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Monday, January 24, 2022

Review: The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay

Title: The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay
Author: Julie Brooks

Publisher: 29th December 2021 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 387 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, women’s fiction

My Rating: 4.5 crowns


This darkly gripping dual-time debut, will transport readers from World War One England to present day Australia, with a thrilling story of family secrets to be hidden at all costs...

Two women set sail for a new life in Australia, bound by a secret that will change everything. The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay is a gripping dual-time novel, with a wealth of twists, turns and secrets, and an absolute book club treat, perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Rachel Rhys and Hannah Richell

England, 1919: Rose and Ivy board a ship bound for Australia.

One is travelling there to marry a man she has never met.

One is destined never to arrive.

Australia, 2016: Amongst her late-grandmother's possessions, Molly uncovers a photograph of two girls dressed in First World War nurses' uniforms, labelled 'Rose and Ivy 1917', and a letter from her grandmother, asking her to find out what happened to her own mother, Rose, who disappeared in the 1960s.

Compelled to carry out her grandmother's last wish, Molly embarks on a journey to England to unravel the mystery of the two girls whose photograph promised they'd be 'together forever'

My Thoughts

The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay is a well written generational family drama. A historical narrative from the early years of the 1900s to WWI and then to the present day with family members seeking answers to strange occurrences. Was everything as it appeared in that smiling photograph of Rose and Ivy from 1917?

‘We all have our ghosts, dear. Some take human form, while others are as ephemeral as regrets.’

The story alternates between the dual time narrative of past and present and I am happy to say, I enjoyed both storyline’s. With the historical narrative an assured winner, I was excited to be so invested in the contemporary tale with Molly's (great granddaughter) efforts to unravel past mysteries whilst undergoing her own personal challenges.

‘She didn’t have to live the life that was expected of her. She could live an unexpected life. If she chose to. If she dared to reach out and make it so.’

In the past, the tale of Rose and Ivy - friends from a young age yet grow apart as a consequence of their different social standings - is one fraught with conflict and turmoil. Julie does a great job of leaving clues along the way as you seek to find out which of the girls will arrive on Australian shores. As stated, I enjoyed the current narrative just as much with Molly who is fighting her own demons as she seeks to find peace from her past. Despite readers possibly piecing together the mystery before its conclusion, I still feel that Julie included some unexpected twists that kept me fully engaged until the final chapter. 

‘History is the reason we are what we are. We can’t simply bury it and forget it.’

Julie Brooks first novel with this new publisher is a sure winner. It's a solid dual time narrative in inviting locations with strong characters and a worthy mystery. I was invested from start to finish and would recommend this to lovers of this genre. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Review: Must Love Books

Title: Must Love Books
Author: Shauna Robinson

Publisher: 18th January 2022 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Pages: 336 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, mental health

My Rating: 4 crowns


Meet Nora Hughes―the overworked, underpaid, last bookish assistant standing. At least for now. When Nora landed an editorial assistant position at Parsons Press, it was her first step towards The Dream Job. Because, honestly, is there anything dreamier than making books for a living? But after five years of lunch orders, finicky authors, and per my last emails, Nora has come to one grand conclusion: Dream Jobs do not exist.

With her life spiraling and the Parsons staff sinking, Nora gets hit with even worse news. Parsons is cutting her already unlivable salary. Unable to afford her rent and without even the novels she once loved as a comfort, Nora decides to moonlight for a rival publisher to make ends meet...and maybe poach some Parsons authors along the way.

But when Andrew Santos, a bestselling Parsons author no one can afford to lose is thrown into the mix, Nora has to decide where her loyalties lie. Her new Dream Job, ever-optimistic Andrew, or...herself and her future.

My Thoughts

‘And the final line under the desired skills and qualifications section sealed her fate, three little words that curled around Nora’s heart and told her she belonged in publishing: Must love books.’

This was not the book I was expecting but proved to be a really interesting read. It most definitely is not a romcom - yes there is romance, however, it is very much a side plot and thankfully, sensitive to the overall direction of the book. The couple have laughs, however, I far more appreciated their discussions surrounding happiness and mental health - this being the surprise package of this read. 

‘… the only person left standing was Nora, alone. Working on books she didn’t understand or give a damn about, with authors who rearranged the same words on different pages year after year to make another royalty check.’

This book is very much about the lead character, Nora and her quest for a meaningful life with happiness. After several years in the same job, she is finding herself lost and literally staring at the ceiling fan. It’s not just about the meaningless job but also the issue of making ends meet on a poor wage especially given the extra tasks assigned to her. The author herself states that, ‘By unpacking the myth of the “dream job,” this story explores happiness as a fluid, ever-changing thing.’

‘Whenever Nora mentioned anything to do with publishing - manuscripts, books, working with authors - there was a faraway look in Kelly’s eyes, like she was on the verge of swooning.’

One of the reasons I selected to read this book was a chance insight into the life of a publishing company - and it provided this in bucketloads! It gave a detailed (and rather depressing) look at a career in publishing (a bibliophile’s purported dream job) and that it may not be a path for many. The surprises in this book were the themes surrounding mental health: (trigger warning) self harm and suicide thoughts. This was really quite powerful and overall well handled I felt. It also touches on racial issues (Nora mentions her ethnicity on occasions) and this, whilst minor, is still worth mentioning. 

‘She could be the person she’d always imagined being, working on books - novels - that could actually help someone. Not help them leverage synergy to maximize productivity, but help them the way books had helped Nora. Help someone feel connected to something. Help someone feel less alone.’

Given the clear focus on one person’s journey to find meaning and purpose in life, I was both relieved and grateful for the ending which remained true to what I felt to be the author’s goal. My only issues are that, firstly, it was a trifle repetitive and slow on occasions. Secondly, Nora’s resolve to call a meeting to discuss her possible futures appeared somewhat out of character given her personal struggles throughout the book. 

‘Nora ducked into a bookstore across the street to be among books and forget, for a minute, how they were made.’

So if an insight into life in a publishing house as a ‘dream job’ appeals to you, look no further. There are excellent Discussion questions at the conclusion along with an Author interview. Not the book I had thought to be reading, I did however, walk away much richer for my understanding of publishing career paths and, more importantly, when your dream job turns out not to be your dream job - what do you do? Nora’s journey of reevaluating and making tough decisions to alter her life path was something I very much appreciated. 

‘learn(ed) how to find a new dream. And another, and another, until he found something that worked out for him.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.