‘Say, wouldn’t it be a gas if all of us here are pretending to be something we’re not?’
1957: Iris Bailey is bored to death of working in the typing pool and living
with her parents in Hemel Hempstead. A gifted portraitist with a talent for
sketching guests at parties, she dreams of becoming an artist. So she can’t
believe her luck when wealthy socialite Nell Hardman invites her to
Havana to draw at the glittering wedding of her Hollywood director father.
Iris is thrilled to escape to a faraway city by the sea. But she soon realizes
that the cocktails, tropical scents and azure skies mask a darker reality. As
Cuba teeters on the edge of revolution and Iris’s heart melts for troubled
photographer Joe, she discovers that someone in the charismatic Hardman
family is hiding a terrible secret. Can she uncover the ugly truth behind the
glamour and the dazzle before all their lives are torn apart?
The Island of Secrets was one of those novels that instantly placed me right there in the thick of it. Rachel Rhys put me slap bang in the middle of the 1950’s, in the hot humid heat of Cuba, with characters that went from the ordinary to movie stars and gangsters.
Who couldn’t help but love Iris, young, sweet and utterly naive as she escaped the drudgery of normal English life, a fiancé she wasn’t too sure about, but a wonderful artistic drawing talent that opened a door to glamour and intrigue.
She was the outsider who watched as the past murder of Hollywood actress Jean Cummings, literally tore a family and its friends apart right in front of her. You could imagine her eyes almost popping out as she watched, her naivety slowly stripped away. Her relationship with photographer Joe, had that will they or won’t they get together thing that you always love in a good story, and her and journalist Eugene’s determination to solve Jean’s murder placed her in nail biting danger.
I loved the salacious deliciousness of Rhys plotlines, the selfishness of her characters as they scrambled to protect themselves, the slow rise of the criminal underworld as it crossed into the glamour of the rich and famous.
It was like someone had swapped the camera around, and turned it on Hugh, famous director, his gangster friend Bruce, the ex wives, the children, the step children, the hangers on that hoped to garner notoriety merely by assocaition.
As the heat increased, so did the tension, the characters unravelled, secret and true identities spilt across a wedding day that was anything but calm and serene. Iris’s naivety and innocence disappeared, a new mature, more worldly woman emerged almost like a butterfly as it escapes from its chrysalis. You knew she would spread her wings into a new world that you hoped would see her find happiness and fulfilment, not to return to a dreary world of parental and society expectations.
I have to say I adored Island Of Secrets and it was the perfect read for the recent hot summer days.
I would like to thank Transworld for a copy of Island Of Secrets to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Rachel Rhys is the pen-name of a much-loved psychological suspense author. Sheis the author of the Richard and Judy bookclub pick, Dangerous Crossing and thebestselling A Fatal Inheritance. Rachel Rhys lives in North London with her family.