by Melissa Senate
is released in paperback today!
by Melissa Senate
Pub. Date: November 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Format: Paperback, 352pp
Description (from the publisher):
As 28 year old New York paralegal Rebecca Strand's widowed father lays dying, he confesses a secret: he had an affair 26 years earlier when Rebecca was just a toddler. Now he wants Rebecca to deliver the secret stash of letters he wrote, but never mailed, to the daughter he fathered. Rebecca's lawyer boyfriend, Michael, is adamant that she forget the woman exists. He's sure the woman will be an opportunist who will demand half of Rebecca's father's million-dollar estate. But Rebecca, now without any family in the world, can't help but wonder about her one living relative. With her relationship with Michael in tatters, Rebecca drives from New York City to Maine to find Joy Jayhawk, who operates a Weekend Singles Tour service out of an orange mini-van that her regulars dub "The Love Bus." Enter a cast of lovable, colorful characters, from Joy's eccentric mother to the singles on The Love Bus, and a sexy carpenter for whom Rebecca finds herself unexpectedly falling in love...
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars -- a pleasant and enjoyable read.
THE SECRET OF JOY by Melissa Senate is such an enjoyable read, I wanted to pack up my bags and move to Maine. It's mostly set in a quaint little seaside town which is populated by a close-knit and supportive cast of quirky characters. By turns funny, poignant, and romantic, it is so engaging I became thoroughly engrossed in this story and looked forward to settling down each evening with my "new friends."
The title of this book with its cute double meaning is like a foreshadowing of the story. Rebecca Strand thinks she's only on a quest to find and connect with her half-sister, Joy, of whose existance she has just become aware. Her father confessed to a long ago secret affair on his deathbed. Between coming to terms with the death of her father and attempting to forge a bond with her sister, Rebecca also has to determine just what it is she wants out of life -- how to create her own joy. In fact, it could be said that all the characters in this novel are either in pursuit of their own personal bliss, or they've found it, are living it, and subtly guiding others toward finding their own.
This is Melissa Senate's eighth novel, and her experience and skill as a writer are evident. The book is smoothly written with great descriptions and terrific dialogue. I liked the variety of characters Ms. Senate created. No one was completely perfect and no one had found perfect happiness, but everyone was at varying stages in their quest for joy. I also appreciated her deft handling of the complex issue which confronts the character of Joy -- after being ignored by her father for her entire life, his other daughter is suddenly thrusting herself into Joy's life. This theme could be explored in a much heavier and very different kind of novel. Ms. Senate keeps things light but realistic enough to give the reader something to think about.
I also like that the main character, Rebecca, doesn't equate finding joy only with being with the right man. She does want the right man but she also wants the bonds of her extended family. And she wants to find the work that will give her the most satisfaction and make use of her interests and skills. I like that she thoughtfully explores which aspects of her life have been fulfilling and are worth maintaining.
I really liked THE SECRET OF JOY. I've already recommended it to my sisters and several friends. It's a great choice for anyone wanting to escape into a story that is upbeat but not fluffy. Personally, I plan to work my way through all of Melissa Senate's novels.
Click here to visit the author's website.
Click here to read an interview with the author.
Click here to read the Reading Group Guide.
About the author (from the publisher):
Melissa Senate is the author of eight novels, including the bestselling See Jane Date, which was made into an ABC Family TV movie and has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. She's published short pieces in Everything I've Always Wanted to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, It's a Wonderful Lie, Flirting with Pride and Prejudice, and American Girls About Town. A former romance and young adult editor from New York, she now lives on the southern coast of Maine with her son.
Thank you to Sarah at Pocket Books for supplying me with my review copy.