The Secret of Everything: Book summary and reviews of The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal

The Secret of Everything

by Barbara O'Neal

The Secret of Everything
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2010
    400 pages
    Genre: Love Stories

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Book Summary

Barbara O'Neal, author of The Lost Recipe for Happiness, delivers a generous helping of the best in life–family, food, and love–in the story of a woman's search for the one thing worth more than anything.

At thirty-seven, Tessa Harlow is still working her way down her list of goals to "fall in love and have a family." A self-described rolling stone, Tessa leads hiking tours for adventurous vacationers–it's a job that's taken her around the world but never a step closer to home. Then a freak injury during a trip already marred by tragedy forces her to begin her greatest adventure of all.

Located high in the New Mexico mountains, Las Ladronas has become a magnet for the very wealthy and very hip, but once upon a time it was the setting of a childhood trauma Tessa can only half remember. Now, as she rediscovers both her old hometown and her past, Tessa is drawn to search-and-rescue worker Vince Grasso. The handsome widower isn’t her type. No more inclined to settle down than Tessa, Vince is the father of three, including an eight-year-old girl as lost as Tessa herself. But Tessa and Vince are both drawn to the town's most beloved eatery – 100 Breakfasts – and to each other. For Tessa, the restaurant is not only the key to the mystery that has haunted her life but a chance to find the home and the family she's never known.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"O’Neal has created a powerful and intriguing story rich in detailed and vivid descriptions of the Southwest." - Booklist

"[W]hile the contrived climax may annoy, the recipes and the depth of the characters will please." - Publishers Weekly

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Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

a heartwarming story
The Secret of Everything is Barbara O’Neal’s second novel. This is the story of thirty-seven year old Tessa Harlow, who leads hiking tours for adventurous vacationers. After a freak injury in a hiking trip marred by tragedy, Tessa is drawn to the New Mexico town of Los Ladrones, once the setting of a childhood trauma that Tessa can only remember in confusing flashes. The story is told in several voices: Tessa, looking for her past; Sam, her ex-hippie, surfer father, running away from that past; Vince Grasso, a widowed search and rescue worker and father of three daughters; Natalie, Vince’s troubled eight-year-old; Vita Solano, the proprietor of the town’s most beloved eatery, 100 Breakfasts Café; and Annie Veracruz, a recent prison parolee and employee at 100 Breakfasts. As Tessa explores the town on the pretext of setting up a hiking and gourmet cooking tour, she visits the Green Gate farm, the latest incarnation of the 70’s commune when she spent her early childhood. A heart-warming story of family, food and love, this novel has some wonderful characters, evocative descriptions and a plot with a few surprises. Oh, and of course, mouth-watering recipes! I look forward to Barbara O’Neal’s next novel.

Sharon S. (Stanley, N.C.)

"The Secret of Everything" by Barbara O'Neal
If you are a product of the sixties you will want to read "The Secret of Everything". Tessa Harlow has a job most of us can only dream of, but with this comes along a quest to find out who she is. Tessa has only a few memories of her childhood, but after an accident that brings her close to death she decides to search for the answers that have plagued her since childhood.Where or who will have the key to unlock her memories? Along the way she finds great food, new love and all the answers she has been searching for. A great fast read that book clubs will find very engaging!
This would make for a great movie !

Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)

A Great Read
I knew I was going to like this book from what I read on BookBrowse's synopsis of it, and I was not disappointed; it captivated me from beginning to end!

I enjoy books that are about women who overcome odds, and this is one of those. There were times, when I was on the edge of my seat, which I think also makes for a good novel.

Though I guessed some of what happened, it didn't spoil it for me; and I think others, who enjoy books that combine romance, mystery and action will like this book.

Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)

The Secret of Everything
This book is very well written and keeps the reader wanting to read on but hating to see it end. The use of recipes at the end of each chapter is interesting and useful to "foodies". Would recommend to anyone who would like a good read.

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.

Lisa G. (Riverwoods, IL)

Secrets and Everything Else
It was refreshing to find a new author in the genre of my favorites, Robyn Carr, Sherryl Woods and Susan Wiggs.This novel, set in New Mexico, combines the author's interest in food with mystery, second chances and of course the requisite love story. I could have done without the author's inclusion of her recipes throughout the book since it has been done so much lately. I enjoyed how the author developed the relationships between the characters linking the past to the present but not in the ways I had expected.

This was an enjoyable read and I look forward to reading her first book.

...24 more reader reviews

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Read Chapter One
Read the backstory to The Secret of Everything

Barbara O'Neal fell in love with restaurants and the secret language of spoons when she was sixteen. She spent more than a decade in various restaurants, dives to cafes to high cuisine, before selling his first novel. O'Neal teaches workshops nationally and internationally, and lives with her partner, a British endurance athlete, in Colorado Springs. She can be found online at www.barbaraoneal.com

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