They say that behind every great man, there’s a great woman, and behind London’s most powerful leaders, there stands only one—Alex Hyde, business coach par excellence. She’s the woman they turn to for advice and strategy when the pressure gets too much. So when Alex gets a call offering an unbelievable sum to discreetly manage a family member on the board of an esteemed Scottish whisky company, it’s business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, she’s never met anyone like Lochlan Farqhuar before.
CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, he’s also the son and heir of the company’s founder, and a man for whom there is no “no.” He’s a maverick, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees. But as she tasks herself with finding a way in, she finds that for once, she’s not the one in control. And when she stumbles across a chance discovery that changes everything, she’s suddenly not so sure she should be.
The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan is contemporary fiction set on the beautiful island of Islay. There’s plenty of tension, romance, and whiskey for the reader to enjoy, and lots of great characters to discover.
The budding romance between Alex and Lochlan is definitely the best part of this book. Karen does a really great job of describing their actions and using relatable dialogue to really illustrate their growing feelings for each other. I could feel the chemistry on the page, and I kept reading the book just so that I could find out what was going to happen between them.
He held out a hand to help steady her as she walked deeper into the water, her fear ratcheting up another level. His grip tightened around her fingers as she gave a small gasp, her foot slipping on a loose rock. His hands were warm compared to hers and significantly bigger.
‘It’s okay,’ he murmured. ‘I’ve got you.
For all the whiskey lovers out there, you’ll love this book. It’s got a lot of detailed information about the alcohol and the production of it, and you certainly feel immersed in the distillery throughout the entire novel.
In saying that, unless the reader has some sort of interest or knowledge about whisky, there are definitely going to be parts of the book that they will skim read or glaze over. I quite like whiskey, and yet, all the description about the business and the different whiskeys and all the complicated dealings with the production just went way over my head. I actually found myself really disinterested in the actual plot of the book, and just kept reading to find out what was going to happen between Alex and Lochlan.
‘A hidden malt, huh?’ Alex asked, going over to Skye and walking alongside her. ‘It even sounds exciting. I imagine this is a blender’s dream come true, isn’t it?’
‘God yes, as Dad said, it’s the holy grail for any distillery. I’ve heard of hidden malts before, of course, but usually they’ve been deliberately hidden when a master blender hasn’t wanted them to be used in a blend, when he considered a malt to be too good for that.’
The book is really dialogue-heavy, but I think that’s a great way to emphasise characterisation. Karen has done a great job of crafting all of the scenes and even in certain chapters of the book where there are multiple characters present and speaking, I was never confused about what was happening.
I think Karen wove the past and present together really well – there are sections of the book that take place over one hundred years ago, and Karen brings the two storylines together really nicely towards the end.
I do have to admit that this book didn’t feel very Christmassy. Yes it may be set at Christmas time, and it may be snowing, but with a book that has ‘Christmas’ in the title, and a cover as gorgeous as this one, I was certainly expecting a very different atmosphere when reading it. You could’ve set this novel in a completely different season and I think it still would’ve worked.
I recommend this to fiction lovers, but also people who love whisky or the production of alcohol. You’ll find the context of the story and also the setting really gripping, as well as interesting. It’s an easy, fun read and certainly something light to read over the Christmas break.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Christmas Secret
Pan Macmillan Publishers