Secret Love, by Brenda Jackson, is almost two books in one. It starts off with Jacob Madaris getting a phone call in the middle of the night from his best friend, Sterling, who tells him he is sending his wife home to him on the private jet because she had just been attacked in her home. But, before you can get to the bottom of that mystery, Jackson takes the reader back to the beginning to let the Jacob and Diamond saga unfold. It’s an interesting trick that I haven’t seen many books pull off successfully, but this one does…almost. The only problem is trying to tell two stories means one gets a little shortchanged.
In this instance, when Jackson comes back to the current story, many of the plot points are underdeveloped, and big leaps are made to get everything all tied up at the end of the book. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Jacob Madaris is in charge of the family ranch and is doing a damn good job of making it run. He’s divorced, his wife having been completely incompatible with his lifestyle, and determined not to make that mistake again. He and his friend Sterling have a friendly wager, which Jacob loses. To pay off the debt, he has to agree to let Sterling’s actress friend, Diamond Swain, enjoy three weeks of rest and relaxation on the ranch. Jacob, of course, is reluctant. The last thing he needs is some starlet causing a ruckus on the ranch.
But, as it turns out, Diamond is not the woman he’d imagined her to be. She’s kind and considerate. She’s empathetic, and generous. She falls in love immediately with the ranch, unlike Jacob’s first wife. Despite all his best efforts, he ends up falling in love. Despite her best efforts, she falls for him too. She is also divorced, from a superstar race car driver, and not looking to get involved again. But, knowing how deeply he cherishes his privacy, and knowing how little the media cares for those sorts of things, she agrees to marry him, but only if they keep it a secret.
This book requires a little bit of suspension of disbelief. Not that they couldn’t keep a marriage secret from the press, but that he would keep it from his very close-knit family. But, keep it from them he does. She goes back to work on a film, he stays at the ranch, and they meet up at random times for romantic assignations.
After learning how the pair comes together, the action shifts back to the present day. Diamond comes home to Whispering Springs and Jacob needs to find out who is threatening his wife. Diamond, gets a talking to and decides they should share their secret with the world, starting with his family.
The “mystery” of who is stalking Diamond, and why, was dealt with too quickly to be satisfying. I almost wish it would have been left out entirely, and something else entered in its place to give conflict to the story. The motivation for the culprit was fine, but there was no context for it at all. It was just dropped in as a plot point without, as we say in legalese, “laying the groundwork” for it.
This is a great book for readers looking for older couples, readers who think the current crop of romance books are too blunt with how they write sex scenes, or readers who won’t get too frustrated with a hero who keeps things from the heroine “for her own good.” It’s a solid, happily-ever-after, old-school romance.
Learn more or order a copy of Secret Love by Brenda Jackson, out now: