Secrets of the Red Box by Vickie Hall
Bonnie has secrets to keep - secrets with the potential to destroy lives, including her own. Running from her destructive and pain filled past, she recreates herself, believing she has escaped the damning evidence hidden in the red box. When her former life is revealed by a cruel twist of fate, Bonnie faces losing everything, including Glen, the only man she’s ever loved. But is Bonnie the woman he thinks she is? Set against the backdrop of the 1940s, Secrets of the Red Box is filled with intrigue and suspense - sure to keep you guessing to the very end!
This is part of the Secrets of the Red Box book tour; for the schedule and more info go here. To buy the book go here
Rating: *** (out of five stars)
Romance! Not my normal area of reading but I have to say I did enjoy Secrets of the Red Box, the balance between the various relationships and the mystery/suspense elements being maintained well throughout the story. For me it was the titular secrets which kept me reading; the glimpses into them which were scattered across the chapters forming a wonderfully irresistible undertone for the contrasting normality and happiness in the main narrative. I really was surprised when all was revealed, despite references which perhaps I should have picked up on earlier on (I have a feeling my mind was in a slightly morbid place at the time and that perhaps that's why the eventual conclusion was so unexpected).
The main character is Bonnie, a young woman who has recently left San Diego for Omaha to escape horrors of which the audience does not know. Although by the end of the novel I had some sympathy for her, at the beginning I personally found it quite difficult to like someone so harsh and seemingly unfeeling. Her treatment of Christine especially seems to not seem possible from anyone with a heart of any kind. Bonnie's constant internal monologue of paranoia also became repetitive, though I do see it's purpose of reminding the reader of her previous life, and that she hasn't grown up in the way most readers (hopefully) have. With the introduction of Glen she mellows out, and from there my affection for her began to grow. Generally I think my lack of feelings for the female characters may have stemmed from their overwhelming desire for the "perfect" family life, complete with marriage and stereotypical gender roles. This isn't the fault of Vickie Hall but me; I need to learn to put my feminist hat away sometimes and just enjoy a story set in an era with different values from my own.
For me the setting descriptions were certainly one of Secrets of the Red Box's strong points. Whilst reading I had such a clear image of these places (in particular Omaha) that I really could picture Bonnie existing there in her small life, with the rest of the big city turning even faster around her. Various flash back sequences were brilliantly illustrated too, but to avoid spoiler I won't go into any more detail about these.
To conclude I felt this was a good story, with intriguing plot developments and a satisfying though perhaps not realistic ending. With vivid descriptions too it's definitely worth a read!