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The Housekeeper’s Secret

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Duty, desire, and deception reside under one roof.

Standing in the remote windswept moors of Northern England, Coldwell Hall is the perfect place to hide. For the past five years, Kate Furniss has maintained her professional mask so carefully that she almost believes she is the character she has created as Coldwell’s respectable housekeeper.

It is the summer of 1911 that brings new faces above and below the stairs of Coldwell Hall?including the handsome and mysterious new footman, Jem Arden. Just as the house’s shuttered rooms open, so does Kate’s guarded heart to a love affair that is as intense as it is forbidden. But Kate can feel her control slipping as Jem harbors secrets of his own.

Told in alternating timelines from the last sun-drenched summer of the Edwardian Age to the mud-filled trenches of WWI, The Housekeeper’s Secret opens its door to a world of romance, the truths we hold onto, and the past we must let go.

Synopsis source: Goodreads


Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Romance, England, Mystery/Thriller
HB&W Rating: 3.5
View on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Expected Publication: August 13, 2024

If you enjoy Downton Abbey or Gilded Age, you’ll enjoy immersing yourself into the downstairs drama unfolding at Coldwell Hall, the secluded and worn down estate in Northern England. The scenes of this book are so richly drawn that they played out just like these period dramas in my mind. Forbidden romance, secrets, a mysterious disappearance, gothic period setting, this ticked all the boxes!

Looking back, it seems it was a time suspended between two worlds: the Victorian one occupied by Sir Henry Hyde–a world of candlelight and carriages, and this modern age of motorcars and machine guns.

As you might expect, given the focus of the story on the servants of Coldwell Hall, there are many characters to keep track of. This was a bit difficult at first as we change between perspectives and learn names and roles. Additionally, the switching perspectives combined with the alternating timelines and the letter thrown in as well made things quite confusing throughout the entire book. I feel like this could have been better organized. Perhaps the later timeline could have been omitted altogether, since the letter already serves as a device to bridge the timelines, and it could just converge naturally from the 1911 timeline.

It has some very serious Bronte vibes that I loved: the crumbling manor house that is secluded and remote, whispered about in town, the mysterious sense of something sinister going on there, the wonderfully menacing antagonists, and, of course, the forbidden relationship between Kate and Jem, which is all very tragically romantic. I feared things would end in heartache for them. They were such interesting characters and I really enjoyed them.

My biggest problem with this book was the pacing. The first two-thirds of the book were incredibly slow-paced and I almost gave up on the book. If it weren’t an ARC, I might have given up long before the glimmer of interest appeared for me (around halfway through). My general rule is that if a book doesn’t grab me by the time I’m a third of the way through, I will DNF it. Had I done that with this book, it would have been a shame. This was a lovely story and I’m glad I stuck with it. Things finally started to pick up in the last third of the book, and once they did, they took off. Finally, all the pieces came together in a satisfactory way, which I was glad for.

While I was happy with the plot resolution, I would have liked to have seen more of it unfold instead of having it neatly tidied up in the last 25% of the book. Instead it felt rushed, another pacing issue. If it weren’t for my issues with pacing, I would have likely been apt to give this another full star.

If you enjoy historical thrillers and Downton Abbey, and if you can hang in there through the first half of the book, this is a wonderful story about love, found family, and hope.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Until next time,

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