If you’d like to win a copy of “Secrets and Lies: The Complete Trilogy”, which was a quarter-finalist at the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’s 2013, head on over to Goodreads, where I’m running an international giveaway for the paperback edition. All you have to do to enter is click the link here.
Praise for “Secrets and Lies: The Complete Trilogy”
This is one of the first series that I had the privilege of reviewing and it still holds a dear spot in my heart. It is a great series that will bring forth a lot of emotions, some great some depressing.
We get to follow along with a tragedy and see how each person deals with it. The characters were very well written, they were detailed to the point where you could almost see them in front of you because they were described that well.
The storyline is one that will draw you in, because you will HAVE to find out what happens. Will everyone get their happy ending, or will their worlds fall apart as they know it? — Crystal Marie at Crystal’s Many Reviewers
Secrets and Lies The Complete Trilogy comprises all three books in the trilogy: Secrets and Lies, Aftermath, and Redemption.
Kerry Darcy has loved Conor, her childhood sweetheart, for more than twenty years. They’ve built their dream home together, raised a happy family and are still madly in love.
Hope Kennedy seems to have it all; a fabulous job, a luxurious apartment and best of all she’s married to her soulmate, Niall.
Two very different women, two perfect husbands; but what happens when their lives horribly collide?
The terrible force of chaos ensues; a force that takes its fateful hold on time and place. It ruptures the present, warps the future, replacing order with confusion, confidence with trepidation and control with powerlessness. Lives are ended for some, changed forever for others and a most significant chain of events is about to unfold with catastrophic results.
Kerry Darcy’s life, as she knew it, ended just before three o’ clock on Friday, the eleventh of March 2011.
The Great East Japan earthquake was one of the most powerful earthquakes that the modern world had ever known. The earthquake battered coastal communities with waves of up to forty metres tall. It triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the Japanese coast and the aftershock could be felt as far away as Russia, the west coast of America and even in the Antarctic where the tsunami destroyed icebergs that were the same size as Manhattan Island.
It killed more than fifteen thousand people and injured over twenty six thousand. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history and was the fifth largest earthquake ever measured, causing the entire planet to shift on its axis by up to twenty five centimetres. The energy released on the earth’s surface was equivalent to more than one thousand five hundred times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
Saoirse Darcy, a young student, had studied tsunamis in geography at school and recognised the telltale signs of the receding ocean and frothing bubbles. She warned the others on the beach about the impending killer wave and they were evacuated to safety just in time, before the tsunami struck its deadly blow, wreaking havoc on so many unsuspecting lives.
Giant forces that had been building up deep in the Earth for hundreds of years were explosively released on that fateful day in March, shaking the ground violently and unleashing a series of killer waves that raced across the Pacific Ocean at the speed of a jet airliner. Hours later, deadly waves radiating from the earthquake zone slammed into the coastline of Pacific countries; snatching people out to sea, drowning others in their homes or on beaches, and demolishing property from Japan to America and beyond.
Along a stretch of coastline equivalent to the distance from London to Edinburgh, a tower of water reaching up to twelve metres tall burst over reinforced sea barriers, destroying sixteen towns and ninety-five thousand buildings. It travelled six miles inland, in some areas, before dragging millions of homes, possessions and vehicles back into the open sea.
The earthquake had the largest duration of faulting ever observed, lasting between eight and ten minutes; the most devastating minutes of Kerry Darcy’s life. Kerry could hear the screaming and crying of the people all around her. Everyone was clinging to whatever piece of debris they could find, watching the waves spread out in vast tentacles as it reached further and further in all directions.
The killer wave had taken its fateful hold on time and place. It had ruptured the present, warped the future, replaced order with confusion, confidence with trepidation and control with powerlessness. Lives were ended for some, changed forever for others and a most significant chain of events was about to unfold with catastrophic results.
“You are the most wonderful husband in the whole wide world and I love you so much!” Kerry Darcy flung her arms around Conor, her husband of twenty years and almost sent everything on their restaurant table flying to the floor in her eagerness to hug him.
“Steady on sweetheart, the manager will have us removed for causing such a commotion,” Conor laughed.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I’m so very happy right now and I don’t care who knows it. I love you.” She planted a big kiss on his lips and gazed lovingly into his intelligent blue eyes.
“I love you too, darling,” Conor laughed again and hugged her tightly in return. “Everyone’s staring at us,” he whispered eventually.
Kerry reluctantly disentangled herself from her husband’s muscular arms and glanced around the packed restaurant. It was eight o’ clock on Saturday evening, the busiest night of the week, and quite a few people were staring in amusement at them. It seemed they’d caused quite a scene. Kerry smiled in embarrassment and hastily retreated to her seat where she tried to regain her composure.
“I can’t believe you’ve planned such an amazing surprise and I didn’t have a clue what were you up to all this time! It must have taken you months to organise the trip.”
“I can be mysterious when necessary,” her husband teased, arching an eyebrow. “You might know me better than most people, but I can keep a secret when necessary.”
“Can you really?” Kerry looked quizzically at him. “What could be more surprising than the holiday of a lifetime to Japan? I’ve always wanted to go there. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine and you’re going to make it come true.”
“You can call me Mr. Dream Maker,” Conor grinned at her as he refilled their wine glasses. “I’m being a touch selfish too, you know. I booked the holiday as much for myself as for you.”
“Oh, that’s right!” Kerry exclaimed. “It’ll be your forty- fifth birthday on March twenty first.”
“Exactly,” Conor winked at her. “I wanted to do something special and we’ve opened a new hotel in Tohoku so I got us great rates for a few nights.”
“What about the children?” Kerry asked, a flicker of worry suddenly passing across her pretty face. Kerry was forty two years old with dark auburn hair which fell in soft waves around her heart-shaped face. Her eyes were sky-blue and her lips, even without lipstick, were a full rosebud red. Her looks were almost perfect apart from her slightly crooked nose, a result of having fallen downstairs as a young child and breaking it rather dramatically. She still shuddered at the memory of the gushing blood and how badly her nose had swollen.
She had a petite figure which she kept trim and toned by running five miles every day and she stood just five feet one inch tall, that one inch was very important to her. She possessed a deep, throaty voice and an even raspier, filthy laugh which is what Conor claimed made him fall in love with her all those years ago.
“Darling, our children are old enough to take care of themselves for a few weeks, don’t you think? Emer is nineteen and Saoirse is almost thirteen.”
“I know their ages, darling,” Kerry replied disparagingly. “I just worry about them, that’s all. It’s the first time we’ll both be away from them for such a long period of time. Three whole weeks is quite a while for them to be home alone.”
“They won’t be alone, darling. Your sister has promised to keep an eye on them while we’re gone and she only lives next door! Saoirse practically lives with her Auntie Maura most of the time anyway; whenever she’s off school she’s over at Maura’s house and we hardly ever see Emer since she started college. They adore each other and anyway, Emer has grown into a very capable, responsible young woman. She’s told me that she’ll take good care of Soairse, not that Saoirse is difficult in any way. I trust them both implicitly, they’ll be absolutely fine.”
“Are you sure?” Kerry sounded doubtful.
“I’m absolutely positive and anyway we can take them with us if you’d prefer. Now I would like to make a toast to my gorgeous wife, who I must say is looking particularly ravishing tonight.”
Kerry blushed at her husband’s compliment as he raised his glass in a toast to her.
“How did I get so lucky?” she whispered, reaching across the table for his hand.
“I’m the lucky one, darling,” Conor smiled indulgently at her.
They were rudely interrupted by the shrill ringing of Conor’s mobile phone.
“Damn!” he swore under his breath. “I thought I’d turned the bloody thing off.” He frowned in annoyance at the phone, as if he was willing it to stop ringing.
“Aren’t you going to answer it?” Kerry asked gently.
“No, it’ll probably be someone from work and they can wait until Monday. I specifically said that I didn’t want to be disturbed tonight.”
The phone rang again. “It must be important, you should answer it. I really don’t mind,” Kerry insisted.
“I won’t be long,” Conor smiled apologetically at his wife and hurriedly made his way to the restaurant’s foyer where he could speak in privacy.
Kerry gazed at the picturesque landscape before her and slowly sipped her red wine. The restaurant’s floor- to-ceiling windows had been flung open to take advantage of the unseasonably warm, sunny weather. Summer that year had been particularly lovely; it had arrived early and stayed late. It was September already and the days were perfect shades of green and gold. Kerry watched the soft twilight settle over the garden and listened to the sounds of the river in the background; the hooting of river boats, the partying pleasure boats and the occasional cries of the birds overhead. It was an idyllic scene.
I’m the luckiest woman in the world, she thought. She often said to her friends that her life was just too good to be true and they readily agreed with her. She was married to her first and only love and they still adored each other, even after twenty years of marriage.
“If you two weren’t such decent people I’d be sick with jealousy,” her sister, Maura, sometimes joked. “You both still act like love’s young dream.”
Conor was a wonderfully attentive and supportive husband, in spite of his hectic job. He was managing director of the Imperial Hotel Group, which was an exclusive international hotel chain. It was a role which required him to be away on business quite often for long stretches at a time, but he was never more than a telephone call away. He’d insisted that Kerry had full-time help with the children when they were very young and this allowed her to continue her career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. It was a job which she thoroughly enjoyed and one which made her quite well-renowned in artistic and literary circles.
She was happy to have something of her own, that was just hers, outside of her husband and children. It gave her a sense of independence and allowed her to maintain her own identity as an individual, not just as Kerry the wife, mother and sister, but as Kerry the woman. Conor recognised his wife’s need to retain some part of her individualism and he did everything he possibly could to encourage her.
Emer and Saoirse were the best children that any mother could ever wish for; they were healthy, loving, kind and hardworking, in spite of their parents’ wealth. Emer had worked part-time since she was twelve years old; first delivering the local newspapers and now working Saturdays at the local grocery store. She was studying to be a vet, something that she had wanted to pursue since her childhood love affair with animals. Saoirse was following in her older sister’s steps and had just started her own paper-round a few weeks previously.
Money was no object to the Darcys; Conor’s job was very well-paid and Kerry had inherited a large estate when she was twenty-five from her late parents who had died tragically when she was a baby. Her beloved Auntie Aisling and Uncle Sean had raised Kerry and her sister, Maura from infancy and treated them as their own children. Kerry and Maura saw them as being their parents because they were the only mom and dad they’d ever known.
The Darcys owned several luxurious houses around the world including a restored villa in the South of France, a chalet in Zurich, Switzerland and a large apartment in London. Life was good and they had everything that money could buy.
Kerry knew her life was blessed. Some of her friends had rich husbands who rarely wanted to spend any time with them, fobbing them off, instead, with expensive gifts and an unlimited bank account. They lived separate lives for the most part, something which Kerry would have hated. She often said to Conor that she’d rather be rich in love than poor in worldly possessions, but she was lucky enough to have both.
She appreciated that she had an absolute treasure in her husband and was still deeply in love. Their daughters completely adored him too. Although he had a stressful, high-powered job, he was always in an upbeat mood. He was never annoyed or snappy with his wife or children, no matter how tired or stressed he felt from work. He made time for them and his family truly believed that they were the most important people in his life.
Conor had presented Kerry with a sparkling diamond ring that morning. She’d woken to breakfast in bed and before she’d had time to rub the sleep from her tired eyes, he’d popped the stunning ring on her finger. She was so overwhelmed that she’d promptly burst into tears.
Kerry smiled to herself at her memory of the first time she’d met Conor. It was Christmas time and shortly after her twentieth birthday. Even now, so many years later, memories of the night they first met were still vivid in her mind. A week before Christmas, she and her sister, Maura, decided to let their hair down and dropped into their local pub for a few festive drinks. They’d been studying hard for their final university exams and were relieved that the holidays were fast approaching.
Everyone was singing along to the holiday favourite, the Andy Williams’ classic, “It’s the most Wonderful Time of the Year” and in the helter-skelter of the bustling pub, Kerry lost Maura in the crowd. After a quick search, she was told by a fresh-faced Conor that Maura had left with his friend.
Conor and Kerry started chatting and eventually he offered to walk her home.
“You’ll do no such thing,” Kerry remembered she’d strongly protested, although secretly she’d known that she’d met her Mr. Right.
They’d spent the evening talking and talking. Conor was full of plans for the future and Kerry felt that she would die if she didn’t get to share his plans and dreams.
“I’m going to marry that guy,” Kerry told her sister on the way home in the taxi, later that night.
She’d never been particularly attracted to anyone until she met Conor. She’d certainly vaguely liked a few boys in school but she’d fallen madly in love with Conor from the moment they’d met. He was kind, generous, thoughtful and was full of life. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was handsome with a wonderfully lean body and that she thought he was incredibly sexy. Her whole body would tingle at his lightest touch and the wonderful thing was that he seemed just as crazy n love with her as she was with him. He made her feel like she was the only woman in the world and he still made her feel like that today.
Conor had a real zest for life which was very infectious. Even back then, at the age of twenty five he had had a burning desire to travel the world; travelling was his passion and he had instilled some of that passion in her. They’d been on many trips together; from backpacking around Europe to travelling across America in a beaten-up campervan which Conor had converted with the help of his father.
Soon after that fateful night in the pub, Kerry and Conor began dating and within a few short months they became inseparable. Kerry had never slept with anyone before Conor. She’d wanted to wait until she’d met someone special and Conor was willing to wait until she was ready to take the next step in their relationship. She knew it was old-fashioned but she had made a rule in her own mind that she wouldn’t sleep with him until he told her that he loved her. Obviously she couldn’t tell him what she was thinking or it would be like putting the words into his head. She wanted him to tell her from his heart when the time was right for him and she knew he meant the words. She’d known she’d loved him since the first night they’d met in the pub, but she hadn’t wanted to tell him until he said it first.
Maura thought she was being ridiculous. “You should just tell him how you feel,” she’d said. “One of you has to say it first, why can’t it be you? It’s the twenty-first century after all; women are allowed to speak their minds and make the first move in a relationship.”
“I want to wait for him,” Kerry insisted. “I don’t care if I’m being old-fashioned.”
Conor and Kerry spent every moment of their free time together when they weren’t at work or college. Conor was studying Business Management and Tourism at University College Cork and Kerry had gotten her first “proper” job as a junior librarian at Cork City library. She was thrilled to be immersed in books every day. It was her ultimate dream to write and illustrate children’s books, which she pursued in the evening after her day job, on the rare occasion when she wasn’t seeing Conor.
Kerry was sharing a flat with her sister in the city centre and Conor was living in student accommodation until he finished his Master’s degree. They certainly didn’t get much time alone together and it seemed as if they were constantly surrounded by people wherever they went.
They went for long walks in the park and spent hours in the cafes which were everywhere in the city. Conor told her all about himself. He was from “the country” and had grown up on a large farm in Killaloe, County Clare. He was the youngest of three boys; Tony was a teacher, living in Dublin and Shane had emigrated to Australia a few years previously, where he’d settled down and married a wonderful Australian woman. He told her how he missed them both as they didn’t come home much anymore, too wrapped up in their own lives.
His parents had lived in the same house since they’d been married almost thirty years ago. His father was an only child and the sprawling, two hundred acre farm had been left to him when his parents died. It was back-breaking on the farm at times and they’d all been expected to do their fair share. It had meant a lot of early mornings; bringing the cows in for milking and late nights, especially during the haying season, but Conor loved every minute. It wasn’t all hardship; Conor regaled her with hilarious stories about the adventures he and his brothers would have pretending they were spies chasing each other all over the farm.
Kerry was absolutely riveted by his stories. She’d spent her entire life living in the city suburbs and had never even seen a cow in real life! Conor’s life seemed fascinating to her. He talked a lot about his brothers but shared very little about his parents. He rarely went home to visit them anymore, and when he did go he was back in the city again after a few short days. Kerry didn’t understand why he was so distant from them. She longed to ask him about his parents but something told her not to ask. Conor was very animated about most things in his life but he would close down when the subject of his parents was brought up. His face would become clouded and guarded. Kerry didn’t like to pry and hoped that he would tell her more in his own time.
He didn’t ask her much about her own family, which she appreciated. She’d never particularly liked talking about herself as she hated being the centre of attention. He knew all about her beloved sister, Maura, of course and how their parents had died in a car crash when they were babies, but she preferred to listen to him talking and all the plans he had for their future together.
There was certainly no shortage of things to talk about in those early, heady days of their romance. They discussed what music they liked and their favourite films. She told him all about her most treasured books and he talked for hours about where he wanted to travel.
Kerry shared almost everything with her sister. It was wonderful to have Maura to confide in. Maura had already had three boyfriends and was a lot more experienced with men than Kerry. Maura had always been a bit of a free spirit. She fell in and out of love quickly and easily gave her heart away. Kerry, on the other hand, had always been a lot more cautious. She told her sister about Conor and his family and the hopes and plans they had for their future together.
Maura had been intrigued. She’d never seen her sister so smitten by anyone.
“You’re in love with him,” she declared one evening.
“Do you think so? I don’t know. I think I love him, but how would I know for sure?” Kerry replied uncertainly, wishing in that moment for her sister’s confidence and charm.
Maura smiled kindly at her. “Trust me, you are in love with him and he is just as much in love with you. I’ve never seen you like this before. Has he told you that he loves you yet?”
“Not yet, but I’m sure he will,” Kerry said cautiously.
“Of course he loves you,” Maura pronounced, pushing her long blonde curly hair out of her eyes. “He seems to have it just as bad as you. It’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen and I must admit I’m a little jealous. I’ve never had with any guy what you two have together. It’s love at first sight.”
Kerry couldn’t help smiling at her sister’s words. She could always depend on Maura to be honest, sometimes brutally honest.
“Is it that obvious?” she grinned.
“Totally and utterly,” Maura smiled. “So, tell me, have you slept with him yet?”
“Maura!” Kerry exclaimed. “You can’t ask me that!”
“Guess what? I just did,” Maura teased. “Well, have you?”
Kerry blushed a deep shade of crimson and muttered a quiet, “no.”
Maura took pity on her sister’s embarrassment and decided not to pursue her line of questioning any further, much to Kerry’s immense relief.
“When are you taking him home to meet auntie and uncle?” Maura asked, changing the subject.
“Soon,” Kerry answered. “Auntie keeps asking me when she’ll meet him. I just don’t want to rush things.”
“You’ve been going out together for months now,” Maura said. “You’re practically joined at the hip and he’s all you talk about these days. Don’t you think it’s only politeness to introduce him to Auntie and Uncle?”
“I will, soon, very soon,” Kerry repeated.
It was all arranged; Conor was finally going to meet Auntie and Uncle. Kerry was a nervous wreck as their imminent meeting approached. She desperately wanted everyone to like each other and was worried about Auntie not liking Conor and telling him exactly what she was thinking; a habit that she and Maura shared. Aisling Kerrigan was not known for her tact.
“We’re finally getting to see your mystery man,” Aunt Aisling declared as she took a tray of scones out of the oven and began to arrange them on her best china plate.
“Yes, indeed you are,” Kerry said absent-mindedly. She peeped through the curtains expecting Conor at any minute.
“Come away from that window, child,” her uncle ordered. “The neighbours will think we’ve developed a twitch.”
Kerry reluctantly sat on the sofa and awaited Conor’s arrival. He’d been unexpectedly needed on the farm that weekend, otherwise they would have arrived together.
“”He’s here!” Maura called as she ran downstairs to open the door. She couldn’t wait to meet him.
Conor’s battered Fiat Punto pulled into the drive and screeched to a halt outside their front door. He jumped out and held out his hand in greeting to Maura, who embraced him in a hug.
“There’s no need for such formalities,” she beamed at him. “Sure I feel like I know you already, Kerry’s told me so much about you.”
“All good I hope,” he beamed back at her.
“That’s for me to know,” she winked as Kerry brushed past her and greeted her boyfriend with a chaste kiss on the cheek.
“I see you’ve met Maura.” Kerry held his hand and led him to the sitting room where her aunt and uncle were waiting impatiently.
“It’s lovely to meet you at last, Aisling,” Conor formally shook her hand and offered the big box of chocolates that he’d brought with him, which she accepted in delight.
“Turkish Wonder,” she smiled. “It’s my favourite.”
Kerry searched her aunt’s face for signs that she was offended by Conor’s familiarity in using her first name. Her aunt was a stickler for manners, but she seemed to be very pleased with Conor.
Conor was full of chat about the farm and enthralled her aunt and uncle with his many stories. He said that her aunt’s scones were the tastiest he’d ever eaten and she positively glowed with pleasure at the compliment and insisted that he take a box away with him when he left. He had a natural way with people that seemed to draw them out of their shells and want to be close to him. Kerry watched their interaction with great pride. There was no need for her earlier fretting; Conor charmed everyone he met.
All too soon the visit was over. “I’ll be off now,” Conor declared suddenly, draining the last of his tea and struggling to his feet.
“Are you going so soon?” Aunt Aisling asked, looking genuinely dismayed.
“I don’t want to over-stay my welcome.”
“It was great to meet you, son,” Uncle Sean held out his hand and warmly shook the younger man’s hand.
“A pleasure to meet you two, sir,” Conor said respectfully.
“You have a fine strong handshake,” Uncle Sean decreed. He was of the firm belief that you could tell a man’s character by the strength of his handshake.
“Kerry promised to help me study for my exams in the morning,” Conor explained, glancing expectantly at a surprised Kerry.
“Oh, yes, yes I did promise,” she stuttered.
“That’s handy,” Uncle Sean groaned. “It saves me a drive into the city to drop her home.”
They all stood at the door and waved them off. Conor beeped the horn as he swung the car out of the drive and sped towards the city with Kerry by his side.
“They loved you,” Kerry beamed. “I’m relieved that it went so well.”
“Why wouldn’t it have gone well? Sure they’re lovely people.”
“They’re the best,” Kerry agreed, and she meant it.
“Do you really need me to help you study?” she asked.
“No that was just a ploy to get you to myself. I haven’t seen you all weekend and I’ve missed you. It seems like a lifetime since we’ve had any alone time and besides, I have a surprise for you.”
“I love surprises,” she giggled.
He put her hand on her knee and gently squeezed it.
She felt a tingle run along her thigh at his touch and she placed her hand on his for the rest of the drive into town.
“Where are we going?” Kerry asked, full of curiosity when she noticed that they’d missed the familiar turn to Conor’s student accommodation.