Title: Her Mother’s Secret
Author: Natasha Lester
Publisher: 28 March 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance, historical fiction
My Rating: 5 cups
A sweeping story of love and ambition from England to the Manhattan of the 1920s and 1940s by the author of A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD
1918, England. Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora's life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father's chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly. Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father's life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City. On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . . In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she's a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous.
1939, New York City. Everett's daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalized like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it?
Last year I read ‘A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald’ by Natasha and just loved it. Therefore I had been greatly anticipating the release of ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ for many months - could it possibly live up to the same standards? Well, I am here to tell you that indeed it does! Natasha’s novel, without doubt, firmly places her at the forefront of Australian historical literature. I adored this book, whipping through it in record time.
Right from the beginning this tale will capture you, placing you under a spell until completion. It’s difficult to review as you simply don’t want to give anything away. Yet truly this tale has a little something for everyone: a sweeping saga from post World War I to World War II, where you will find friendship, love, intrigue, mystery and plenty of drama.
‘Denial was the only option. Because to move past denial meant asking a question that was at once so irresistible and so catastrophic that Leo couldn’t begin to contemplate it.’
What becomes apparent right from the outset is the depth of research undertaken by Natasha, especially concerning the cosmetics industry. Also included is the specified gender roles of the time, the impact of war on industry, glorious fashion and most importantly, the role of women in this new world order - strong, ambitious and determined women trying to make a place for themselves outside of the traditional home.
‘To battle the barbarism of dancing, flirting and lipstick. I see men hit their wives or their children almost every day down by the tenements and nobody blinks an eye. But a woman dares to rouge her cheeks and they cry out for guns to defeat her.’
Just as in ‘A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald’, Natasha demonstrates a real talent in presenting characters that you feel you know. You become a part of the story and take each step along their journey. There will be ones you admire like Leo and ones you love to hate like Faye. Character development is so rich, that the array of supporting characters, (crucial to the development of this story) like Ben and Faye, will develop to the point where you will come to not only understand, but accept and in the end, sympathise with.
I believe this book cements Natasha at the forefront of historical fiction with meticulous research, endearing characters involved in a mystery set against the backdrop of between world wars. I cannot recommend it highly enough and can’t wait to see what Natasha comes up with next.
‘...unable to stop the tears from falling, feeling at last defended, like a single musical note that had finally found the symphony to which it belonged.’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release