REVIEW: Four Hidden Treasures (The Secrets of Hartwell 1) by H L Marsay
Welcome to Hartwell, an English village full of cobbled streets, ancient curses, and buried secrets.
Reeling from the last few years of uncertainty, the villagers of Hartwell are adjusting to their new normal. When two new women separately move to town, they attract local attention and quickly realise Hartwell isn’t as sleepy as it appears.
Lady Lucy Hanley is beautiful, friendly, and struggling to preserve crumbling Hartwell Hall for her son as rumours circulate about her husband’s disappearance. Rachel Foxton feels trapped. She’s lived in Hartwell all her life and is exhausted from teaching during the pandemic, grieving her father, worrying about her mother, and battling heartache. Dr. Meera Kumar has always been the good girl, but as her sham marriage unravels, she seeks a fresh start for herself and her young son. And former London detective Jo Ormond has been transferred to Hartwell in disgrace. With her career in tatters, a quiet village in Yorkshire where everyone knows your business is the last place she wants to be.
Secrets run through this close-knit community like a loose thread—with just one tug, everything can unravel. As the women’s friendship grows, and a body is discovered, will the secrets of Hartwell bring them all closer together or tear them apart?
Dear Ms. Marsay,
I had a feeling this would be more women’s fiction and that was indeed the case. There’s a lot packed into the book and given that it’s a short length novel, things moved briskly. There were instances when I felt there needed to be a bit … more … to some scenes and other times when days would elapse between one scene and the next. Yeah, a bit more was needed.
The blurb lays out the main issues for each of the four main female characters. There are also several secondary characters and many tertiary ones. A few got blurred in my mind but by the end, I had a pretty good grasp on them all. Hartwell seems like a nice, country small town on the moors with cobbled streets, a local pub with a weekly quiz competition, a grand house – falling to bits, and farms nearby. There is drama for all the women along with issues they are facing.
I kept thinking the book reminded me of an evening soap opera with chapters neatly covering an episode at a time. Plot points are made – in many cases telegraphed ahead of time. When something was mentioned, I guessed how the information would slot into the various subplots being juggled and I was usually correct. The lives of the women, even the two newcomers, are quickly tangled together. Serious issues are not kept from the reader and in many cases are spilled quickly to the two new women. I did like how two characters are allowed moments to realize and begin to process past grief and trauma.
The resolution of one subplot had me shaking my head at the way one character behaves but as that part is not completely tied up, perhaps book two will dive deeper into her actions. Another character has faced months of family pressure over something only to have it all swept away in one meeting. But Things still need resolution for all of them including potential romances. Although I could guess a lot, I still want to know how a few things will play out so I’ll be queueing up for book two. B-