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The Secret of Joy    by Melissa Senate order for
Secret of Joy
by Melissa Senate
Order:  USA  Can
Downtown Press, 2009 (2009)

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* *   Reviewed by Kim Atchue-Cusella

Rebecca Strand's life seems perfect. She has a father she adores and a boyfriend who is a divorce lawyer (Rebecca is a paralegal in his firm). Then her father falls ill. His dying wish is for Rebecca to deliver letters to a half sister she never knew she had. Her boyfriend Michael can't understand her obsession with finding the half sister, Joy Jayhawk, and is flabbergasted that she wants to give half her inheritance to the woman. But Rebecca believed her parents were always in love and can't understand how her father could have stepped out on her mother.

Rebecca arrives in tiny Wiscasset, Maine armed with the box of letters and Joy Jayhawk's address. Joy is not too happy to see her but is curious enough to invite her to join in a singles' bus tour when Rebecca suggests it. Joy does not want to talk about her father, feeling that he did not want her and really had no interest in her. Joy has a husband and son but has problems in her marriage.

Rebecca gets an ultimatum from Michael and does not feel all that heavy-hearted. She knows that things have not been right between them for a while - and she can't be in love with Michael when sparks fly every time she sees Theo. Theo is the local carpenter and the most eligible bachelor in town. He's very willing to help Rebecca with what she needs when she rents a small house next door to him. Rebecca is spending more time with the singles club (The Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset) and feels like she is part of a small family when people call her for help.

Joy and her husband ask Rebecca to be a mediator in their marriage. Reluctantly she agrees. The first session is a disaster but Joy is coming around to accept Rebecca as at least a friend, When Michael suggests that Joy take a paternity test, Joy agrees. She tells Rebecca that she will ask her mother about their father if the DNA test shows she is his child. Rebecca's life is getting complicated. Michael is pressuring her to come home and Theo wants her to make a choice. He wants to be with her but only if she is free from Michael.

I loved The Secret of Joy. The refreshing storyline has it all from passion and betrayal to friendship and learning about one's self. The secondaries tie the tale together with stories of divorce, heartache, and happiness. Ellie is devastated when she learns her husband does not love her. Maggie says whatever is on her mind. Marianne is the warm and inviting Bed and Breakfast owner. The book is written so well that you feel like you are in the town with them. The Secret of Joy is a great book to read on a cold afternoon, curled up on the couch by a warm fire.

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