Saturday, 19 January 2013

Books Read: Catherine King - The Secret Daughter

Phyllis Kimber's entire future is called into question after her father is killed in Earl Redfern's employ. But the earl knows something about Phyllis that means she will always be looked after.


As lady's maid to Martha, Phyllis is the American heiress's only confidant in England: she knows Martha doesn't love the recently widowed Lord Melton, the man Martha's socially ambitious father is determined she marries, but there's another secret - a secret that makes Phyllis give up everything to protect her friend.

Martha begins making preparations to return to America with Phyllis, her father and new husband on the Titanic but the burden of deception eclipses Phyllis's hope for a new future. As she struggles to protect Martha, Phyllis must decide where her loyalties lie, unaware of the undiscovered secrets in her own past and of the tragedy that is about to unfold on that fateful crossing.

Firstly I must apologise to Catherine and her publishers, Sphere, for the delay in publishing this review for The Secret Daughter as I actually read the book at the end of November.  It was only when I was searching through archives for something that I realised that I hadn't written up my review!

This is a book in two parts which spans two decade leading up to events shortly after the sinking of the Titanic, and is told from the points of view of two women who are polar opposites; Phyllis, a young woman in service, and Martha, an American heiress.  

The first part of the book concentrates purely on Phyllis who we see going into service, as a nanny looking after Lord Melton's children, when Earl Redfern recommends her for the position following the death of her father.  But Phyllis' dream has always been to get a coveted position as a lady's maid and when things start to go awry she eventually decides to leave service and ends up working in a London hotel.

Meanwhile across the sea in America, Martha's father is trying to claw his way to the top so is eager to see his only daughter marry into a lofted position in society.  When he meets a recently widowed member of the English aristocracy, Lord Melton, he sees this as the perfect opportunity for his dreams to be fulfilled and so the courtship begins despite Martha not being in love with Lord Melton.  

The paths of the two women eventually cross when Martha comes to England and stays at the hotel Phyllis is working at, she's asked to be her lady's maid during her stay and eventually agrees to leave the hotel and return into service to become Martha's full-time lady's maid when she leaves to get married.  But to Martha Phyllis is more than a lady's maid, she's a confidante and at times the boundaries of their relationship become blurred when Phyllis is forced to conceal a secret.

I have to confess I found this story a little slow to begin with but once the pace picked up I soon got into the flow of it.  There's plenty of characters to get your head around, some you'll love and others you'll hate, but fortunately the nice ones outweigh the bad.  Overall if you like historical fiction with an upstairs/downstairs storyline then I'm sure you'll enjoy this book.

I'd like to thank Frances at Sphere for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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