REVIEW: His Secret Past by Ellen Hartman
Dear Mrs. Hartman,
I’m so glad you offered DA a chance to read your latest release “His Secret Past.” I gotta be honest and say that when I look at current and future offerings from Harlequin lately, I’m desperately trying to find books that don’t feature a cherubic child or knocked up heroine in either the cover art or the title. Not that I don’t like children but gimme a break here Harlequin.
When I read the blurb for your book what stood out for me was the lack of those elements. When I read the actual book, what stood out for me were so many other wonderful things. This is a book packed with a lot of great conflict, emotion, and secondary characters. There are no standard romance tropes to turn away the jaded romance reader. It’s romance with a great beta guy, an intelligent heroine and un contrived personal problems as the center of the conflict.
Mason Star and Anna Walsh are on a course for conflict before they even know it. He wants nothing to do with his past as an up-and-coming and then downwardly spiraling rock star. She has wanted to know what happened 15 years ago that caused the death of her best friend while on the band’s tour bus. He’s put all that behind him to start and run a nonprofit organization to give a second chance and/or helping hands to those down on their luck and she’s the documentary film maker who could help him save it from the do-gooding efforts of the neighborhood association determined to put it out of business.
Mason’s got more on his plate than just keeping Mulligan’s alive. His teenage son seems bound and determined to follow in his dad’s footsteps as a rock singer while Mason is horrified at the thought that Christian could fall into the drugs and alcohol that nearly cost Mason everything. For Anna, this film marks the last collaborative effort with her brother and the end of their production company “Blue Maverick.” What’s she going to do now when all she’s known for years is a life on the road and planning for the next film?
So many people, including Anna at first, seem to think Mason is still the famous hard rocker he used to be. As he tells her when she arrives to pitch her idea of a film about Five Star, his old band, that man is dead. I love how you show the man he is now. And how Anna picks up on this and uses it in the film. But even she doesn’t initially catch how afraid he is of saying the wrong thing to Chris. How terrified Mason is of making a mistake with Chris.
That relationship, the one with Chris, is so great in this book. Any one can take classes or read about being a parent and have all the right answers – if it isn’t your child. But when you’re in the hot seat, it’s hard to know what to say right then. And poor Mason has almost nothing to fall back on from his own messed up childhood. He’s made a career of trying to fit into the average suburban lifestyle. Something which you show in Anna’s past as not all it’s cracked up to be. I adored the golf scene where Anna reveals her past as a country club kid while showing Mason how to finally relax and truly enjoy the game.
Another thing I appreciate is that there is no inappropriate sex. In fact, I’m not quite sure whether or not these two did the dirty at all and frankly the story is just fine that way. It’s nice to see a couple growing together emotionally before jumping into the nearest bed. The secondary characters are many but each has a place and a reason. They fit this story and add to it without hogging room for any sequel.
Thanks for not pulling any punches as far as Mason’s former life/actions – he did screw up, he did do the ‘rock’n’roll’ lifestyle but he’s learned from it and is determined his son won’t suffer as he did. Just when I was wondering how you were going to pull together all the different threads of the story, you managed it beautifully with a powerfully emotional scene in which Mason finally tells what happened that night on the tour bus and Anna’s heart breaks for the lost soul he was and how far he fell before catching himself. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and one I highly recommend. A-