2016 Reviews · contemporary fiction · Ireland · women's fiction

Book Review: Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly

Title: Secrets of a Happy Marriagesecrets-of-a-happy-marriage.jpg

Author: Cathy Kelly

Published: October 25th  2016

Publisher: Orion Publishing Co

Pages: 320

Genres: Fiction, Women, Ireland

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 3 stars

The wonderful and heart-warming new novel full of secrets, lies and family ties from Sunday Times bestselling author, Cathy Kelly.

Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess’s stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won’t replace the one she’s been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn’t unnerved by anything – apart from facing the man who left her at the alter, and he’s on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since – but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it’s too late?

My review:

I was lucky to score a copy of Secrets of a Happy Marriage from a friend who is a Cathy Kelly fan. I wouldn’t consider myself a devoted fan to Kelly’s works, but I do enjoy reading Kelly’s books from time to time. What I admire about Cathy Kelly’s writing is the warm and engaging tone she takes with each of her novels. For me, standout reads in the past I have enjoyed from Cathy Kelly are; It Started With Paris and The Honey Queen. I recall appreciating the lightness of the novels, as well as Kelly’s focus on the everyday complications that the modern woman faces in life.

Cathy Kelly’s latest novel, titled Secrets of a Happy Marriage, is focussed on a particular family – the Brannigans, their relations and the problems plaguing their relationships. As the book opens, preparations are in place for an upcoming big birthday celebration for one important Brannigan. It will bring all of the Brannigans together under one roof. However, what is meant to be a happy occasion, brings to forefront insecurities and current problems. The book chooses to focus on three main character voices to tell the unfolding problems faced by the Brannigan family. The first is told through the eyes of newest family member Bess. When the reader meets Bess, it is clear poor Bess is desperately trying to fit in with the Brannigans. Following in the footsteps of the much loved matriarch of the Brannigans is no easy task, as Bess discovers. The birthday party is Bess’ chance to prove her worth to her new family but it all seems too hard. The second character focus in Secrets of a Happy Marriage, is Bess’ stepdaughter Jojo. Jojo is not at a good point in her life, suffering from grief, infertility issues and marriage problems simultaneously. Jojo has her reservations about Bess and is adamant Bess will never replace her beloved Mother. Jojo’s angst about her stepmother is also exacerbated by her inability to conceive a child. Finally, the third perspective in this novel comes from cousin Cari. Career girl Cari has been hiding from the world, since her fiancé left her at the altar. The birthday celebrations, where this said fiancé is on the guest list, opens up old wounds that have only just started to heal. Secrets of a Happy Marriage looks at the problems each of these characters face, alongside a large cast of secondary characters, including a surprise visitor. It is a story that really gets the reader to consider what the true secrets are to a successful marriage. Are there any?

Secrets of a Happy Marriage is a book that is doused with Kelly’s trademark catchy Irish storytelling. Overall, I liked the messages that are contained through the storyline, revolving around the themes of family, friendship, marriage, bereavement, trust, depression and infertility. These are issues that touch anyone, of any age or gender. What I also appreciated about this novel was the subject matter. I liked how Kelly gave the main storyline to two mature characters, who highlight it is possible to have a second chance at love later in life. Kelly explores the complexities of these relationships and second marriages, with the impact felt by immediate family members and friends. Kelly also looks at the ability to move past grief and move on from the death of a loved one, which is emotional, as a well as heartbreaking. Kelly tackled this delicate issue well and it was refreshing to read a male perspective on this situation. On the whole, the characters featured in Secrets of a Happy Marriage were believable and their situations realistic. I enjoyed reading about their various pathways but there were just too many characters overall. I felt confused by the sheer range of secondary characters featured in Secrets of a Happy Marriage and as a result, I didn’t completely engage with any particular character. However, despite the book being character heavy, the points that I did enjoy about the novel ensured that this added up to a good read overall.

Secrets of a Happy Marriage is a touching book on family dynamics, love and hope that amounted to a satisfying read for me. While I just liked, not loved this book, I did appreciate the little advice anecdotes on marriage, contained at the opening of each chapter. It was a nice touch and had me thinking how I could apply these to my own marriage. Food for thought, thanks to bestselling author Cathy Kelly.

Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly was published in October 2016 by Orion Publishing Co.

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