Author: Karen Swan
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Copy: Courtesy of Publisher
Christmas is fast approaching and that means that there are masses of new books being released and many of them are seasonally themed.
The Christmas Secret is set in the Christmas season but it wasn’t overwhelmingly Christmassy.
Alex Hyde is an executive coach who is at the top of her field. She is in high demand with a waiting list that goes on for months, but when she commits she gives it all she’s got. The waiting list and an amazing PA mean that it takes a lot to even get to Alex Hyde but even she can be swayed by the right crisis call.
Lochlan Farquhar is the CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, a prestigious family run whisky company in Scotland. Lochlan is troubled and that has led to troublesome behaviour that is affecting the business. She is called in by one of the other shareholders and tasked with coaching him for the betterment of the company; and she’s on a tight deadline to get it done by Christmas. Alex is confident that she can get the job done, but she doesn’t count on Lochlan being quite so strongly against working with her.
Alex is well presented, well off and since reaching the top of her game has surrounded herself with the finer things in life. She travels for work almost constantly and is used to living out of suitcases in the finest hotels, because she only works for the best of the best. The remote island of Islay is far from her Mayfair apartment and the penthouses of New York but she is just going to have to adapt if she has any hope of getting this job done. A complete change to her diet, a shared bathroom and no taxi service are certainly a challenge, especially after her suitcases didn’t make it off the mainland.
Alongside the present day lead up to Christmas with Alex on Islay to work with Lochlan we have a thread of narrative from the first World War when an American troopship was torpedoed in the bay of Islay. The survivors were few and the town still remembers. The tragedy of the troopship is a true event but the characters have all been fictionalised by Swan to fit her story.
Lochlan and Alex are at loggerheads from the very first meeting; Alex is determined to get the job done and Lochlan is equally determined that her presence is unnecessary. Their interactions are never dull with tension that is palpable.
From the outset it is clear that there is more to this story than meets the eye, there are things on both sides that are yet to be disclosed and the slow unfurling of the little mysteries kept me entertained.
Alex Hyde hasn’t made it to the top doing things by halves so she is quite proficient in most of the outdoor sports of her clients, which lands her in deep water as she attempts to break through the blocks Lochlan has erected to keep her out.
I love reading Christmas stories set in the Northern Hemisphere because it’s all snowy and cozy but the fire in The Christmas Secret was far from warm and romantic, it was ultra hot and destructive.
The Christmas Secret is an entertaining story that kept me guessing as we slowly uncovered the clues to discover that no-one was as they seem. The elements of romance were not the cute and soppy love stories so prevalent in Christmas stories, it was more tense and hard won as those who have been betrayed slowly learn to trust again.
All in all I found The Christmas Secret to be well paced, interesting and entertaining. The inside look into the prestigious whisky market was intriguing and it was lovely to meet a flawed male that we were able to see both sides of depending on his surroundings.