Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 16, 2012)
Praised as “Australia’s answer to Maeve Binchy, a modern-day Jane Austen” (The Sun Herald, Australia), Monica McInerney, internationally bestselling author of The Alphabet Sisters, returns with a poignant novel of love, loss, and the enduring strength of family ties.
Nestled in a picturesque corner of southern Australia, the Valley View Motel has been run by the Quinlans for years—and nobody adores the place more than Lola, the family’s lovable and mischievous Irish-born matriarch. So when she insists that her relatives spend their Christmas elsewhere, the close-knit bunch can’t help but be a bit curious. Lola has always had a knack for clever schemes; after all, she once slyly reunited her three feuding granddaughters, whom she nicknamed the Alphabet Sisters. And with the holiday season fast approaching, Lola decides it’s time to stir up some extra excitement.
Plotting in secret and online, Lola thinks it would be fun to invite a select group of strangers to stay at the motel for Christmas. Will these guests become friends, ignite sparks, fall in love? As she counts down the days until their arrival, Lola’s own family dramas threaten to upend her best-laid plans. Yet amid moments of humor, heartache, and unexpected twists of fate, Lola finds that she’s the one who’s in for the biggest surprise of all.
What I love about the world of books is the diversity of enjoyment. I can be on the edge of my seat, crying into my tissue, sleeping with a light on, laughing out loud, or even falling in love. Lola's Secret left me with a warm feeling and an overwhelming desire to hug everyone I love.
Lola is an 84-year-old grandmother and the glue that holds her family together. When her family struggled with a devastating loss, she reminded them of the importance of staying close and looking past differences. Now she's determined to affect other people's lives in a similar way.
She concocts a plan and decides to bring together a few strangers to her family-owned hotel. Each guest is struggling. There's a man considering a drastic solution to his problems, a woman who is a workaholic and ignores her family's attempts at reconciliation, a couple who've lost their way, and a family torn apart. Lola offers each of them a free stay at her hotel during Christmas. The offer ends up being just the good luck charm each of them needs.
In the midst of her Christmas planning, Lola is also focusing on getting her own family back on track. Sisters Carrie and Bett are fighting and refuse to see how the other is hurting, and one of her great-granddaughters is struggling with her dad's decision to move on. Lola is in the thick of it all. She even has time to bring together a young couple and search for her own past love.
I found the characters memorable and relatable. Lola is feisty and loving. Sometimes she shocks those around her with her honest and direct advice about the importance of family. Her granddaughters, Bett and Carrie, are moms struggling to find personal worth in the face of children's and husbands' needs. Each character illustrates the ties that bind in a very sweet and affecting way. When I realized many of these characters were at the forefront of The Alphabet Sisters, I was eager to pick up a copy and discover more about them.
The only downside was that there were so many characters to care about that I found myself wishing each story had been its own book. But that's only because I wanted a more in depth look into what made them tick.
If you love a book about relationships and enjoy rooting for characters, pick up a copy of Lola's Secret (and see below for a chance to win a paperback copy). It's chicken soup for the soul and the equivalent of a warm robe on a cold day.
Rating: 4 stars
About Monica McInerney
Monica McInerney is the author of the international bestseller The Alphabet Sisters. She lives in Ireland. You can find Monica at her website and on Facebook.
Thanks to TLC Tours for my review copy.
Note: I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.
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I'm thrilled to be giving away a paperback copy of Lola's Secret to one lucky reader (US and Canada only).
To enter to win, please leave your name and email address in the comments below. The contest will close at 5:00pm EST on Wednesday, October 24.
I will put each name in a hat and have my trusty assistant (my lovely 12-year-old daughter) pick one. The winner will be announced here on Thursday (10/25/12).
Additional Praise for Lola's Secret
“[Monica] McInerney’s assured writing sparkles. . . . When you reach the end, [Lola’s Secret] will leave you feeling like you’ve been given a huge, warm hug.”—Hello! magazine
“A delicate treat . . . a lovely, gentle story of a family, a Christmas, love and different kinds of adventure.”—The Courier-Mail (Australia)
“Exploring universal family issues of loss, rivalry, aging and grief, [Lola’s Secret] is a warm, witty and moving novel.”—Woman’s Day (Australia)