Joe Lucas is your average working “Joe” in Sydney, Australia. The owner of a small electrical company, he’s finally scored a big government contract after working night and day to secure the order.
He races home to share the good news with his wife Sophie, only to find that Sophie has cleaned out the house and moved away with his two young daughters. Joe tracks her down to her new home in Adelaide in South Australia, where she has moved in with her new boyfriend. When she fights him over custody, Joe looks up his long-lost Aunt Maude, a vibrant senior who lives in Adelaide, and the two set off to right Sophie’s wrongs.
Try Keeping Secrets is an old-fashioned romance, the kind that was once short story fodder for magazines like Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal. The plot is predictable to romance readers, right down to the moment Joe meets Jane, a sympathetic single mother of two.
Author Richard Stubbs offers no subtleties here in story or character. The players are all-good or all-bad and talk as if taking turns. In addition, the author’s aversion to punctuation gives the characters a kind of breathless quality. For example: “I must thank you for lunch today Joe, you were very kind offering to treat us all like that. I can also tell you love your two daughters very much, can I ask why your wife has made it so difficult for you to visit the girls, apart from the obvious geographical distance of course.”
There is sadness at the end of the book, but a surprise from Aunt Maude eases the pain for Joe, Jane and their families. If only life were as happily ever after as this romantic fairy tale.