Review of friends to lovers lesbian book ‘The secret chord’ by Virginia Hale
This was a perfect friends to lovers lesbian book. People who read my reviews know that I don’t give 5+ stars lightly. Honestly, I cannot fault this novel in any way, including my enjoyment. What a fantastic writer is Ms. Hale! She can write beautiful romances in diverse contexts like her previous ‘Where there’s a will‘ set in a murder house-turned into a tourist attraction or this one, in a Catholic boarding school. Talk about unromantic environments…
The ‘friends to lovers‘ trope has been used quite a bit in lesfic but here Ms. Hale presents a plot with a clever twist. Best friends Kate and Tilly used to be classmates at St. Joan of Arc Catholic boarding school sharing some heated make-out sessions. After graduation, they parted ways, Kate to study teaching, Tilly to become a nun… yes, a nun. Twelve years later, they meet again at the same school, sharing teaching positions. Tilly isn’t a nun but is engaged to an Anglican Church vicar, a much older widower with two kids. After so many years, Kate has lots of questions about the past and lots of feelings in the present, but Tilly is completely out of limits… or is she?
This book is written in third person from the exclusive point of view of Kate which provides Tilly’s character with an air of mystery and focuses on Kate’s emotional roller coaster of meeting again, and sharing the same living quarters, with her first and possibly only love. Some readers are not fans of third person single pov and it’s true that sometimes a first person pov immerses the reader better in the character’s headspace, but this is not the case. Ms. Hale has a talent to give us, word by word, scene by scene, a glimpse of the characters’ feelings and emotions in an incredibly vivid way. What I love about this author is that she uses everyday situations to build up deep relationships. There is no need for overly dramatic gestures, just normal life circumstances and honest conversations that oh-so-slowly draw these characters together.
Without big declarations and avoiding patronising arguments, the author touches very controversial issues such as homosexuality and Catholicism, women’s role in society, charity, celibacy, temptation, and religion. Both main characters are very well portrayed, Kate disguising her insecurities with an apparent arrogance facade and Tilly deceivingly submissive and weak personality that hides a quiet strength and conviction. Tilly is such an unusual character in lesfic, whose naivety and relationship inexperience is endearing, while Kate is such a rock for her. They are completely made for each other.
The plot has a few flashbacks seamlessly intertwined with the present story that gives a sweet young adult feeling in Kate’s and Tilly’s interactions as teenagers. Ms. Hale writes sex so well, that the long lovemaking scene as adults is incredibly powerful and poetic in its beauty and intimacy. The very slow-burn buildup is really well done, temptation is such a powerful player in the plot that the tension could be cut with a proverbial knife.
Overall, a perfect friends-to-lovers lesbian romance book with an unusual setting. ‘The secret chord’ goes straight into my list of best books of 2019. 5+ stars.
ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.