TBR Challenge began for me with a wonderful read. I'm really regretting that I let this one languish in the closet for so long and I'm eager to read more by this author. I've been trying to remember how I ended up even owning this book and I'm pretty sure I won it in a contest. I should write these things down. Anyway, based on the blurb, it's not something I'd ordinarily buy. My copy is autographed by Hartman, which is why I think I won it.
His Secret Past is the story of Mason Star, former lead singer for a once-popular rock band. Mason joined the band when he was only 16. After reaching the top of the rock star world Mason was so messed up that the band kicked him out. Now, years later, he's built a new life for himself as the owner/caretaker of a small community called Mulligans that provides housing and life skills training to people trying to get on their feet. Mason has buried himself in his work and evades the public eye and any ties to his past life. Mulligans is in the small town of Lakeland, NJ. As the book opens, Mason is in conflict with the residents of Lakeland over the future of Mulligans, as well as in conflict with his 17-year old son.
Anna Walsh is a documentary filmmaker with a personal agenda. She wants to dig into Mason's past and tell the story behind his leaving the band. He wants no part of it, but when she offers to make a film about Mulligans that just might save it, he decides to let her in. And a powerful attraction is sparked between them.
For a relatively short category romance, an awful lot happens in this book. I actually thought it got off to a slow start, but Hartman was introducing the various threads that quickly are drawn together. Hartman includes some well-drawn secondary characters, including Mason's son. But the real sparkle in the book is the interaction between Anna and Mason. Anna is a wonderful heroine. She's made a real name for herself through her filmmaking and she is very sure of herself. She knows what she wants and she goes after it, including Mason himself. There's some very funny dialogue about music, which I think would appeal to anyone who remembers the '80s. I also liked how Hartman used Anna's love of color to reveal facets of Anna's character.
And bonus! There are two pages involving quilts. Quilts, I tell you! Like this right here:
She moved past him to escape any more smart remarks but then stopped short. The room was full of quilts. Colors and patterns lined the walls. There were quilts stacked on shelves and chairs and others hanging from dowels on the walls.
That was when she saw it. Hanging over a wooden dowel, high enough on the wall that she hadn't noticed it right away, was a patchwork quilt. Not a Laura Ingalls patchwork, this was a grid of off-center squares and tilted rectangles in lush, glowing shades of yellow and orange with spikes of red. It was like the embers of a campfire, warm and cozy all at once.
Well, didn't that just make my little heart go pitter patter. But seriously, I thought Hartman skillfully used things like color, Mason's golf game, old pop music, filmmaking, and much more to show us her characters and why they would be attracted to one another. By the time I was halfway into the book I couldn't put it down.
As I said, it was a great way to start this year's challenge and I'm going to keep my eye out for other books by this author.