If you love a good romance novel that takes place in Cape Cod, listen up. You may want to consider “How to Keep A Secret” (book) by Sarah Morgan. Set primarily on Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, this novel features a cast of several strong female characters. They are inspiring at times, and perhaps most relatable during their darkest moments. To fully understand their actions, delve further into the pages of this book…Or scroll down to read the following book review.
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[Book Review] How to Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan
I wasn’t sure if I would like the Novel, “How to Keep A Secret” (HQN, 2018), written by Sarah Morgan. It wasn’t that the cover wasn’t beach-y enough. It was. In fact, the story takes place in one of my favorite places: Martha’s Vineyard. And the book cover sets the scene with an expansive ocean, blue sky, striped beach towels and an aqua bench.
This was a book curated for me by The Last Book Store‘s mail order service, where you give them a few details about the kinds of books you like and they ship their selection to you. “How to Keep A Secret” was one of five books that arrived wrapped in brown paper. (It’s worth the extra $5 for the element of surprise, in my opinion.)
I would be lying if I said I didn’t frown a bit when I opened it.
It was the title.
I’m not all that keen on secrets.
Nevertheless, I embarked on the journey of two sisters, Lauren and Jenna, whose life paths and challenges led them to very different outcomes as they were well-into their thirties. The story wove in several generations of Stewarts as leading characters, including the girls’ mother Nancy (in her 60s), and Lauren’s teenage daughter Mack (short for Mackenzie).
After a series of tragic events, the estranged women found themselves spending time together at the family home in Martha’s Vineyard. The ten-room historic property overlooking the Atlantic had belonged to the Stewart family for many generations. (Nancy’s grandfather had been a Captain during the days of whaling, a nod to an unfortunate but profitable history of the Cape Cod islands.)
The timeline of “How to Keep A Secret” takes place over several months, revealing some of the nuances of the off-season. It was a slow start (I started over twice), but once engaged with the characters, I couldn’t put the book down. I felt as though I had been whisked away from the mainland as I read.
The family home was cluttered and in need of repairs. Nancy, a fine artist, had lived there for many years alone by herself after her husband died–and it showed wear. Fortunately, the home, like the characters in the book, transformed as the story progressed.
Related: If you like books set on the Cape, you might also like “Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.” Here’s my review of that book.
Generations of Strong Women
Even though there were a good number of women with somewhat ordinary names in “How to Keep A Secret,” they were anything but ordinary. I found each woman to be memorable and easy to keep track of.
It’s a good thing, too. As the plot twisted and turned, it revealed a series of emotionally charged secrets that stunted the characters.
It became clear that these women of strength often (and unnecessarily) put others’ needs before their own. The secrets created barriers to their authentic selves and enabled unhealthy relationships.
Only a handful of men appeared in the book; the women took lead roles. That’s not all that surprising because New Englanders, especially islanders, are known for their independence and resilience whether male or female.
But, I regretted that those men in the book were either very good (Scott) or very bad (Mr. Stewart). Admittedly, it’s hard for the reader not to fall in love with Scott. (After all, you were expecting some romance, right?)
However, the other men in the book seemed to fall a bit short and lacked emotional depth. Fortunately, the complexity of the plot and the female character development more than made up for their shortcoming.
I especially enjoyed the island vibe of this book. I could easily envision the moody, off-season setting on Martha’s Vineyard, a setting that jived nicely with the novel’s drama.
As the tale continued, several dirty secrets come to light. Once teased out, they unravelled as easily as loose sailing knots, one after the other. I felt a sense of relief as things were made right. In fact, on might say the book’s ending betrayed its title.
Final Thoughts on How to Keep a Secret (Book)
So, should you read “How to Keep A Secret“?
In my opinion, this book would make an excellent summer beach read.
Or, it might transport you through cold winter months to a warmer place and time while giving you a glimpse of Cape Cod in the off-season.
You’ll find the plot and character development moves quickly, and the author’s voice is light and clear.
If you have memories of Cape Cod or aspire to visit Martha’s Vineyard, no doubt you will especially enjoy “How to Keep A Secret.”
I give it a thumbs up!
Spoiler Alert: Hopeless romantics won’t be disappointed either.
If this is a book you think you might want to read, you can check availability and pricing here.
And if you read it, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below!