I’ve read every single Jessica Redland novel and loved them all. However, I have to say that, with this book, she has stepped up to another level entirely.
The Secret to Happiness is a beautifully-written story about three women who are each carrying burdens, and whose lives are not what they appear to be on the surface. Each one of them is dealing with issues which cause them pain, though, on the surface at least, they appear to be perfectly happy, well-adjusted women.
And, to a certain extent, that’s like all of us, isn’t it? We each put on a public face and step out into the world, and few people, if any, know of the turmoil we may be suffering inside, because that’s what people do. We have our public faces and, if we’re very lucky, we have some special people in our lives who get to see the real us, and are there for us when the smiles turn to tears and our true selves are revealed.
For Alison, Karen and Danniella, life is not as kind as it appears to be to those on the outside. Alison has self-esteem issues and a relationship that is sapping her confidence. Karen has a thriving business and a successful relationship, but she also clearly has an enemy, and she has no idea who that can be. Danniella is apparently a happily single woman, living in a lovely flat on the coast at Whitsborough Bay. But Danniella has a secret, and she may not be what she seems to be at all.
Three very different women with not very much in common. They are brought together because of a beach bootcamp – something that exists to help people get physically fit and healthy. But it’s the emotional health and wellbeing of these characters that needs repairing more than anything, and it could just be that it’s the friendship that forms between them that will be what saves them after all.
And this is what I loved best about the book. It shows the importance of friendship, and the strength that a genuine relationship between women can provide. Their mutual support – listening, understanding, being there for each other – is what enables the three protagonists to face up to their problems, and gives them the emotional resilience to look their troubles straight in the eye and begin, at last, to tackle them.
There is such depth and breadth to this story and the characters are so easy to relate to. Alison, with her poor body image and her sense of loneliness, even within the confines of a romantic relationship, is probably the character that is easiest to empathise with. Karen, with her thriving romance and strong business seems to be the one we should envy, but as the story develops we see that she is far more vulnerable than she initially seems. And then there’s Dannielle who is harder to understand and is clearly holding onto some huge emotional burden. She’s guarded and doesn’t let us in, but when her story unfolds it’s impossible not to shed a tear for her. In fact, all three women were so well drawn by the author that I just wanted to hug each and every one of them.
Jessica Redland’s stories are always a joy to read, but this really is exceptional. It’s always lovely to head back to Whitsborough Bay – her fictional North Yorkshire coastal setting which is based on Scarborough – and it’s nice to catch a glimpse or two of familiar characters from her previous books. But it’s fantastic to meet a whole new cast of people, who certainly stand out as special fictional creations and who remain in the mind long after the book is finished.
The Secret to Happiness is definitely the author’s best book to date and really showcases her talent for storytelling. I can only wait with delicious anticipation for what she delivers next.
You can buy The Secret to Happiness here.