Author: Natasha Lester
ISBN: 978 0 7336 3465 9
Her Mother’s Secret is a story of hopes, dreams and longing; it’s also very much a story of the society of the times.
In the closing days of the first world war Leo is making mascara in the chemist shop of a small English town and hoping to bring cosmetics into everyday life. This was a time that looked down on women wearing makeup and it was quite stigmatic. Leo dreamed of changing all that; and of creating a lipstick that lasted. She wanted to create makeup for every woman, so that women everywhere could make themselves feel beautiful. Society still believed that mascara and rouge were the warpaint of whores and harlots so they had to be purchased clandestinely, Leo wanted to change all that.
Instead of peace Armistice Day brought Spanish Flu into Leo’s small town and among the many lives it took was that of Leo’s father, having nothing left to keep her in town Leo decides to chase her dreams all the way to New York.
Her Mother’s Secret is the tale of Leo chasing that dream but it’s also the story of her falling in love and everything that encompasses when the man you fall in love with is wealthy and in demand.
There are secrets, lies and betrayals as well as more than one loveless marriage. Appearances and marriages of convenience are an important element of the society of the time, and the story.
Leo arrives in Manhattan full of dreams and big ideas but things aren’t quite so easy. Leo needs a job and somewhere that she can work on her cosmetics on the weekend, neither is easy to secure for a woman but Leo refuses to give up.
Lester has written another fiesty heroine determined to broker change for the women of her time; not content to sit back and do what is expected of her.
The synopsis tells very little of the story and there is so much going on that I don’t want to elaborate on any of that.
Leo is passionate about her cosmetics dreams and determined to see them through, she works tirelessly to make it a reality and she’s not willing to have it handed to her. She would prefer to work herself to the bone to see her dreams realised than have someone hand success to her.
Her Mother’s Secret is an intense read that I had trouble putting down, once I picked it up I was hooked. Leo was a fantastic heroine; bright, determined and loyal. Some of the other female characters were far from admirable and yet even they were redeemed in the end, most of them anyway. I had some theories about what was going on but Lester played her cards well and I was completely surprised by the way things panned out.
An insightful and well researched fictional look at life in the time between the first and second world wars. A time when women were not taken seriously.
I urge you to give this book a go and I challenge you not to fall in love with the characters, the settings and the vivid pictures Lester paints. A story of empowerment and chasing your dreams and not letting the mistakes of the past be repeated down through the generations.
Her Mother’s Secret is book #12 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.