TBR Day. His Secret Past / Ellen Hartman. 2008

     I'm pleased to say that this year's 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.


  1. I'm fairly new (relatively speaking) to the SuperRomance line so I've never tried a book by this author. But just like Wendy's pick, this one sounds Very Appealing to me! I'll have to look further into it. Thanks for the review :-)

  2. Oooh, you need to read this one Kristie! I really think you'll like the hero. I read it eons ago for Sybil, gave it an A :)

  3. Ohhh, this sounds like a great read, Phyl! I'm so glad you enjoyed your first read of this challenge. And quilts! Plus hey, look... Wendy gave this an A? That's 2 for 2... I'll definitely have to give it a try.

  4. I really have to credit Wendy for my willingness to give the SuperRomance line a try. I've enjoyed a number of great reads whenever I've been in the mood for something short and angsty. I went and found Wendy's review for this book; it's a good one. So Kristie & Hilcia, you do need to try this!

    And Kristie, I've already picked out my February book. That one will be Just. For. You. :-)

  5. Now you have me very curios *g*. And I just purchased this one. Between your excellent review & Wendy's A, I simply had to - at 6:00 in the am. Gotta love ebooks. Interesting though, I looked it up at Amazon and they were asking $3.59 and at Chapters (Kobo)it was $5.99. Guess where I got it from?

  6. I will be anxious to hear what you think, Kristie! Interesting price differential. I have a Kindle, so I never see Kobo or Nook prices. I do know that the regular discounts Amazon offers on the various Harlequin category lines makes it TOO easy to buy these all the time. I have quite a collection now waiting TBR on my Kindle alone. Never mind what's in the closet... And yes, isn't it fun to buy (and instantly download) books at 6 am or 3 am or whenever? I love my Kindle.

  7. LOL, I bought it too! It's now in my Kindle. Hurray for easy-to-buy ebooks. ;P So... there you go, cleansed one out of my TBR and added one. But, I think I'll read this one quickly. Thanks Phyl (and Wendy)! :D

  8. That's the hazard of TBR Day! I invariably end up buying a book or two after reading all of the other TBR postings. Enjoy, Hils!

  9. OK - I bought it and read it. I liked it quite a bit though I did wish there had been a love scene or two. Mason and Anna had such chemistry, it would have been nice to see a payoff. In fact I think there was only just the one kiss in the whole book.

  10. Yay! So glad to see you loved your TBR pick for this month. Was it just me or did a lot of us just report back with 'meh' reviews? I think you and Kristie are the only ones who really loved their book.

    This one sounds really fun.. and a contemporary romance that takes place in NJ? Wow. Usually we're reserved for post apocalyptic or evil fae UF. I wonder why that is? ; )

    Love that the quilt scene got your heart pitter pattering. :D

  11. Kristie, I'm glad you liked it. I'm not the expert Wendy is, but I think the heat level is usually fairly low in the SuperRomance line. I wouldn't have minded more heat myself, but I thought there was a strong emotional payoff, so that was good.

    And lol, Christine, about typical NJ settings in romance. So, you'll have to tell us if this book does NJ proud.

    1. I typically tend to put Supers somewhere around PG-rated. But I've read G-rated ones and in recent years some authors have crept up to PG-13 territory. But they're definitely on the tamer end of the scale.

      Heee, I had kind of forgotten about this one being more G-rated. Usually the sex (or lack thereof) only pops out at me if I feel strongly that the author *should* have (in my every so humble opinion LOL) gone a different route. Here it didn't bother me, so it didn't "stick" in my head....and I forgot about it :)

  12. Thanks Wendy, that's what I thought, but I was afraid my personal sample size might be too small. There was a fair bit of mental lusting in this one, but not much more. As I said, there was a great emotional connection in this and that was good enough for me.


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