Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: The Christmas Secret

Another year, another Karen Swan Christmas novel! I admit that I don't really consider Swan's winter releases as Christmas books anymore. The holiday might be in the title but it's not really in the story. Now that I'm approaching them that way, I enjoy them a lot more. Swan's most recent, The Christmas Secret, was lovely and is probably my favourite of all of her holiday novels! 

Here's the synopsis:
Alex Hyde is in demand. An executive coach par excellence, she's the person who the Great and the Good turn to when the pressure gets too much - she can change the way they think, how they operate; she can turn around the very fortunes of their companies.
Her waiting list is months' long, but even she can't turn down the highly lucrative crisis call that comes her way a few weeks before Christmas, regarding the troublesome - and troubled - head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland. Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees.
It should be business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, when she gets to the remote island of Islay, with the winter snow falling, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone. Memories she would rather forget come back to haunt her. For once she's not in control, but with Christmas and her deadline fast approaching, she must win Lochlan's trust.
Yet as she fulls ever closer to him, boundaries become blurred, loyalties loosen and Alex finds herself faced with an impossible choice as she realizes nothing and no one is as they first seemed. 
I loved Alex. She was a bit difficult to like and that's why I loved her. I'm glad Swan wrote such a strong, successful, confident woman. Alex kicks ass and takes names and has nothing to apologize for (you don't see Lochlan or any of the other men running Kentallen Distilleries apologizing for being successful now do you?) Even though I liked her right away, the more I learned about Alex, the more I liked her. She starts to let her guard down a little bit and it was so nice to read as she realized that it's ok to open up to others and make friends and lasting connections.

Speaking of Alex opening up...I think the only thing that drove me a bit batty with this book was how long it took to explain Alex's background. I was fine with the other mystery taking awhile to be completely unraveled (I think I had it mostly figured out but it was still a bit of a surprise when it was all unveiled!). I think that was because it was an actual mystery whereas Alex's secret was something that she didn't feel she could or should share, even when she was starting to open up with Lochlan. But the historical secret that impacts so much of present day? I loved it and it added an extra depth to the overall story.

I was surprised at how much I loved the setting of this novel. I don't know family is Scottish so I'm always drawn to books set there. But a story set at a distillery was really interesting. I learned a bit about the whisky making business (and I hope Swan did a lot of research - you know the kind ;) - while writing this book!) but it wasn't so overwhelming that I felt like it was all whisky, all the time. It was unique and definitely one I'll think about for awhile yet.

The Christmas Secret was a really lovely and enjoyable read. I did not want to put it down! I was sad when it was over but Karen Swan wrote such a great story with an ending that left me feeling fulfilled. The last few Swan novels have been so great and I'm really hopeful her next one will be just as fantastic!

*An advanced copy was provided by the distributor, Publisher's Group Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

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