Author: Susan Mallery
Susan Mallery is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author and it’s easy to see why, her stories are engaging and her characters are well rounded. Much of her back catalogue consists of different series but this one seems to be a stand alone story.
Secrets of the Tulip Sisters is her latest release and it is a story that, for the most part, I really enjoyed. It’s also a book that I finished over a week and a book and a half ago so this could be interesting, sometimes real life and grown up responsibilities can be a real pain.
Kelly Murphy is a tulip farmer in Tulpen Crossing, her life is pretty routine and not a lot changes. Tulpen Crossing is the small town she grew up in and never felt the need to leave. She is fast approaching thirty, recovering from the fizzle of her long term relationship and living at home with her dad. She’s pretty happy with how things are going until she starts running into her unrequited high school crush – EVERYWHERE. He’s been back in town a year but it’s only been the last little while that he seems to have set his sights on Kelly and she’s a little off kilter.
If she thought that was unbalancing she was totally unprepared for the return to town of her younger sister Olivia, who hasn’t been back since she was in boarding school. Things aren’t really working out for Olivia where she’s living and messages from an old flame encourage her to return to her hometown for the summer. She has been basically out of touch with Kelly for a decade so the two are strangers and unsure how to find their way back to being sisters.
There is quite a colourful cast of primary characters and the story follows each of their lives in the third person. Kelly and Olivia are centre stage for much of the book, also Griffith, and Kelly’s best friend Helen. The characters having their own chapters made it easy to get inside their heads and piece together all of what’s going on, because there was a lot.
Tulpen Crossing is a small town where everyone knows not only your name but also your business, and they have long memories. Small towns also mean there is not a lot of romantic options out there so the connections can all get a little tangled which was at times a little cringeworthy but also entertaining.
Sparks fly when Kelly and Olivia are thrown back together, they are both carrying quite a bit of baggage and when the secrets start being revealed the situation just gets messier. The girls find themselves in a situation that will tear them irreparably apart or give them a way to find one another again.
There was a lot to love in this story, and it’s characters, but there were also elements that didn’t do it for me. Dialogue can be very hit and miss and I think it is probably one of the hardest things to write. Conversation can be messy, it’s very fluid, and capturing that realistically on paper is quite a skill. At times I found the dialogue here didn’t hit the spot for me. The bones of the conversation were great but the execution didn’t do it for me.
All of the characters are quite multi-faceted and take some getting to know, there is more to each of them than meets the eye and the way they interact was engaging.
I actually think my favourite part is watching these characters blossom; watch them share, or find, their passion. Kelly is a tulip farmer, she grows flowers but when Griffith takes an interest we are shown how involved the process is. Olivia knows a bit about design, she’s been doing some real estate staging, she has done some event management and she’s not sure what she wants to do next. She doesn’t want to do the same thing all the time and she can’t find one job that encompasses all the things she wants to do. She doesn’t have the belief in herself to roll it all together and make the job she wants.
Griffith has the most interesting career, I think. He builds tiny homes and we learned a lot about them. Mallery certainly seems to have done her homework and this was an element of the story that totally sucked me in.
There is an element of romance but I think it’s more about the relationships and the families. The romance isn’t all pervading but there are some pretty steamy scenes to watch out for.
I really enjoyed Secrets of the Tulip Sisters, it was a tangled web of secrets and lies that haunted each of the characters. It wasn’t until everything was brought out into the light that people could heal and finally move on.
The ending was all tied up a little too neatly for me but it did fit the story nicely.