs are excellent additions. Unfortunately, the author got so wrapped up in hiding Tessa's past that she hid things she shouldn't have. Apparently O'Neal forgot that a reader's first introduction to the character becomes, literally, a picture in the reader's head. When we first meet Tessa, she is sauntering down to the beach carrying a mango, a chunk of bread, and a cup of tea. We know she is recovering from a hiking accident, caused by torrential rain and a spider bite. But paragraphs later there is a miss-able allusion to a cast on her arm. Immediately, I was wondering how she managed not to spill the tea. Chapters later, another aside mentions a friend who died in the hiking accident. All of this could have been handled with more finesse and allowed me to maintain the willingness to suspend disbelief that is so essential to good fiction. Why not have her struggle a little to balance the mango, bread, and tea on her cast? Why not add guilt to the opening litany of things she's trying not to face? O'Neal needed to deliberately make so many things in this book not be as they first seemed. Why clutter that lovely mysteriousness with unnecessaries?
Gwendolyn D. (Houston, TX)
Self Discovery with a Dash of Romance
Grappling with the guilt of a recent hiking catastrophe, adventure tour leader Tessa Harlow heads to the fictional town of Los Ladrones, New Mexico to research a possible future tour. While in Los Ladrones, deeply buried memories surface, and Tessa must come to terms with her past as she embarks on a quest to figure out what her ominous memories are telling her. The colorful characters of Los Ladrones play a large role in Tessa's quest, particularly the hunky and reliable Vince Grasso and his three daughters.
The Secret of Everything grabbed me from the first page, and I read this almost-400 page novel in just a few days. Tessa's investigation into her past is suspenseful and keeps the story moving forward quickly. I also enjoyed the real-world romance story, mixed up with children, loads of laundry, and work. The recipes that appeared at the end of some of the chapters seemed a bit out of place, but they're easy enough to skip over. All in all, The Secret of Everything is a well-written light romance mixed with a story of self discovery.
Julia H. (Excelsior, MN)
Present meets past
For the most part, I really enjoyed this debut novel. Tessa Harlow was a pretty good protagonist. The point of view shifts occasionally from Tessa to other townspeople, a gimmick I found a little difficult to get into in the beginning, but eventually, the story flowed very well. Because of the multiple views, I found myself even more interested in the lives of little girl Natalie and Vita, owner of the wonderful sounding 100 Breakfasts restaurant. Perhaps more than Tessa at times. Although the plot’s resolution was a bit transparent, I really enjoyed this story of Tessa’s self-discovery.
Suzanne G. (Tucson, AZ)
Only for some.....
I didn't like this book--only because I think this type of romance is fluffy and too graphic to put any substance to a story. I felt the plot and the many characters were so labored and so outlandish and so unrealistic, I wondered if I could even finish! But yet, because I had free time I figured I would like to know what else the author could come up with before it finally ended! She didn't fail me.
I do realize there are many, many books written in this fashion and just as many readers who enjoy. I just don't happen to be one. This book was a poor choice on my part.
The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal
The book starts well and captured my interest. Didn't even realize the book was a romance at the beginning. The love story was not believable. Wish it could have been a bit more subtle.
Sheryl R. (DeQuincy, LA)
Not for me
Romance fans (and fans of Barbara O'Neal in particular), may be accustomed to the writing style of this book, the pacing of its plot, and its simplistic character development. To me, a first time reader of Ms. O'Neal, the characters seemed shallow, and the plot predictable and belabored.
The story, which could have been more fully told in half the space, rambled on and on, filled with prose which at times seemed irrelevant and impassionate. Recipes scattered throughout the book with little or no rhyme or reason proved to be a further distraction. I won't read Ms. O'Neal again.
Colleen L. (Casco, Maine)
Secret of Everything
I loved this book. The characters are interesting and the author does a great job telling you a little about them in the beginning and then eventually tying all the threads together. I like the way the author builds the story chapter by chapter. This left me so very anxious to see what happened that I actually read the entire book in one day. I particularly enjoyed the ending in which Tessa and Natalie engage in a pilgrimage. I also greatly enjoyed the recipes! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading books about relationships. Thank you VERY much Bantam for allowing me the opportunity to preview this book.