Once Upon a Secret
I outgrew the fantasy of falling in love with a rock star a long time ago. When I saw that Once Upon a Dream had a rock star hero (and I looked at the goofy guy on the cover), I wasn’t too excited. After a few pages, though the book sucked me in. Unfortunately a silly secret at the core of the story and an inconsistent writing style didn’t sustain me.
Tori Glenn is raising her brother, Kevin, since her parents died in a tragic accident. She takes him to interview Brad Daniels, the hottest rocker in this fictional world, for his school paper, and Brad becomes smitten with Tori. Tori, a chiropractor, ends up treating Brad and getting to know him better. As they fall in love, Brad is terrified Tori will discover a secret he’s hiding. Tori worries that Brad has too much influence over Kevin, and she’s proven right when Kevin does something stupid.
Andorka’s writing initially drew me in – the book starts out interesting and the hero and heroine’s relationship kept that initial interest. Tori and Brad are cute together, and the sexual banter between them made me smile. Brad’s confident on the outside, but underneath his quips and banter, he’s extremely insecure. He’s not as arrogant as you would expect a rock star to be. Brad is contradictory in some aspects, though, in that he tries to discourage young girls not to adore him so much that they would “lay down their lives” for him, but he’s unaware of the influence he has on Kevin.
Tori is a responsible big sister to Kevin, and she constantly looks out for his best interests. His education is her main concern, but Kevin starts to chafe under her guidance and wants to focus on music. Watching her try to deal with a more grown up brother whose interests are so opposed to what she wants for him is interesting. She also has a unique career. You don’t see many chiropractor heroines, so it’s nice to see something a little out of the ordinary. I liked how she got over her initial misgivings about Brad and spent time with him anyway.
There were small things about Andorka’s style that pulled me out of some scenes. For instance, 15-year-old Kevin accuses Tori of being on his case “like white on rice” or of being “as jittery as a smoker who ran out of cigarettes.” From everything I’ve noticed, I think teenagers probably have more current, slang expressions than those two. The first love scene also made me roll my eyes a couple of times. Brad’s nickname for Tori, which was Tulip, was cute at first but quickly got old from overuse.
The major flaw in this novel is Brad’s secret. It’s too easy to figure out, and though it is indeed a terrible problem for an adult to suffer through, the author didn’t make the best use of it as a plot point.
In some ways Once Upon a Secret would have made a great young adult novel. The focus on Brad’s appeal to and influence on the younger set in addition to the education emphasis would be perfect for a teenager to read. Also, Brad’s fans seem to be mostly teenagers. However, Brad and Tori’s relationship is definitely adult. With an appealing couple like Tori and Brad, Once Upon a Secret is good enough that you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your time reading it. I just wish it had had a more compelling secret.