EXCERPT: On the outskirts of Fortune Springs, the houses lined the streets with modern, rustic elegance, but the closer I got to the heart of town, the older those buildings grew. Sure, it had two whole traffic lights and wired electricity and everything else you’d expect from a modern town, but the buildings were constructed in that classic, Western settlement style. Some dark, timber structures soaked up all the light of the street, while some of the brightly coloured shops and hotspots reflected it, nearly blinding in the afternoon sunshine.
It was all so beautiful. So simple. So painfully quaint and so obvious that the entire town had been built by love and determination. It was part real-life fairytale and part Hollywood Old West backlot. The muscle buried in the left side of my cheek tweaked painfully as I tried to school my enthusiasm back into cool indifference.
This place was a means to an end. It couldn’t be anything more. I couldn’t let it be.
ABOUT ‘SMALL TOWN SECRETS’: “Young women needed for the Fortune Springs Town Improvement Initiative. One year’s room and board provided.”
I should have known it was too good to be true when I first saw the ad. It turns out that Fortune Springs, Colorado isn’t just a one-horse town, it’s a two-woman one, and this is their attempt to keep the community alive. I want to say the scheme is ridiculous, totally outdated, but I’m carrying everything I own in my canvas backpack and the greyhound I stepped off this morning is long gone. If this is my chance at a fresh start, I’d better grab it with both hands.
I know I should feel guilty about pretending to be a lonely heart willing to help repopulate this rural logging town, but all I feel is relief at having escaped the apartment in Savannah. And after all, what’s one more secret to add to the pile? I only hope I’ve hidden my tracks well enough, and that the kind Fortune Springs locals who’ve opened their doors to me will never find out what made me run away in the first place…
MY THOUGHTS: Although it was obvious from the outset where Alys Murray was taking us in Small Town Secrets, it was an enjoyable journey that left me with a big smile on my face.
I picked up this book for two reasons. I adored the cover. It is simple, eye catching and enigmatic. And I thought of Middlemarch, a small town in the South Island of New Zealand that, pre-Covid, biennially hosted a singles ball which, inspired by the matchmaking dances of the 1950s, has been bringing together thousands of young, mostly unattached, people every two years since 2001. There is a well known man drought in New Zealand, so ‘the event has become especially appealing to single women. That in turn has attracted rural men – shepherds, stock agents and farmers in the high country of the underpopulated South Island. Isolated and time-poor, they are often ignored on dating apps such as Tinder because the GPS pinpoints their location as hundreds of kilometres from the nearest cocktail bar. So for many the singles ball at Middlemarch (normal population 186) is a significant calendar event, a genuine opportunity to meet a partner, a companion, a husband or wife.’ (The Guardian)
I guess I was expecting Small Town Secrets to be a little like this. It was, and it wasn’t.
While Virginia is looking for sanctuary, she definitely is not looking for love. She just needs somewhere to hide out for a while, to get her life back together, and then she plans to high tail it out of this one horse town the moment her year is up and head for sunny California.
Only she hadn’t reckoned on Calla, Willa, Owen and a bunch of Dalmatian puppies.
There are very few characters in this book. Virginia, her ex Porter, and those mentioned above is just about it…..there are, of course, a few on the periphery, but really, that is it.
I loved Calla from the outset, and I would love to know what her story is. She has obviously been through some tough times, but she is warm and generous and big-hearted. Calla’s granddaughter Willa, Virginia, and Owen have also been through some bad times. They have all suffered trauma, physical and emotional, and find it difficult to open up and trust people. Although there are very few characters, they are well developed, and their stories captured my heart.
Small Town Secrets is a lovely, if predictable, read. I will be reading more from this author.
#SmallTownSecrets #NetGalley #writeralys #bookouture
#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #romance
THE AUTHOR: Alys Murray is an author who writes for the romantic in all of us. Though she graduated with a degree in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a Master’s in Film Studies from King’s College London, her irrepressible love of romance led her to a career as an author, and she couldn’t be happier to write these stories!
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Small Town Secrets by Alys Murray for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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