Book – A Secret to Keep
Author – Railyn Stone
Star rating – ★★★☆☆
Plot – gives too much away, far too soon.
Characters – I find Sloane to be a wreck and Gates as the Alpha male with a soft side
Movie Potential – ★★★☆☆
Ease of reading – some sticky sentences that don’t gel properly.
Cover – a bit bland, but fits the story
Suitable Title – Yes
Would I read it again – Currently Undecided
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
This review contains spoilers, because it’s impossible to explain how this book made me feel, without them.
The first thing I have to say is that this book made me angry. Like, homicidal angry. I also have a few things to declare, before I go into my review:
1 – Railyn Stone is a new-to-me author
2 – If I hadn’t agreed to review this book for the blog tour, it would have been a DNF by Chapter 5
3 – The more I read of the book, the more I gain an appreciation – if not quite an understanding – of the story
Because I’ve had such a struggle with the book, it’s making reviewing it really hard, so I’m going to try to keep to bullet points and a brief explanation of those points, if I can.
This book sounded so interesting:
“Keeping secrets is a horrible way to live. Sloane Davis should know.
She’s kept her son a secret from his father for almost a year.
Now, her worst nightmare is coming true. Her ex is re-entering her professional life in the midst of the biggest project of her career. She’s about to come face to face with the only man she’s ever loved – her son’s father.
Gates McCall is a brash man. He hasn’t always been this way, but when Sloane walked out on him, something inside him broke. When his company’s newest acquisition brings the two of them together once more, little does he know seeing her will bring back a flood of memories, feelings, and an unexpected surprise.”
The story had so much potential, but the execution of the plot and the personality of the MC ‘Sloane’ don’t show off this great story to the potential it could be.
If this entire book had been in Gates’ POV, I could have easily given it a 4 or 5 star rating and a glowing review. Because it’s in Sloane’s POV and she’s made to be a victim, when – to me – she’s nothing more than a selfish user, I can’t go beyond 3 stars. And that’s being generous. For me, Gates’ POV and his character save this book from being a train wreck.
The main plot is this → Sloane and Gates were engaged, about a year ago. She left because she didn’t get along with Gates’ father, Victor, who thought she wasn’t good enough, because she wasn’t a ‘Blue Blood’. When Gates started working more and she found one innocent text from old friend Allie, who Victor did approve of, Sloane’s insecurities make her stupid. (Sorry, but it’s true) She leaves Gates, without warning, leaving a Dear John letter with his best friend. She doesn’t once stop to talk it out with him, to confront him or ask him to stop working so much.
So she leaves.
A year later, Gates shows up at her job and suddenly has control over a project dear to her heart. Whether they get the project or whether a big-rich company gets the job, balances on Gates being happy and convinced. So what does Sloane do? She panics, worrying that he’ll look at her and know she’s kept his 9-month old son a secret. So although this big project is on the line, she infuriates, accuses and mistreats Gates at every opportunity, blaming it on HIM. As if he’s always been at fault.
Then, through a series of ridiculous lies (again, I’m sorry) Sloane gets herself so far from the truth, that her time to tell Gates the truth runs out.
Chaos ensues, hearts are broken, feelings are hurt and lies are exposed.
Sloane is, by far, the biggest issue I had with this book. I find her such an awful main character. Main characters are supposed to be your friends. You’re supposed to root for them, want to see them get their HEA and feel for them when they’re sick or going through drama. I felt none of that for Sloane. Quite honestly, I hate her with a passion.
Here’s a few reasons why:
THIS. Just THIS! This is everything that is wrong with Sloane →
“Who do you think you are? You order people around and we’re all supposed to jump when you say so?”
She says this to Gates, but this is exactly how I feel about her. She’s so two-faced that she doesn’t even realise this is who she is. This quote represents exactly what Sloane does to everyone she encounters in the book : Gates, Evan, Aliyah, Chase, Hannah…everyone!
She’s selfish :
The biggest thing I hate about Sloane is that she spends the entire book acting like a victim and never once thinks about anyone else or how her actions affect others. Everything has to be about Sloane. She treats Gates like the Devil and doesn’t see what is so obvious – that he’s the one who got hurt. And now, in her pursuit to get him back – because, let’s face it, that’s what the entire book is about. She can pretend it’s to hide Brayden from him, but really she’s desperate to get Gates back and live the high life again – she hurts everyone else who cares about her. Honestly, I wonder how anyone likes her at all. All these people have been her best friend ‘forever’ and for years, but how come they’ve never got fed up of this selfish, egoist attitude before? I mean, if she was my friend, I’m sorry, but I would be slapping her into next week, to get her thinking straight or taking off, because life is too short to be putting up with this drama from her.
Gates – “Things are different for me now and I need you to know how dedicated I am.”
Sloane – “I don’t doubt you’re going to be here for me and Brayden.” She squeezed his hand as they sat facing one another. “I mean, wow, look at all of this, and even all of the gifts and things you’ve done for us so far. Gates, you don’t have to give me anything for me to know how dedicated you are.” He listened to her and smiled when she caressed his face, reassuring him or her love and devotion.”
Really? Because all you’ve done is doubt him and question whether he’ll be there for Brayden. That’s the ENTIRE point of the book! Also, because he was five minutes late to Brayden’s birthday party, you started acting like a judgemental cow, saying how HE’S never changed, when YOU’RE the one who walked away!
How is that, in any way, a normal reaction to something like that? I mean, materialistic much? Gates gives Sloane everything, throughout the story, and she never gives him anything back (other than Brayden, who she kept a secret and didn’t ever tell him about). Then, later, he gives her blueprints for a house and what does Sloane do? She thinks:
Really? This amazing, smart, sensitive man that you love is planning a future with you and your son, wants to build you a new home and all you can do is be an ungrateful cow? Why am I not surprised?
“She’d practically elevated their ‘fake’ relationship to a whole other level without consulting him.”
Um…no! NO. NO. NO!!! Not ‘practically’, Sloane. You did! Without one thought for his feelings or what it would do to Gates, Chase and everyone else around you.
I drives me mad, how Sloane acts. Then she goes and says that she misses how impulsive Gates is? No. It comes off as though she misses being treated like a SPOILED PRINCESS and that she misses his MONEY more than him. She misses having everything done for her and living with a guy who owns his own jet. And no – this isn’t just my opinion. This isn’t me reading anything out of context or imagining it, because I don’t like Sloane. This is exactly how it reads.
Every time she says she misses Gates, it’s all about the money, the trips, the jetting off to secret places, the staying in expensive hotels, the gifts…never once about how smart or sweet or loving he is. It’s never about his eyes or his laugh or the way he makes her feel.
Oh, and one other thing I noticed? Sloane spends the LEAST amount of time with her son. I mean, Aliyah, Chase and Auntie Avery spend more time with that kid than Sloane does!! It’s insane. Everywhere you turn, she’s getting home late from work, basically in time to put the kid to bed and do nothing else with him, while someone else has spent all day with him. Or she’s palming him off on someone else, to take care of, because of “work”.
I’m totally with Hannah on this:
“Please, your majesty, please come in and enlighten me on exactly why you are hell bent on having your ex believe my boyfriend is the father of your son?” Sloane lowered her head as she walked past Hannah into the front room.”You think it’s okay for you to simply make up lies that affect everybody? Seems to me, if you had your choice, you’d drop everything and follow Gates to the end of the Earth, no matter who you inconvenienced on the way.”
Although he’s billed as the bad guy, Gates is about the only character I DO like. I completely understand his history, his emotions and what he’s doing and why. I can’t say the same for Sloane. Unfortunately, Gates doesn’t get the main POV as often as Sloane does. And, to be honest, I spent the whole book hoping they didn’t end up getting back together, because Sloane doesn’t deserve him.
My only problem with Gates is that he gives in to Sloane all the time and never sees her faults. The one time he does actually get angry with her, it doesn’t last. I’d truthfully like to see them never get back together at the end of this book and have Gates walk off into the sunset with ANYONE else!
Sloane – “We’re both responsible for the issues we had.”
Um…no! No, Sloane. That was all you. Gates did nothing wrong. He simply didn’t pre-warn you that he wasn’t having an affair, that he didn’t want to become his father but he had no choice and that he was preparing to leave his family business to be with you. So he was a little moody and distance for about A WEEK! So what? You were acting weird too and never spoke up about being insecure, about what his father was up to, about your ridiculous ‘suspicions’ that he was having an affair with Allie. You didn’t know your own fiancé well enough to know that he would never cheat on you, that he wouldn’t never ignore you on purpose and that he was busy with work. Which, incidentally, is a concept you seem really unfamiliar with.
This part really pisses me off. It’s all about Sloane, with no care of Chase, Hannah or Aliyah.
“She needed his friendship. Chase was down to earth, he was calming and she needed him in her and Brayden’s lives for the times when things seemed wrong. But most importantly, during the times she royally messed up.”
Nice. How selfish of her to only care about how Chase made her feel and never think about the trouble she kept bringing to his door. No mention of Chase being smart, funny, a great friend, loyal, sweet or anything that would justify him being a good friend. It’s all about what HE and can do for Sloane. Again. I’ve honestly never met a character that was so selfish.
Oh, and Hannah? I LOVE YOU! (though, the grammar and awkwardness of the sentence makes me cringe):
“I thought as his friend, you would understand. I thought you would be supportive of ‘your friend’s’ relationship, but once again, I guess I am the one that’s wrong. You are so selfish.”
Chase and Hannah are right → not once did Sloane stand up for herself and tell Gates that she had to get home, for Chase’ sake. He’s a smart, reasonable man and he would have understood if she’d just opened her big mouth to tell the truth, instead of drooling over him. She was too dazzled by being the ‘princess’, treated to every extravagance again, to care.
To me, I think the story would have been better had we never been told what the secret is, in the blurb or within the first 2 pages. If we’d discovered Gates was the father to a child that Sloane kept secret, in the same time and the same way that Gates did, it would have been a real shock moment. We would have had a build up of anticipation and wonder over what this ‘secret’ was.
But just two pages in, I don’t care enough about Sloane or Gates to care that she kept this kid a secret. I don’t care or know either of these characters, and it feels far too soon for us to be given the type of information that should make us feel sympathy for Sloane or hate for Gates.
Information dumps :
However, in the first few pages, we discover that Sloane and Gates were once engaged, that Sloane has kept her nine month old son, Brayden, a secret from Gates. We’re also give A LOT of information that isn’t really necessary.
At first, I thought this was simply an attempt at creating atmosphere, during the big moment when Sloane and Gates see each other, for the first time in about a year. This happens almost on page 1 and I figured it was nothing more than setting the scene. But the more I read, the more I realised that the author tends to do information dumps.
Example from page one:
“She paused at the door, smoothed her black pencil skirt and straightened the collar on her cobalt satin blouse. Peering into the edge of the chrome frame hanging outside the beveled glass door she checked her teeth for any remnants of her breakfast before knocking softly and turning the knob.”
Not sure that’s all needed, but okay…could just be that they’re showing that Sloane is a woman who wants to look smart. But do we need so much description?
I kept reading. In the very next paragraph, we get this:
“Stepping into the beautifully decorated office, she fully expected to see Antony sitting behind the huge mahogany desk he’d purchased on his last trip to Brazil and typing away on the antiquated Royal typewriter he refused to give up. Instead, she froze in her tracks and held onto the brass doorknob as she came face to face with her ex-fiancé, Gates McCall, one of the biggest names in real estate development on the East Coast.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t just ‘setting the scene’. This over-descriptive, useless information dump is really common throughout the story. Most of it we don’t need to know, it adds nothing to the story and I pretty much don’t care that her boss has a Royal typewriter or that he went to Brazil.
There’s a way to show the history between Sloane and Gates, but the history isn’t even told at a time when it makes sense. It just happens, out of nowhere and most of the time what we see isn’t important. Unfortunately, all the information we need is TOLD to us, rather than SHOWN.
The descriptions go way too far. Often, when something like “pounced on her” would be enough, as a visual and it would make sense, this author goes too far and does:
“pounced on her like a lion on the kill in the middle of the Serengeti” It’s unnecessary and without the right use of commas, it drags and is awkward to read.
Stupid comparisons :
There’s also a problem with really odd similies:
“this man who was able to suck her in like cake flour through a sieve”
Not only is this a really unromantic and unattractive visual, but what has cake flour to do with a couple who are involved in real estate? If it made sense, related to the characters and was even remotely romantic, then I’d buy any comparison, but not this one.
I also don’t understand all this mention of ‘snow’.
“She grinned at Evan’s inability to snow her.”
What the heck does that mean? I’m guessing it means fool or surprise her, but I have NEVER heard of this and it’s a little disruptive and silly.
Seriously? “She panted like a dog on a 90-degree summer day?” Eww! Not what you want to read in the middle of a sex scene.
Spelling/grammar/sentence issues :
There are a few ‘flashbacks’ but the font is italic and often there’s a big dump of flashback, with some non-italic stuff in between, that should be included in the flashback. Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re in a flashback until it’s too late.
There are some really awkward grammar and sentence structure issues. Some sentences are far too long and you lose the feel of what you’re supposed to be discovering by the time you get to the end.
Wrong MC :
I have a real issue with Sloane. She’s whiney, pathetic and she does the most ridiculous things. I don’t understand ANYTHING that she does or why. I also don’t understand her actions in the past, why she did what she did or how ‘awful’ it was for her.
In general, I don’t agree with any of her decisions and don’t like her as a character. I don’t think she makes a good MC. She’s selfish, stupid, weak and accuses people of things, without thinking before she speaks. She cuts her friends off mid-sentence, accuses them of things, and makes her issues more important than theirs. Sure, she’s the MC, but that doesn’t make the friend characters obsolete. If they are nothing more than a sounding board for her problems and not real characters in their own right, then scrap them and just make it her internal monologue, with her arguing with herself.
She also accuses Gates of being selfish, inconsiderate and hating her, when she has no proof of that. It’s purely her guilty mind making her think that she deserves to be hated, because of what she did. And, honestly, she deserves to be hated. I hate her.
This whole keeping Brayden a secret at all costs is a little ridiculous. I don’t like Sloane, I like Gates and I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the other way around. But really, at only 20% in, I was already fed up on the constant mention of Brayden being a secret, of how much Sloane thinks Gates hates her and Sloane being ridiculous and stupid, with her friends.
This book and I did NOT get along. If the entire thing had been told from Gates’ POV, never knowing about Brayden and then WE discovered the kid the same way Gates did, this book could be a 5 star, great, suspenseful read and a romance. But it’s not.
Confusing POV’s :
There’s also an issue with POV. Often, when Aliyah and Sloane are in the same scene, we get snippets of Aliyah’s POV, when we shouldn’t. Everything is told in either Sloane or Gates’ POV, so when we’re in Sloane’s head, we shouldn’t be reading things like:
“Aliyah looked up to see a seemingly frazzled Sloane…”
How does Sloane know she appears ‘seemingly frazzled’ and why does it matter? We already know she’s frazzled, from her own POV and her frantic worrying. And how does Sloane know that Aliyah can ‘barely hear her’?
Aliyah speaks Spanish, as well, which comes out of nowhere. We get no explanation of what her Spanish phrases mean. I don’t speak Spanish and never have, so I have no clue what it means, unless I stop reading and Google it, which wastes time and ruins the flow of the story.
Condescending writing :
Sloane is so big headed. “She was radiant” in Sloane’s POV. Really? She says that about herself?
And then we get omnipresent POV →
“Little did she know Gates had only asked Allie to the event to keep up appearances. Nor did she know he’d made his way out to the terrace to find a small moment of solace away from her.”
I don’t need to be told Gates is trying to escape Allie, because I remember the flashback that showed us how much he doesn’t want her. Sloane was there. It shouldn’t even need to be said. I also don’t need to be told when Allie is being condescending. That’s so obvious that reading the explanation is painful →
“Anyone else would have seen Allie’s comments as a compliment, but Sloane knew better. Allie was being condescending with every sweet melodic word that trickled out of her mouth. It was the equivalent to the old saying ‘bless her heart’ women used in the South when someone was grating on their last nerve.”
Well…1) Sloane grates on my last nerve. 2) this explanation is POINTLESS. 3) telling us that something is condescending when it’s this obvious is actually pretty condescending and 4) No. No one else would have seen Allie’s comments as a compliment, unless they’re a total idiot.
It was obvious from page one that Sloane was ‘panting like a dog in heat’ for Gates, even after leaving him. It’s also obvious that they were going to end up together, get their HEA and there would be some sticky situations about halfway through.
What I didn’t expect was how much I’d hate Sloane for being a two-faced, condescending, user of a cow. And, to be honest, that’s putting it politely.
Every twist and turn was predictable and I saw it coming from a mile away.
No romance! :
To me, there’s no romance in this book. Everything purely romantic and sweet comes from Gates. Sloane is just a selfish user, who takes everything from Gates and gives nothing back. There’s no spark, just a lot of moments where she throws herself at him or tries to push him away.
I’m sorry, but this whole ‘sob story’ thing that Sloane has going on doesn’t garner any sympathy with me. I’m on Gates’ side the whole way.
Sloane is that annoying parasite of a person, who puts herself down so that others will come to her defence and build her up, even if she doesn’t deserve it. I can’t believe some of the stuff she asks Gates, questioning him at every turn. 1) she has no right to ask or to get any answers. She left him. 2) doesn’t she know him at all? I don’t even know Gates well, because we barely get to see his POV, but even through that little time, I know him better than Sloane does.
And, typically, when things are going well and they have only their SECOND kiss, since the break up, Sloane has to drag Gates to bed. Never mind reconnecting or rebuilding trust. She really shouldn’t be surprised by the consequences of those actions.
Why is it always that his cologne and her lavender scent gets them weak? That’s like saying that anyone with that scent can do that. It makes the attraction feel impersonal.
The whole story drags out for so long. The ‘flashback’ sex scene was fade to black, uninteresting, boring and unromantic, while the more detailed ‘present day’ sex was just as boring. No heat, no spark, no romance, no love. Just sex. Sloane basically throws herself at Gates, as she does throughout the entire book. I still love Gates and Chase, as characters, but I detest Sloane.