A Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. Linked by one of the world’s greatest mysteries … Love. Guilt. Heartbreak. 1914: Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger …2016: Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret . . .
Sometimes, when reading a book, I get that lovely familiar feeling: I’ve fallen in love with this story and its characters. It’s the best feeling in the world. It didn’t take long to feel that way about The Secret Wife, a fascinating and historical novel by Gill Paul. It’s brilliantly written and narrates one of those epic stories that span many years and make you incredibly emotional.
Kitty has just discovered that her husband cheated on her and decides to move to the US in order to spend a few months in the cabin she inherited from her great-grandfather, Dmitri. There, she discovers a diary that belonged to a young Russian woman and begins to investigate its origins. Meanwhile, in 1914, Dmitri falls in love with beautiful grand duchess Tatiana, one of the Romanov daughters…
The letters were the perfect way for readers to learn about Dmitri and Tatiana’s feelings and even though I’m not into “cheesy” romances, I found this love story pretty sweet, especially at first. I got so emotionally involved with this book that I inevitably got angry at some of the characters’ decisions. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that I adored Rosa and wanted her to be happy forever. Tatiana was a great character too, but I didn’t find Dmitri particularly likable and he frustrated me to no end. Given that he was the main character, you can imagine my feelings during the whole book.
I was addicted from the very first chapters but, oddly enough, I found myself enthralled by the middle part of the story, the period after Dmitri moves to Berlin. I don’t know why exactly, but those chapters made me enjoy it even more.
I loved how this was one of those stories where coincidences and simple actions turn out to have huge consequences. What if…? This is something that is also common in Kate Morton’s books, so I think The Secret Wife would attract her fans as well. I hadn’t read any fiction based on historical facts before and I think I would enjoy this “genre” if I give it a chance. I immediately added Women & Children First to my TBR.
Last but not least… I couldn’t help it, I had some issues with the present story, the one regarding Kitty and her husband’s infidelity. It’s not that I didn’t find it interesting (I did! I wanted to know what would happen and maybe I would’ve even forgiven him), but I hated how she made excuses for her husband’s behaviour. Even though he had cheated on her, she continuously felt bad for leaving him and was all like: “poor Tom, I have done this to you”. “Poor Tom, my emotional unavailability has made you do this”. Moreover, while she thought about her situation, she didn’t even consider staying single for a while, she thought she had to look for a new husband right away because she was already 35 years old. I don’t know, I could’ve understood if Tatiana had been like this, but Kitty lived in 2016. And this has nothing to do with the plot (which was amazing), but with how her character was portrayed.
Anyway, despite my concerns about Kitty, this was a truly wonderful book and I can’t wait to read more by this author. I have also added Russia to my travel wishlist, as the novel was so evocative that I now want to see what they saw (minus the tragedies…).
Avon Books, 2016
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.