Sunday, July 17, 2016

Best Kept Secrets by Shelly Elllis

352 Pages | Kensington Publishing | Contemporary with Romantic Elements | 8/25/15
I debated whether to put this on the romance site or not because this Ellis series isn’t technically a romance. While there is a main romantic plot there are also some prominent storylines with other characters that go beyond the romance label. Still, I'm putting it here because it has one HEA.

When Leila Hawkin's marriage crashes and burns, she returns to her small hometown of Chesterton, VA with her daughter in tow to see the last person in the world she wants to see--her former best friend Evan Murdoch. She and Evan had a huge falling out 10 years ago, but she needs him now. Evan is the president of the Murdoch Conglomeration, which owns the bank that is foreclosing her mother’s house. If she doesn’t appeal to Evan, her whole family will be out on the streets.

The other storylines of this book involve other members of the mega rich Murdoch family. Newlywed Paulette Murdoch who is being extorted by her ex and Dante Murdoch the new half brother who isn’t all he seems. We switch POV a lot but Ellis gives each of her chapters a distinctive voice and effortlessly weaves in and out of storylines until they all tie together in the end. I’ll admit this book took me a while to read, but once Ellis starts tying all the storylines together I couldn’t stop. I think what Ellis does so well is create stakes for all her characters.

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure we could get to anything close to an HEA but she manages it. I mean there is a HUGE cliffhanger, but for the most part things feel tied up.

While I’m pretty sure Chesterton, VA is fake it was fun to see a story take place in Virginia. The characters would talk about Tyson’s Corner and I’d be like 'I’ve been there!'I’m not sure where Chesterton is supposed to be..I’m guessing either Fredericksburg, Winchester or Shenandoah Valley

While it’s not explicitly stated how rich the Murdoch’s are we can assume Evan is a millionaire and I think Ellis got the millionaire right. In an episode of Dear Bitches, Smart Authors podcast , Sara Wendell pointed out that most romance millionaires aren't believable because they have so much time on their hands. Ellis subverts this because  not only does Evan have all the millionaire perks, he also works a lot.

I know it’s a cop out to compare a drama story about rich Black people with Empire, but I’m going to do it anyway. If you like Empire, but with more romance and higher stakes and less ridiculousness this book should be on your shelf.

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