Book Review: "The Secret of Joy" by Melissa Senate

As 28 year old New York paralegal Rebecca Strand's widowed father lays dying, he confesses a secret: he had an affair 26 years earlier when Rebecca was just a toddler. Now he wants Rebecca to deliver the secret stash of letters he wrote, but never mailed, to the daughter he fathered. Rebecca's lawyer boyfriend, Michael, is adamant that she forget the woman exists. He's sure the woman will be an opportunist who will demand half of Rebecca's father's million-dollar estate. But Rebecca, now without any family in the world, can't help but wonder about her one living relative. With her relationship with Michael in tatters, Rebecca drives from New York City to Maine to find Joy Jayhawk, who operates a Weekend Singles Tour service out of an orange mini-van that her regulars dub "The Love Bus." Enter a cast of lovable, colorful characters, from Joy's eccentric mother to the singles on The Love Bus, and a sexy carpenter for whom Rebecca finds herself unexpectedly falling in love...

Melissa Senate has always been one of my favorite chick lit authors. I loved all her books that she wrote for the Red Dress Ink line and was excited to hear that she had another one coming out. As soon as I started reading this one, I knew I'd love it as well. The story is really easy to get into and I couldn't stop reading as soon as I started. The setting is wonderful as you go from the hectic lifestyle of New York to the calm tranquility of Maine. It really made me want to go up and visit one day. The idea of singles tours and running an entire weekend tour event like Joy did seems like such an interesting job.

The characters are all very engaging and multidimensional. What I actually liked best were the secondary characters such as the Divorced Ladies Club. I felt that they could have had a book all to themselves! I felt extremely bad for Ella. She kept trying and trying to make her marriage work and her husband pretty much is acting like a baby. It just pained me to see him treat her like crap and then expect her to accept it. Even when confronted, his excuses are just flimsy and pathetic. It's really sad that there are guys out there who think like that and aren't able to commit.

Rebecca's and Joy's story brought feelings of warmth and uncomfortableness throughout the entire book. I felt that Rebecca could have handled things a little bit better with Joy. I understand her excitement and concern over finding out she has a sister. However, I don't think she really thought the whole situation over. She imagines that Joy would welcome her with open arms as soon as she hears the news. She doesn't think about the other reactions her words would cause. Rebecca is not very tactful at all either. I wanted to jump in the story and be like "Come on, THINK!!!" I'm not excusing Joy's brusque behavior but at the same time I could totally understand why she kept treating Rebecca in that way. At the same time, sisters are always exciting and it's a bond that's one of the closest you'll ever have.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, but keeps you thinking as you read. It's not just a sister story, it's a relationship story. Marriage issues, family issues, and just relationships overall are discussed throughout the book. There are also discussion questions and an interview with the author included at the end of the story to help keep the conversation going about the story. There is some language and a little bit of sex but both are not main factors in the story. If you're a fan of chick lit, you'll really enjoy this one. I can't wait for Melissa's next book!

The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate is published by Downtown Press (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


  1. After the great reviews I've read today, I'm really anxious to read this book!

  2. Deborah, I've long followed you on Twitter and had no idea you were a fan! Thank you so much for this amazing review. I'm going to post it on my blog!


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