In Hall’s (Journey of Promise, 2013, etc.) romance/thriller, a woman with an unhappy past starts over in 1945 Nebraska.
Bonnie Cooper leaves San Diego in a hurry, taking only one suitcase—and a small red leather box holding “the secrets that had her running for her life.” Readers don’t discover the nature of those secrets until quite late in the novel, nor the full story of why Bonnie lies compulsively about herself and her origins. (“It had always been easier to pretend to be someone else,” thinks Bonnie, “someone better than her real self.”) Attractive and eager to learn, Bonnie soon settles into Omaha, and her pet kitten and new friends help stem her chronic panic attacks. When she meets the kind Orton family—and their handsome nephew Glen, newly returned from war—Bonnie thinks her secrets are safe. She and Glen fall in love at top speed, but their respective painful memories bring them together in a believable way. Hall creates an intriguing, ambiguous heroine in Bonnie; her willingness to lie, even to people who care about her, or use her good looks to gain favors, may raise doubts in readers’ minds even as they find her sympathetic. Her secret, once revealed, is surprising, historically appropriate, and makes sense of Bonnie’s panic. However, readers may find it implausible that she wouldn’t have destroyed the contents of her box long ago, since they hold no sentimental value and could only serve to harm her. That said, the red box serves as a reminder that the past is never really over until one faces it squarely.
A love-at-first-sight romance livened up by a complicated heroine and engaging historical detail.