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Public Secrets book cover

Title:  Public Secrets

Author: Nora Roberts

No. of Pages:  439

First Released:  1990

Synopsis (Courtesy of Joseph-Beth Booksellers):  “Emma McAvoy may have grown up in the limelight, but some secrets are hidden in a darkness no light can reach. Now on the verge of a successful career, and having fallen in love with the man of her dreams, Emma is looking to the future. Yet it’s the past that is about to catch her from behind.

For Emma, her childhood had been almost like a rags-to-riches fairy tale—until the tragic night that changed her family forever. But what Emma thinks she knows about that terrible night and the man she’s about to marry is only half the truth. The other half is locked away in the last place she’d ever think to look: her own memories. It’s a mystery a handsome and relentlessly driven homicide detective needs to solve in a case that’s haunted him for years . . . and a secret someone will kill to keep.”

Comments and Critique: This was a completely random book choice, as in I let Random.org choose a number, and the number coincided with this book, all in the spirit of the Random Reading Challenge.  I like a good Nora Roberts and consider her my go-to escapist literature, so I was not upset that this book was the next pick. 

When I purchased the book last year, it looked vaguely familiar.  Let me be clear; I have read a LOT of Nora Roberts.  Between haunting the library shelves in Germany for her books and purchasing almost all of the rest, I do believe that I have read most of her books.  There are only a few I have not gotten around to reading.  When I bought Public Secrets, I thought this was one of those that remained unread.  After reading the first page, I remembered the story.  It turns out I did read it more than ten years ago and just forgot that I had.  Big time #michellefail, but I figured this was a good one for the Flashback Challenge.  There is nothing wrong with re-read!

The best part about this story is that it is not, in my opinion, a typical Nora Roberts novel.  She breaks away from her formula and gives us something a bit different.  Yes, there is a romantic lead and a murder mystery, but the romance and the mystery itself play as the backstory to the overarching plot of Emma’s development and growth as a strong female character.  Rather than flashing back to Emma’s past in the first few chapters, the book actually starts out when Emma is three years old, and we follow her progression as she ages.  In addition, Emma is not the sole focus.  At times, the reader is able to get more insight into her father, at times the narrator focuses on her mother and stepmother.  The reader watches Emma grow, make poor decisions, and face the consequences.  It is a break from the formula, but it definitely works.

If my daughter were to come to me, in future years, and ask me which one Nora Roberts book should she read, I would almost have to say Public Secrets.  As a mother and a female, there are some very strong moral messages delivered in such a way that it is palatable to the reader.  Throughout the novel, Ms. Roberts shows us the damage that sex, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse can wring on a person (no, not the same person).  She shows us that to be popular, you can find ways to avoid drugs and alcohol when offered to you, that it is okay to wait, and more importantly, that you can and should stand up for yourself and your beliefs.  The most important message of all that Ms. Roberts passes along is the idea that it is okay, and sometimes necessary, to admit mistakes and ask for help.  These are ideas that some would argue need to be shared and discussed a bit more these days.

I am and always will be a Nora Roberts fan.  There may be books of hers which I would not call favorites, but I almost always enjoy her work.  Public Secrets is no exception.  Reading it again helped me understand just what a gem this book is, and reading it after having read so many of her other works made me realize how unique it is in the Roberts canon.  Ms. Roberts is not one to shy away from interesting or controversial topics, but I believe she outdid herself with this one.  Her tackling of domestic violence is spot on, from the emotional and mental abuse escalating to physical violence to the shame and guilt a person feels when in that situation.   Emma McAvoy is a character every woman should come to respect and admire for battling her personal demons and winning.  For those of you Nora Roberts fans who have not had the pleasure, I highly suggest picking up this selection as soon as possible so that you too can discover what a gem it is!

This selection counts for the 100+ Reading Challenge, the Read ‘n Review Challenge, the Random Reading Challenge, the Social Justice Challenge, the Women Unbound Challenge, the Thriller & Suspense Challenge, and the Flashback Challenge.  Dear FTC, I purchased this with my own money.

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