Author: Jessica Redland
Published: September 2019 by Boldwood Books
Category: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Book Review
Danniella is running from her past, so when she arrives at the beautiful seaside resort of Whitsborough Bay, the last thing on her mind is making friends.
Alison is fun, caring and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But beneath the front, she is a lost soul, stuck in a terrible relationship, with body confidence issues and no family to support her.
Karen’s romance has taken a back seat to her fitness business. But she doesn’t want to give up on love quite yet. If only those mysterious texts would stop coming through…
The Secret To Happiness centres on three very different women with completely different lives—Alison, Karen and Daniella. They are strangers…until their paths cross, and what develops is an incredible bond of friendship and support.
Alison, Daniella and Karen are all dealing with personal problems. Alison’s life changed dramatically when she was twelve and it’s impacted on her ever since. She has issues with self image and a lack of confidence, not helped by her boyfriend Dave’s grumpiness, total lack of empathy and compassion. She hides her pain, makes light of things to her workmates and people she knows and comfort eats, allowing herself to be treated badly by Dave because she has no-one else to turn to. Until she meets Daniella and Karen and admits to herself how she really feels.
She could fill in the rest of the sentence for him. No wonder you’re so fat. No wonder you keep ordering bigger uniforms. No wonder the stairs leave you breathless. No wonder we never have sex. She surveyed the plateful of pastries, the full-fat butter, the luxury jam, her third giant mug of milky, sugary tea. All for one person. Yes. No wonder.
Daniella is running from a fairly recent trauma, moving from place to place, B&B to B&B, unable to let anyone get close in case there were questions asked she couldn’t face. Certainly not now, and possibly never. Then, finding herself in Whitsborough Bay, she decides to rent for more privacy, hoping she might have found her haven. The last thing she thought she wanted or needed was a friend.
Karen has been engaged to Ryan for five years but developing their PT and fitness business seems to be dividing them, rather than cementing their relationship. Then the anonymous texts start landing in Karen’s messages.
I really enjoyed The Secret To Happiness, the way the three women were drawn to each other and strong friendships were formed. The characters are wonderfully developed as each of their stories unfold. They learn to overcome the sadnesses in their pasts and move on, supporting each other even when they can’t see past their own bleak futures.
The story has darker undertones, challenges and emotional upheavals, which are thoughtfully handled. To counteract those issues are the lighter, humorous moments during the interactions of the three women, which were a joy to read. A mystery thread added another layer and kept me guessing.
Alison, Daniella and Karen are all relatable and realistic, with flaws most people would recognise. The narrative encompasses themes and emotions relating to grief, emotional bullying, food related disorders and betrayal among others, eliciting empathy for the characters. Jessica Redland has created a well written, easy to read, poignant yet wonderfully uplifting story.
Although The Secret To Happiness is part of a series, I had no trouble reading it as a stand alone.
About the Author
Jessica Redland lives on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast in England – the inspiration for the settings in her books – with her husband, daughter, cat, Sprocker Spaniel puppy, and an ever-growing collection of collectible teddy bears. Although if the puppy has her way, the collection will be reduced to a pile of stuffing and chewed limbs!
She’s an HR Tutor on a freelance basis and tries, often successfully, to fit writing around that.