Keep a Little Secret
I love early 20th century history. The world was such a changing place then, with modern technology just taking its first hesitant steps onto the stage and women beginning to find their place in the world beyond being a wife and mother. The changes these years saw had to be some of the most astounding to ever touch humanity.
Charlotte Tucker is living in these exciting times. The year is 1939 and Charlotte is ready to shake off the dust of home, take her teaching degree, and see the world. Or at least Oklahoma. Her first stop is the farm where she will be boarding for the school year. While her welcome from most of the farm hands is warm, she is shocked by the cold reception she receives from Owen Wallace. Clearly the man has issues! As she gets to know Owen and his sister Hannah, she realizes that those issues are deep and all centered around the people about her. She likes what she sees of them though, and wishes them luck in solving their dark secret. Then mysterious and dangerous events begin to happen around the farm and whispers as well as circumstances begin to point at Owen. Can she trust her own instincts? Or is she being deluded by love?
Owen has never been good with words or pretty ladies. But the new school marm has him wishing he could head back to the classroom and learn both. Just as he is making progress in his own backward way with the lovely Charlotte, events around him begin to spiral out of control. He knows his own surly nature makes him the primary suspect, not to mention the unfortunate fact that his habit of spying around the ranch has landed him near trouble more than once. Can he clear his name and protect Charlotte from whatever is going on around them?
Owen and Charlotte’s romance definitely got off to a rough start for me. Owen was so obnoxious he bordered on alpha ass, rather than just alpha jerk. Charlotte did a few things which were simply TSTL – there’s no other way to say it. Then about halfway through both characters settled into themselves and their relationship, improving overall mood and intelligence. By the end of the novel I liked them together and was able to enjoy their courtship. That was an aspect of the book that was a pleasant surprise: Courtship. It wasn’t just hanging out or solving crimes together but there were a few simple dates, something I always love to see.
I also loved reading about this time and location. It was fascinating to find out that there were once roller rink tents that came to town, as opposed to permanent roller skating rinks. It was fun seeing the mix of cars and wagons, learning how people were slowly adjusting to having new conveniences everywhere rather than just in the big cities. Garlock always fills her books with some odd, quirky characters and this time around they were good-spirited and added to the color of the place.
Those that weren’t quirky characters mostly represented hard working country people who were used to hard times and pitching in to get the job done. The memory of the war that was and the sense of a war to come was woven lightly in the book, letting us know people were thinking about it but not yet at the point where it superseded thoughts of what was happening at home. The depression was just behind everyone and that thought was prevalent in their thinking and way of doing things, with the young being optimistic about the future and their elders seemingly still frightened by the recent horrors of the past. There is a sweet secondary romance between Owen’s sister Hannah and farm hand Hale which seems to highlight that sense of hope.
The big mystery was a bit of a let down, and everything that went on around it seemed a bit of a stretch. The villain of the piece was one of those uber baddies who has no real reason for being evil other than he just enjoys it. I understand there must be people like that in the world, it just doesn’t always work for me in a book. In this case I found it a tad far-fetched.
Garlock’s last romance left me wanting to smack the hero around. This one left me happy for all the characters. If you are a fan of Garlock’s or Americana, this book is a good read for a lazy afternoon.