“He had two lives: one open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood … and another life running its course in secret … everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, was hidden from other people.” – Anton Chekhov
Douglas Black’s A Secret Love is a deceptive story, but only in the best possible way. This is a story that gives the reader the impression it’s something it’s not, and that’s one of the things that made this novella a single-sitting read.
James and Mark’s time together is stolen in short chunks of overnights and rare weekends, hidden away from the prying eyes of the public. It’s time spent together in which they remove their wedding rings and jealously covet every single moment they’re able to spend in each other’s arms before they have to separate, often going months before they’ll see each other again. It’s something they’ve been doing for the past eight years, this clandestine affair, and it hasn’t been easy, this hiding of their feelings for each other from the world, but now they’re counting down mere months before they can finally be together openly without fear of someone discovering their secret.
One of the things that kept me on the hook while reading A Secret Love was the anticipation of James and Mark finally revealing exactly what their secret was, but there were other things as well, not the least of which was my fear that something would go wrong for these men before they were able to grab a solid hold of the hope for their future. Douglas Black tells a magnetic story with two characters I found myself rooting for even when I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the truth of what it was they were hiding, though there was never a moment’s doubt these two men were meant to be together.
There are both good and bad things about a book leaving you wanting more, the good being that it’s a compliment to the author who’s created characters I don’t want to leave; the bad being that I wish he had expanded the story to include more opportunity for the reader to experience what happened between the time that Mark and James said goodbye for the last time and then were finally reunited again. The more of it could have been the difference maker between a story I liked a lot and a story I could have really loved.
Reviewed by: Lisa