As I sit here thinking of how to describe The Secret Chord by Virginia Hale, the one word that keeps popping into my head is intense. This story grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go until the last page.
This is a pure romance and is definitely character driven. The setting is a Catholic boarding school for girls in present day Australia, located on a small island. Kate and Tilly were once students, best friends, and roommates here years before this story begins. At that time Tilly wanted to become a nun when she graduated and devote her life to God. Kate just wanted to devote her life to Tilly. For twelve years after the end of school they lived separate lives until they both end up back at the boarding school, this time as temporary teachers. Kate still secretly feels the same for Tilly, who no longer wants to be a nun. However, she is engaged to be married to the local vicar in town.
The book is written in third person limited POV through Kate’s eyes. We can only see what Tilly is thinking by what Kate notices. While I connected with both characters pretty quickly, I wanted to see inside of Tilly the way we could Kate. I understand why the author did not write the story that way though, it adds to the intensity and the angst of the tale. The secondary characters, especially the students, are well-written and add some of the few lighter moments to an otherwise angsty romance.
I had a hard time putting this book down. It is a powerful love story full of the push/pull of religion over some people’s lives, and shows the strength of will it takes to find the way to love.
I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and Bella Books for an honest review.