Title: The Christmas Secret
Author: Karen Swan
Published: October 31st 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
They say that behind every great man, there’s a great woman, and behind London’s most powerful leaders, there stands only one—Alex Hyde, business coach par excellence. She’s the woman they turn to for advice and strategy when the pressure gets too much. So when Alex gets a call offering an unbelievable sum to discreetly manage a family member on the board of an esteemed Scottish whisky company, it’s business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, she’s never met anyone like Lochlan Farqhuar before. CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, he’s also the son and heir of the company’s founder, and a man for whom there is no “no.” He’s a maverick, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees. But as she tasks herself with finding a way in, she finds that for once, she’s not the one in control. And when she stumbles across a chance discovery that changes everything, she’s suddenly not so sure she should be.
The festive season is fast approaching and that means there are some fantastic Christmas themed books about to be released to help us get into the Christmas spirit. Karen Swan is an author who is well known for her Christmas themed novels and she returns this year with a brand new release, The Christmas Secret.
The remote island of Islay is the festive backdrop to Karen Swan’s latest novel, The Christmas Secret. When career woman Alex Hyde answers the desperate call a few weeks out from Christmas from a whisky distillery in Scotland regarding their wild CEO Lochlan Farqhuar, she feels compelled to help the fledging company. Alex is the person company’s turn to in times of crisis. Alex is able to offer strategies, support and wise business decisions when times are tough. Alex thinks this case will be a walk in the park but she is soon proven wrong. She quickly discovers Lochlan, the maverick CEO and perhaps the source Kentallen Distilleries troubles, is difficult to tame, let alone pin down to close her business deal. With a deadline to contend with and the Christmas period fast approaching, Alex must summon all the strength she can to save herself and Kentallen from ruin. Memories from the past, buried secrets, trust and loyalty all form part of Alex’s journey to restore Kentallen and its CEO to an equilibrium. Alex’s time in Islay is an unforgettable one, which will force her to make big choices and connections she never thought she would be faced with at this remote location.
There is nothing better than settling down to a festive themed read in the weeks building up to Christmas. Karen Swan’s backlist features some fantastic yuletide themed reads that I have enjoyed very much in the past. This latest release from Karen Swan, titled The Christmas Secret, is another fabulous addition to the Karen Swan collection and it is novel that demonstrates her strength in delivering a compelling Christmas based yarn.
The Christmas Secret is based around a fascinating main plot. It centres on a high powered young business woman, Alex Hyde, who has quite an interesting job. Alex is called in by companies to help rescue them from potential disaster. She is an executive coach, leading the way in ensuring companies make the best decisions possible to keep their business running to an optimal level. We soon learn through following the character of Alex that this is not an easy job but Alex seems to relish being at the top of her game – her waiting list is expansive. It initially surprised me that Alex chose to skip her long waiting list and slot Kentallen Distilleries into her schedule so close to the Christmas period but she was obviously drawn to the company and its partners as much as I was!
There is a beautiful sub plot that plays out in The Christmas Secret. At the opening of some, not all of the chapters in the novel, we are provided with letters and recollections pertaining to a real life shipping disaster that occurred off the remote island of Islay in 1918. I loved these sections of the narrative and found myself looking forward to and even flicking ahead of the book to find out when the next 1918 section would be included. I appreciated that Karen Swan left the significance and resolution to this sub narrative until the close of the book. This was a great plot to encourage me to stay with the book until the bitter end!
Swan’s setting choice of The Christmas Secret is very appealing. It really ensures this book is the ideal holiday read. Even living in Australia, I was able to visualise the cold, remote and mysterious island of Islay thanks to Swan’s prose. Likewise, the local inhabitants and supporting characters in the book compliment the setting and all came across as authentic. I loved my chance to get a little slice of the Scottish locale of Islay, I could taste the shortbread and could easily imagine myself enjoying a wee dram of whisky!
There is no doubt that Karen Swan has embarked upon a significant amount of research to develop her main storyline for The Christmas Secret. With a distillery at the centre of the action in the novel, Swan’s descriptions of the whisky business was enlightening. It is always an added bonus when an author is able to insert a level of fun education into their novels and The Christmas Secret’s focus on whisky made for a colourful read.
Swan’s character list is a fine aspect of this novel. Alex, the book’s title protagonist, has some great qualities. She offers a mix between strong and vulnerable and she also has a great back story, which I enjoyed uncovering through the progression of the book. Alex is paired well against leading renegade and the complicated Lochlan. I really liked the interplay between these two opposites. The road they travelled together was an interesting one and the final conclusion was well worth the wait, that’s for sure!
The Christmas Secret is a delectable novel that you will want to devour over the festive period. I suggest a dram a whisky as the perfect accompaniment to this novel. With a tension filled narrative, loveable characters, a unique Scottish setting and an extra war time storyline added for good measure makes The Christmas Secret a staple read this Christmas!
The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan was published on October 31st 2017 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Christmas Secret, Karen Swan, visit here.
*I wish to thank Pan Macmillan for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.