The Secret Book of Flora Lee
Grade : B+

The Secret Book of Flora Lee is a genuinely interesting mystery that keeps the reader focused and keenly flipping the pages, even when the answers are sometimes frustrating.

Young Flora Lee Linden is out in the middle of a wooden copse one day when she sees them. The Whisperwood, the magical creatures that she and her older sister, Hazel, have conjured through days of childhood play, special and sacred to the two of them alone. Flora is five, and Hazel fourteen; they’re among many London children who’ve been evacuated into the country to escape the ravages of the Blitz. They’ve been living with the Aberdeen family – caring mother Bridie, and Harry, her teenage son (who is of a similar age to Hazel) both kind and lovely people. Following the Whisperwood, young Flora disappears without a trace from the banks of the Thames. Hazel blames herself for her sister’s presumed death.

Twenty years later, a grown-up Hazel lives a bibliophile’s dream life; the smart flat in Bloomsbury, a handsome and kind fiancé named Barnaby, and a job with friends Tim and Poppy at Hogan’s Bookshop, which specializes in rare books. But she’s planning on joining Sotheby’s auction house soon, which means she’ll be moving up in the world but will have to say goodbye to people and work she’s grown fond of. All of her plans for the future screech to a halt when she’s presented with a new book: Whisperwood and the River of Stars, by Peggy Andrews. Hazel is stunned and, reading the book, notes it’s the exact same tale she once told her sister. What sort of coincidence is at play? Furious, hopeful, and thrilled all at once, Hazel sets about figuring out how this Peggy knows the secret special story she used to tell to her (apparently deceased) baby sister. As she investigates, a strain is placed on her relationship with Barnaby and she finds herself drawn back into now-artist Harry’s orbit as she tries to track down who spilled the beans about her storytelling.

When Hazel seeks to confront the sheltered, American Peggy, Peggy insists that the book is an original tale, made up by her mother Linda and told to her in childhood. Peggy tries to set aside her nagging doubts about Hazel, but finds she cannot write her off her claims. Curiosity eventually gets the better of her, and she tries to figure out Hazel’s story from her side of the ocean. Along the way, she deals with an attraction to Wren, a childhood crush who seems not to return her feelings and is among the many boys her mother has warned her off of.

The two women slowly begin to unravel the secrets of the past, the future becomes less certain, and more and more ends up at stake. Where is Flora, what secret is Linda keeping, and is Hazel risking it all for fool’s gold?

The Secret Book of Flora Lee draws the audience in close and keeps them suffocatingly smothered against the bosom of suspense. Along the way, there are two love stories, cozy and frightening flashbacks, and a peek into the world of rare manuscripts. The adventure is well worth following along, but the book does indulge in just a hair too much sap.
Flora and Peggy are both engaging women – one who has lived a lot and carries scars from the war, the other is naïve and must confront some uncomfortable truths about her own mother. The adventure they go on is separate but compelling, and highlighted by well-placed flashbacks. The romances are sweet and burnished by the joy of first love, but be warned that one of them involves emotional infidelity.

There are some light flaws sprinkled in. The book’s final twist is intriguing, but perhaps feels like too much of a red herring situation, with the last twenty pages or so easily disposable. And the sweet glurge of those pages, including a sappy epilogue, nearly wears the out book’s welcome. But that’s not enough for me to significantly downgrade it as a whole. The Secret Book of Flora Lee is a fine little mystery, and one that keeps the reader guessing until the end.

Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: B+

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : May 7, 2023

Publication Date: 05/2023

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Recent Comments …

  1. I’ve not read The Burnout, but I’ve read other Sophie Kinsella’s books and they are usually hilarious rather than angsty…

Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at, follow her on Twitter at or contribute to her Patreon at or her Ko-Fi at
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