editor's choice




When you read a Jill Mansell novel you know you’re in a pair of safe hands. Overflowing with charming characters, interesting plot threads and great locations, with more than a sprinkle of romance, wit and comic relief, Mansell’s books are tightly written and wonderfully realised. Her latest work, It Started with a Secret, thankfully, builds on all this.

As the story opens, protagonist Lainey has, what seems to be, a dream job in a working chateau in France. When disaster strikes, Lainey and her fellow workmates are left without jobs. Returning to England, she applies to a ‘couple wanted’ ad, running a family house in (fictional) St Carys, in Cornwall. While Lainey loves Kit, the man posing as her boyfriend, they’re not romantically involved, and there’s no chance that will happen. Soon, what begins as a fairly innocent white lie, takes on a veritable life of its own.

The family is headed by acting legend Sir Richard, a charismatic bon vivant, who owns the beautiful, rambling house by the sea, which he shares with his vibrant, messy family, including widowed daughter-in-law Majella and his various grandchildren, from handsome thirty-something Seth to youngest child Henry. Lainey and Kit immediately fit in, and, as Lainey in particular becomes more intertwined with their lives, her sunniness and general goodness help each of them open up, allowing them to deal with their issues and secrets from the past.

Mansell creates a quintessentially English comedy of errors in which the attractive, somewhat eccentric characters move in and out of each other’s lives, causing mayhem in often quite hilarious ways. There’s enough ‘real-life’ tension to muddy the waters and sustain our interest, allowing the characters to be more than just entertaining ciphers.

At times poignant and surprisingly tender, It Started with a Secret is a satisfyingly good read, a pick me up in every sense. We defy anyone not to feel uplifted by it. Lovely. Just lovely.


Jill Mansell | It Started with a Secret | 23 January 2020 | Headline | hardback

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a book proof and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Please check out the other reviews on the tour.

See also: ‘Doug Johnstone’s A Dark Matter’;Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; ‘Marnie Riches’ Backlash’; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Rememembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; ‘The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; ‘Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime’ (book covers we love).

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