Three Point Five Stars.
The Secret at Arnford Hall is an erotic family saga, set in and around Cheshire. Multi-millionaire Gabriel Black has a secret which has controlled and twisted his adult life. On the outside he is a ruthless businessman, on the inside an emotional mess.
The book opens with us joining Gabriel; he has recently been informed of the death of the mother of his only child, a seven year old boy. Gabriel is now being asked to step into the parental role and agree to a set of strict instructions about his son’s upbringing. One of these is that John must be educated in the state run system.
With a desire to do what is right and be a real father to his son, Gabriel throws himself and his household into parenthood. He meets Mrs Grace McGuire, John’s teacher, but can’t help himself. His need for control has him running a full background search on her. He discovers she too has a dark secret which he uses to blackmail her.
Gabriel’s sex life is one of control, featuring punishment and reward. He’s only previously grasped at love, finding release in BDSM. He expects Grace to comply, enjoys shocking her and keeping her on edge. Can Grace ever hope to stand up to the monster and change Gabriel?
This tale follows a classic storyline arc of this genre. Take an ultimate male: cold, harsh, dominant bachelor, and turn him into a warm, loving, devoted husband and family man. Add to this the second arc: from absent father, to loving parent. Throw into the mix the reason both Gabriel and Grace’s lives are in turmoil, a snip of complex family issues, and siblings with their own hang-ups. Add a pinch of evil step-mother and you have a boiling cauldron ready to explode from the page.
Did it all work for me? The whole controlling, dominant flawed male, shouted “Fifty Shades of Grey” to me. An extremely lucrative series, even if few people have anything positive to say about it, the deep appeal for many women being the desire to change a man for the better. The storyline of the estranged father becoming the doting parent was okay; it split up the heavy tension between Gabriel and Grace. However, I felt it competed with the main story arc on too many occasions and could have been cut back.
The book has many sub-plots running through it too; as a personal preference I would have liked more about Grace’s secret and its effect on her, rather than one involving finding her brother. Mrs Black’s role was under-developed for me, I was hoping for a very dark and twisted women to be portrayed which would have backed up Gabriel’s compliance to his father’s wishes. I didn’t believe the reasons for him keeping his promise to his father. He was a ruthless businessman who had access to an impressive range of technology, and could easily have countered any hold Mrs Black had, with a bit of surveillance and blackmail himself.
Overall, the book might appeal to those who enjoyed “Fifty Shades of Grey” and want to read a similar story. For me it tried a little too hard with too many competing storylines. Some of these could have been trimmed further or removed completely. I felt they erred towards watering down the erotica genre and pushing it into family saga mode. There was room to tighten the writing; small points of repetition, clunky dialogue in places, forgetting the reader doesn’t need telling about shutting of car doors, sitting on chairs etc. So for me it was just an “okay” read.
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He lived in a nightmare. His son brought him daylight. Can this woman be his breaking dawn?
Gabriel Black didn’t give a damn about the world. Until, that is, his seven-year-old son enters his life for the first time. The young boy brings daylight into the darkness of Gabriel’s world. But a single parent needs a distraction. And this single parent has no limits when it comes to getting what he wants…
She’s built a new life for herself on the ruins of the old, but this man can destroy everything she’s worked so hard to gain…
Grace McGuire lives with a dark secret—one that, if revealed, will destroy her new life. Then her world collides with that of forceful Gabriel Black, a multi-millionaire with a secret of his own, a secret Grace is determined to uncover for her sanity and all she holds dear.
About the author
Mollie Blake is the happily married mother of one son and lives in the UK. Having left a former life as finance director of a privately owned multi-national in order to look after her son, Mollie has gone on to develop a passion for writing romance laced with danger and spiced with steamy scenes. She is a creative and explorative writer, and has a strong desire to make her readers eager to meet her characters and unravel plots to discover their secrets. With a love of romance, an enjoyment of the thrill of danger, and an intense desire for scenes of passion and sensuality, Mollie has written five books so far, all under contract with her American publisher Black Opal Books. She is also a proud member of the International Thriller Writers group and the Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. Her first book “The Secret At Arnford Hall” is out now – a provocative romance laced with alluring suspense.