Book Club: The Christmas Secret

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Author: Karen Swan
ISBN: 978-1509838042
RRP: $32.99
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.

You can follow Karen on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

Thanks to Pan MacMillan 10 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading and reviewing The Christmas Secret so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

The Christmas Secret is available now through Pan MacMillan, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld and where all good books are sold.


9 thoughts on “Book Club: The Christmas Secret

  1. “The Christmas Secret” is an enjoyable romantic novel. When I opened it, I thought I knew the broad outlines of the plot – the traditional boy meets girl, conflict results, but true love triumphs – but the novel is well enough written, and complex enough, that a hundred pages in I was starting to wonder if I’d got that wrong.

    Alex Hyde is a high flying executive coach in extraordinary demand. She’s asked to solve the problem of Lochlan Farquhar, a CEO who is represented to her as uniquely unsuited for the position he holds. To jump her months long waiting list, and resolve the situation quickly by Christmas, she’s offered a huge financial incentive. And although Alex is doing very well by most people’s standards, she needs that cheque.

    But is everything Alex has been told true? Is everything Lochlan tells her about himself true? What happens when Alex’s own secrets are disturbed?

    This is not a particularly Christmassy book – I think Christmas is used primarily as a way of placing a clear, easily summarised deadline on the work Alex is asked to do. As a result, although it’s suitable for the time of year in which I read this, it really wouldn’t feel out of place read at another time of year.
    I really enjoyed this. Romance novels make up a relatively small proportion of my reading, because I sometimes find them a little slight, and the romantic obstacles a little too confected. This one, however, felt quite meaty. Strong characters, and a situation that was realistic, contemporary and genuinely complicated, made this a really enjoyable read for me. At the same time, both Lochlan and Alex belong to a well heeled elite that brings glamour to the novel.

    This is a novel likely to please both readers of traditional romances, and those who want something that’s not dark, but a little more grounded in real problems. It’s well paced, good fun, and in places quite moving. I recommend it.

  2. “The Christmas Secret” is a tale of history, of the current world, Islay Ireland and Whisky. Of course there is a touch of romance in there too.
    Alex is a consultant to help managers fix their problems and groom themselves to be better. She is a wanted commodity and comes at a good price. But has she bitten off more than she can chew with the Kentallen Whisky CEO.
    Lachlan is strong willed, angry and pig headed. He knows what he wants for his company but is in conflict with other family and company board members. They think he is a liability and want him gone.
    Alex is employed to help him sort himself out, or check out. She has to delve into his relationships, finding an employee who was jilted at the altar by him. Perhaps she is the key to his anger and distraction?
    Learn about the Whisky, the island, its history and its past. They all tie together and bring about this story.

    A great read, a pleasure and a privilege.

  3. This book turned out to not be what I expected. Not a huge romance fan, I was expecting a predictable plot line and unrealistic events which ends with everyone being predictably happy – all tied off in a pretty bow.

    How happy was I to find this an honest depiction of life, love, lies and secrets. Whilst this was an easy to read book, it contained a depth to it which most romance novels lack which held my attention and made me want to find out what the mystery to Lachlan is. Why is he so angry and keeps hidden (or lies) about his past?

    This is a great read which stimulates the mind and shows life for what it is, not something which can be easily fixed and a jumble of layers upon layers, twists and turns and events which shape us.


  4. Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for allowing me the chance to read this book. I really enjoyed it!
    Having visited Islay before I was intrigued to see how much the book would relate to what I remembered and it didn’t disappoint. Although Kentallen is fictional, a lot of the towns and distilleries mentioned are real and it was fun to reminisce. It has definitely made me want to go back again, especially to learn more about the shipwreck disaster back in World War I. I found this fascinating and loved the thread of the story that ran throughout the book that touched on it.
    The whole story was easy to read and I really liked the characters. Alex was a terrific female lead and I found her very easy to relate to, the drunken scene was hilarious and it felt real making me like her even more. I was really interested in learning more about the whisky business (my husband is thrilled!) and liked the little bits of information given. It didn’t feel like information overload or become too technical. I also quite liked seeing how an executive coach works and how they make people think outside the box.
    I read this book in one sitting and found there there were plenty of little surprise twists and turns which made me thoroughly enjoy every aspect of it.
    Thanks again, am very keen to look out for more of Karen Swan’s books now, 5 out of 5.

  5. I allowed myself a week to read this book and finished in 7 hours! I am a sucker for a good romance novel and wasn’t disappointed.

    The character Alex Hyde is an independent, strong willed lady who has worked very hard to become the successful business woman she is today. Her ability to understand the human psyche and coach business heads towards greater success has meant Alex’s training services are in great demand.

    Lachlan Farquhar is the CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, a well educated, hard working man whose commitment to the family businesses has never wavered, despite the conflicts he must endure as his professionalism and abilities are questioned.

    Alex and Lachlan are at loggerheads as she tries to tame the wild beast of his erratic management style and he is determined to press forward with his company plans, regardless of what some city chick has to say about him.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The basic romantic story line of how opposites attract was embellished with good humour, a remarkable historical event and numerous side characters all adding a great deal of interest and ensuring a more wholesome story.

    Unfortunately there were numerous spelling and grammar mistakes, particularly with the author information on the very first page. The paragraph begins with ‘Karen Swan in a Sunday Times Top Five bestselling writer’ and continues on with numerous grammatical errors. I was very disappointed to read this first page and am surprised this book has not been edited better. Thankfully the skill of the author in her storytelling has enabled this to be a thoroughly enjoyable book and one I will treasure. I look forward to reading more of Karen Swan’s books in due course.

    Thank you Pan MacMillan and Beauty & Lace Book Club for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  6. The Christmas Secret was quite a surprise package, much like unwrapping a gift with many layers.

    I really enjoyed the character of Alex Hyde, her stubborness, tenacity and ability to laugh at herself really grew on me. On the flip side, Lochlan Farquhar’s character irritated me. He seemed like a pretentious, self absorbed pain!

    I enjoyed how it swung between the early 20th century and the present day and how it tied in together.

    At times I found the writing a bit laborious. I do like descriptive writing but sometimes I found myself wondering if parts of the book were necessary to the plot or just for padding.

    The Christmas Secret is not the kind of book I’d normally choose but that’s what I love about this book club, just like Alex Hyde I can step out of my comfort zone!

  7. There is nothing I love more then a Christmas story especially when it has a mix of romance and secrets blended within the pages. Not as chrismissy as I had hoped but it had the underlying tone was weaved in .

    The characters are lovable, and tell a tale of life, disappointment, family and so many emotions within. With added humor within this story, we are taken back and forth in time to be given a wonderfully delivered romantic story line that’s filled with some mystery and intrigue. Set in Scotland, and the whiskey distillery the author did a wonderful job of penning the imagery , and descriptions to give the pages life . With the added historical details this romance is perfect for all who Love a chrismissy read 😀

  8. Not the usual romance novel! I enjoyed reading it. It’s is well written and an honest portrayal of how life and love flows. Set in a whiskey distillery in the snow the characters are wonderful and you can’t wait to pick up the book and check in on what’s happening next.

  9. Thank you to the Beauty and Lace Book club for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

    I found this to be a very enjoyable read. It has a bit of everything, mystery, romance, history and best of a all a happy ending. I will now be looking for more Karen Swan books to read in the future.

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