Secrets from the Past by Barbara Taylor Bradford

SECRETS
Secrets from the Past by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Moving from the hills above Nice to the canals and romance of Venice and the riot-filled streets of Libya, Secrets From The Past is a moving and emotional story of secrets, survival and love in its many guises. Thirty-year old Serena Stone is a war photographer who has followed in her famous father’s footsteps. But after eight years, the danger and adrenaline rush take their toll. When her legendary father dies unexpectedly, she steps away from the war zone to reassess her life. Serena begins to write her father’s biography, takes the first chapters to Harry Redford, his best friend and frontline colleague. Harry asks Serena to go to Venice to look after her former lover and colleague, Zachary North, who has come out of the Afghan battlefields suffering from mental and physical exhaustion. Against her better judgment, Serena agrees to go to Zac’s side… It is Zac who offers to help her tackle her father’s huge legacy of iconic photographs. One collection about Venice, entitled La Serenissima, has never been seen before. It is among these images that Serena stumbles across pictures that threaten to turn her world upside down. In search of the truth about her father, her family and her own life, Serena traces the secrets of the past in a quest to understand a story from decades earlier.

With very contemporary – even ‘in the news’ kind of content, Barbara Taylor Bradford’s new novel delivers both powerful romance and believable intrigue. It is also a little edgier than most contemporary romances, really dealing, on a very personal level, with the individual’s struggles with aftermath of war.

Serena Stone works as a photojournalist in some of the most war-ravaged places on the planet. The finality of a death –inability to reconcile or complete some phases of a relationship, marks the opening. The horror of war, as well as regrets, create a very dark backdrop that gives impact to the emotional content.

Zac, Serena’s former lover – a relational that still evokes strong feelings of regrets and anger – is re-introduced to her life. With him, she begins what seems an innocent project; a photographed documentary collection of her father’s works…that suddenly leads to the unexpected. Photographs in Venice suggest something of another life, and Serena is forced to face questions about her family, and relationships, that she did not expect.

Zac is not the man he once was – not less, but somehow, more. He’s suffered, he’s been in violent situations, he seems, at times, dangerous. We all so want to Serena believe that his emotions are more heartfelt, his apologies honest – you cannot help but think that the Zac she aids today is a more genuine person than ever before. And, we discover that Serena was less than 100% truthful to him…we start to believe there is hope for these two, yet.

Everything you expect from a Barbara Taylor Bradford book is there – the well-developed relationships, depth of characters/family relationships, the twists in the plot that make it all so unpredictable.

While some readers might favor some of Barbara Taylor Bradford’s earlier works, I love that she still produces strong, self-actualized female characters and that she does indeed confront very contemporary issues. Style and story – it all goes hand-in-hand here. Her work is still head and shoulders above the best out there today. Secrets from the Past must go on your summer reading list.

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