Secrets of Our House,
by Rea Frey
Publication: St. Martin’s Griffin; February 8, 2022
About: A thrilling domestic drama set against the power of the wilderness, Rea Frey’s Secrets of Our House is a deeply-felt novel of long-held secrets and the strength of family.
Desi is the mastermind behind her dream getaway house. Nestled high into the mountains of North Carolina, it is a sleek place, a luxurious place, a dark place.
A place full of secrets.
Secrets about the man she longs for, a man who is not her husband. Secrets about the roots of her family that must never, ever, see the light of day. When Desi and her family arrive from Chicago to spend the summer in the mountains, the seeds for the tumultuous months to follow are planted—her marriage on the rocks, not knowing which way they’ll go. Her seventeen year-old daughter Jules, falling in love for the first time with a local boy—and forging a new path that will take her to uncharted places. And Carter—a man Desi knew long ago, before she expunged him from her life for good.
All hurtling toward events none of them can undo.
Engaging, propulsive, and with a dramatic, heart-pounding final act, Secrets of Our House is a dazzling novel, richly-drawn, that shows no matter how hard outside forces may shake you, the bonds of family are stronger than the harshest winds.
A few weeks ago I spent much too long browsing NetGalley and ended up with a huge book haul. One of my latest downloads is Secrets of Our House, by Rea Frey. On NetGalley, this is listed under Mystery & Thrillers and Women’s Fiction, but I would just characterize this as Women’s Fiction (although there are some crazy scenes that will make your heart race). Anyway, this is about a couple, Peter and Desi, and their seventeen-year-old daughter, Jules, who are spending the summer at their amazing and incredible mountain home, The Black House. Peter and Desi have been married for twenty years and are miserable with one another, considering the summer as one last shot at their marriage. Jules is planning to start Columbia in the fall, however, she’s never felt more at home in River Falls, which is also home to the boy she is falling in love with. Other characters along the way are Desi’s freeloading brother, Tommy, and Carter, who served in the military with Tommy and Peter but is also Desi’s first love. So, a lot going on here!
First of all, Desi is an extremely unlikeable character, so prepare yourself. She is one of the most selfish characters I have encountered while reading, yet at times I felt bad for her and really wanted her to be happy. She spends most of the novel obsessing about Carter, whom she hasn’t been with in decades, while also whining and pouting because her marriage is failing. Pick a team woman! Peter is so grumpy and quiet, I don’t feel like I even got to know his character. Then there was Tommy just barging in on their summer vacation and taking up residence in their house, reminding me of cousin Eddie from National Lampoons. But the star of the novel is Jules.
Jules is getting ready to start her adult life, falling in love for the first time, and learning who she really is and wants to be. Her story is the meat of this novel and quite honestly, the main thing that kept me reading. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved this novel, but without Jules, it would have been depressing and uninteresting at best. I loved everything about her and Will and was cheering for them from beginning to end. I must admit though that there were some moments involving Jules that were a bit too far-fetched for me personally, nevertheless, I loved her character.
Overall, I found this to be a page-turner. Frey painted a perfect picture of a broken and lonely marriage, the toll it takes on the entire family, and the enormous stress of changing family dynamics. With the exception of Peter, I applaud the character development. The plot was unique and had some nice surprises sprinkled throughout. This is one of those books that I curled up with a blanket on a cold day and knocked it out in just a few hours – it was that good. I highly recommend this to women’s fiction fans that like a tiny bit of thriller mixed in.
*Thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin and Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!