Sisters and Secrets
by Jennifer Ryan
Genre: Adult Women’s Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
If you love Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, then you won’t want to miss this newest novel by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ryan.
There’s nothing more complicated than the relationship among family…Especially when the Silva Sisters are keeping secrets.
For Sierra it means returning home with her two little boys after a devastating Napa wildfire takes her home, her job, and even the last mementos of her late husband, David. Determined to start over, how can she ever reveal the truth—that her husband may have led a double life?
To the world, Amy’s world is perfect: handsome husband, delightful children, an Instagram-worthy home. But behind this facade lies an awful truth: her marriage is rocky, her children resentful, her home on the verge of breaking up.
Heather, impulsive, free-spirited, and single mom to an adorable little girl, lives for the moment wearing a carefree smile. But she refuses to reveal the truth about her daughter’s father, and his identity remains a mystery even to her family.
As the Silva Sisters secrets are revealed, each realizes that there is more to their family than meets the eyes…and forgiveness may be the only way to move forward and reclaim true happiness at last.
Sisters and Secrets is a moving novel of sisterhood, second chances, and the secrets that have the power to break or bond families—and alter destinies.
Flames burned bright orange and red on both sides of the two-lane road as they consumed and destroyed everything in their path. Homes, businesses, multimillion-dollar vineyards. Nothing was spared as the fire climbed over the Napa Valley hills, unrelenting in its destruction. Sierra prayed it spared everyone on the road leading out, especially her sons.
She drove, heart pounding, fear amped to infinity, with her clammy palms locked on the steering wheel. Bumper to bumper, traffic moved at a snail’s pace. Like her, the other residents had been notified too late to gradually evacuate. The sheer number of people trying to escape all at once down a single lane prevented them from racing away from the flames. The other lane was left open to emergency vehicles that occasionally sped into the belly of the beast. Everyone had to feel exactly like her: desperate to flee before this dark and dangerous road became their grave.
She loved watching the flames dance in her woodburning stove, but driving through a wildfire made her feel like she was inside an inferno. Trapped. A wave of terror shot through her, cold fear dancing down her spine. She wanted out. Now.
Sierra glanced at her two small sons in the back seat, danger inches away outside. Helpless to eradicate it, she sucked in a breath to calm the fear and focus on getting them out of here as safely as possible. Every instinct told her to stomp on the gas, jump in the other lane, speed past everyone, and get them to safety no matter what. But like everyone else, she tried to stay orderly and calm.
Noxious fumes, unbelievable heat, and fire surrounded them. Nothing and no one was a match for Mother Nature’s firestorm. Ash, smoke, and sparks blew all around them while the satellite radio cut in and out, the signal blocked by the thick smoke obliterating their view of the night sky. Fear knotted her gut and rising panic sped up her heartbeat. Every second trapped within the blaze raging on both sides of them made it harder to keep it together for her two little boys.
She thought about their lives, how they’d already suffered a great loss when their father died, and all they had ahead of them. She didn’t want it to end this way. She wanted to see them grown, happy, healthy, living the life they chose and thriving.
“Mom.” Danny’s voice shook. “The window is hot.”
“Don’t touch it.” She’d flipped the vent system to recirculate, but the smoky stench permeated the car along with the immense heat. The acrid scent turned her stomach and left a sour taste in her mouth.
Oliver held his favorite blanket over his mouth and nose. His eyes held a world of worry, too great for one five-year-old to face and understand beyond the fact that the scene outside was scary as hell and he wanted to be far away.
So do I.
Frustration got the better of the guy in the pickup truck behind her and he laid on the horn. Where did he expect her to go? The line of cars had only moved ten feet in the last two minutes. At this rate, they wouldn’t get out of the fire zone before dawn.
At least, it felt that way.
A rush of adrenaline shot through her again, signaling the flight-or-fight response she’d felt when she’d seen the smoke and fire headed toward their home. She could neither fight it nor flee from it when it literally surrounded her. And so she tried her best to stay alert, remain calm, and pray this all worked out.
Three more fire engines sped past in the opposite lane. Reinforcements for the dozens she’d passed on the tedious and exceedingly dangerous trip out of here.
We’ll make it out. We have to.
She’d worked too hard the last eleven months to keep her head above water after her husband’s tragic car accident to have it all end like this . . . in a car, on a dark road, consumed by fire.
It felt too eerily close to how they lost David.
Sierra gripped the steering wheel even tighter to stop her hands from shaking and focused on the car in front of her, following it around another curve, not getting her hopes up when their speed increased even marginally, but telling herself steady as she goes was good enough, so long as they got out of this alive.
The thought of anything happening to her babies . . . She couldn’t go there. It stopped her heart. But that fear drove her to keep her head and do everything possible to get them out of this situation even as thoughts of their home, her job, and the future swamped her mind. She’d barely made it by these last many months. If she lost everything . . . What then?
How would she support herself and the boys?
More flashing red and white lights glowed against the thick smoke ahead. She inched her way toward the emergency vehicles, the cars slowing ahead of her as they approached what must be an intersection. Fire trucks and police cars blocked the cross street, drawing everyone’s attention and slowing them down as everyone stared to the side to see if the fire had destroyed everything down that road. Ahead, cars shot forward as if they were racehorses released from the starting gates as they passed the commotion and the open road broke free of the fire border.
Relief hit like a crashing wave.
We made it.
She didn’t really have a plan for where to go. She ran out of her house with the clothes on her back, her purse, an armful of personal files, and her two sons in tow with the stench of smoke heavy in the air and flames devouring the houses only six streets away. By now, for all she knew, her house and all those on her block were gone.
Bile rose to the back of her throat, the thought so terribly upsetting, their future left uncertain.
Right now, though, she’d take the thirty-five-mile-an-hour speeds, the open land and road ahead of her as she outran the fire and smoke and spotted the sign for Yountville and the acclaimed restaurant the French Laundry.
“Is the fire gone?” Oliver asked.
She wished. “We’re getting farther and farther away from it.”
“Where are we going?” Danny leaned toward his brother so he could see through the windshield.
Now that the flames weren’t licking at the sides of the car and bearing down on them, Sierra took a moment to think about her next move. She needed a place to put the boys down to bed tonight. In the morning, there’d be news of the firefighters’ efforts to stop the massive blaze and whether or not her home had been spared. She hoped, but her heart sank with the realization it didn’t seem likely and they’d lost everything.
Sisters and Secrets is a family-driven women’s fiction (ugh! that label–but until they give us another one…) with a strong romance subplot. It follows a shortish period of time (several weeks, I think? Though the last chapter takes us into the “months” category) in the lives of the three Silva sisters, Amy, Sierra, and Heather; though all three of them are POV characters, Sierra by far has the lion’s share of the storyline. Other POV characters include their mother, Dede, and Mason, the “boy next door” from their childhood, and Sierra’s new love interest.
Overall this was a sweet story–Sierra’s had a very difficult year, losing her husband in an accident and their home to a wildfire in a matter of months. She and her two young boys move back in with her mother, and Sierra begins the difficult process of starting over. She manages to snag herself a job and a possible boyfriend in relatively short order and without too much effort on her part; it’s hard to begrudge someone who’s clearly gone through a lot in not a lot of time, but honestly, it really felt like she was suddenly getting everything she needed with very little conflict. Older sister Amy had to put a bit more effort into fixing her strained relationship with her own husband, but honestly, that too was pretty painless and fixed in what amounted to a conversation.
And then there was Heather, the youngest sister, a single mother who’s painted as a bit flighty and irresponsible, though she’s trying to be a good parent to her daughter…while possibly still looking for love in all the wrong places.
And finally, we have the biggest “secret” of the book. This one was a doozy, and definitely ratcheted up the drama and conflict of the story for a while. It too ends up resolving itself rather easily and painlessly in the end, though–yes, someone was made to feel very bad for a while for questionable choices that were made, and relationships were definitely strained, but in the end the most injured party just decided to magnanimously forgive the wrongs that were done against them, even though forgetting probably wasn’t ever going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that things were resolved in that relationship–they probably should be, eventually!–but I really felt the situation deserved more effort in its resolution than ended up going into it. It was sweet, but I couldn’t help but feel that the injured party was bestowing her forgiveness on the one who wronged her like a gift that she wasn’t totally convinced was truly deserved.
That ending, though–cuteness galore!
TL; DR: Sisters and Secrets is a cute story about relationships and starting over in which conflicts are minimal and resolved rather easily, and characters are clearly slotted into “good” and “bad” categories; though there is some redemption it’s not terribly hard won. Overall it’s a pleasant way to spend a few hours, even if there is very little suspense about how things will turn out for everyone in the end.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
About the author:
Jennifer Ryan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted and McBrides Series, writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances.
Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home, and how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.
Please visit her website at www.jennifer-ryan.com for information about upcoming releases.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of SISTERS AND SECRETS by Jennifer Ryan, we’re giving away a paperback set of Sisters and Secrets and The Me I Used to Be to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback set of Sisters and Secrets and The Me I Used to Be by Jennifer Ryan. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Books. Giveaway ends 7/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!