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Secrets    by Kristen Heitzmann order for
by Kristen Heitzmann
Order:  USA  Can
Bethany, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Lance Michelli's grandmother suffers a debilitating stroke that leaves her unable to speak. Nonna Antonia is frustrated, trying desperately to communicate something to Lance, but he cannot figure out what it is. He begins to bring familiar items from her home, hoping to spark a response. Finally, she reacts to a letter from her cousin, a nun in Italy. Lance sets off on a quest that eventually leads him to his grandmother's childhood home in Sonoma, California.

Rese Barrett has suffered a great deal of pain in the past few years. Hoping to assuage it, she has purchased a dilapidated villa, which she plans to renovate and turn into a bed and breakfast establishment. Many years of on-the-job carpentry training by her father have turned Rese into an artist at her craft. But past hurts have hardened her heart, and she's created a world that doesn't let anyone close. Lance is not someone she desires to get to know. Lance needs to look around the villa to discover what his grandmother wants him to accomplish. When he applies for Rese's position of chef and housekeeper, she hires him against her better judgement. He's too intrusive, and he seems to know what she's thinking and feeling. Will Lance get to the bottom of the mystery of Nonna Antonia's past? Is there hope for friendship between Lance and Rese?

Kristen Heitzmann is a hit-or-miss author for me, and I'm happy to say that Secrets is a definite hit. The characters are well developed and intriguing. The mystery kept me entranced all the way through, and left me hanging for some answers (to be addressed in a sequel, Unforgotten). Lance has a heart for God and a soft spot for people, especially women, who need help. His methods (lying to Rese) make him both a more realistic person and less of a Christian role model. Rese is a headstrong young woman, who has steeled herself due to working in a career dominated by men. Secrets is a wonderful combination of contemporary fiction, romance and mystery, with a strong faith message that is neither preachy nor condescending.

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