A Place of Secrets – Rachel Hore

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 Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Read

A Place of Secrets begins with Jude, an auctioneer, being asked to value a collection of scientific instruments near her childhood home in Norfolk. She jumps at the chance to leave London, look over the valuable pieces, and catch up with her Gran, who still lives nearby.

Unfortunately I can’t tell you what happens after that as I gave up. This book is 450 pages long and if I am to dedicate that amount of time to a book then I need to be fully engaged. The writing failed to connect with me from the start. There was a large amount of dialogue and it didn’t feel natural.

‘Listen, quickly, how do you think Gran is? I’m going to stay with her on Thursday night.’
‘Oh she’ll love that.’ Claire’s voice softened. ‘She’s all right, Jude, a bit frail. Summer and I took her to buy shoes in Sheringham on Saturday. It was a bit of an ordeal because they didn’t have her usual style but we found something in the end. What are you doing down here in the middle of the week, then?’
‘I know it’s a great coincidence, but I’m visiting Starbrough Hall to value some stuff.’
‘Starbrough Hall? Really? Well Gran will fill you in about that. Look, I’ve got to go.’

The writing didn’t flow very well and felt jumpy. At the 70 page mark I considered giving up and went to check reviews on Amazon. There was a good spread of people who ranged from loving it to hating it, but I noticed that many people shared my opinion on the writing. Some also felt that there were too many coincidences and as I had already spotted a few I can only imagine how this could worsen with another 400 pages. I decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea to continue and so moved on to a book I would find more enjoyable.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys the above passage.


I have now tried all of Richard and Judy’s 2010 Winter Reads.

Keep an eye out for my summary later this week!

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  1. Sandy says:

    I do give you credit for knowing what you like and what you don’t and when to draw the line. Frankly it doesn’t sound all that great to me. I just have a hard time throwing in the towel!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I used to be the same as you, but I’m getting better at abandoning books. Sometimes I wish I abandoned them earlier ;-)

  2. litlove says:

    Ewww, that dialogue made my toes curl. Good call, I think, Jackie.

    1. Jackie says:

      litlove, It is good to know I’m not alone :-)

  3. Alex says:

    I sometimes wonder how authors still insist in using a large amount of coincidences.

    I’m sure that if anyone would bother in listing the most common literary complaints (has anyone tried? it would be a cool poll), “unbelievable coincidence” would be among the most voted.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, That would be an interesting poll! Perhaps I’ll run it some time next year :-)

      I don’t mind the odd coincidence, but too many annoy me. I do try to remember that truth is stranger than fiction, but there can only be so many coincidences :-(

  4. Charlie says:

    I agree with you on this one, the passage is wearing. Dialogue like that last sentence, telling someone they’ve got to go, would’ve worked better as regular text description.

    I’ve seen the book around and the cover interested me, but after reading your thoughts I think I’ll stay away.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, You are right. I’m not a good enough writer to know how to improve things, but this book could have benefitted from a lot less dialogue.

  5. Jessica says:

    Gosh Richard & Judy seem to be the benchmark on what to avoid at the moment! Its a shame as when they first started they had books like Cloud Atlas and Star of the Sea on their list, there doesn’t seem to be that kind of standard of book this time round.

    I look forward to you thoughts and summery

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, You seem to be predicting my summary post ;-)

  6. LindyLouMac says:

    I was going to add this to my wishlist having enjoyed the The Memory Garden, which I thought similar to the style of Kate Morton. Now reading that dialogue I am not so sure, especially as you only gave it one star.

    1. Jackie says:

      LindyLouMac, I haven’t read the Memory Garden so can’t comment on that, but I thought it was vaguely similar in style to Kate Morton. I thought The Forgotten Garden was OK, but I wasn’t a massive fan. The cover is clearly designed to appeal to fans of Kate Morton, but on Amazon it seems as though a lot of big Morton fans didn’t like this one either.

  7. Iris says:

    I find it so hard to give up on books and I do admire you for knowing so well what you like and what you do not like. It seems you have been having some trouble finding something you enjoy lately.

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, My problem is that I often don’t know what I like until I try it! Don’t worry – I have read some fantastic books recently :-)

  8. Kathleen says:

    The dialogue seems forced so I will happily skip this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, Sometimes it is nice to cross a book off a list ;-)

  9. The first thing I noticed (which put me off) was that the cover looks identical to the Kate Morton books which are a bit blah – so this I would then expect to be even more blah! Judgemental I know but ho hum.

    1. Jackie says:

      Novel Insights, I noticed the similarity to Morton’s book too. I thought The House at Riverton was OK so this book could have easily been a bit better than that – shame it was much worse :-(

  10. LizF says:

    I bought a copy of Rachel Hore’s first book The Dream House but didn’t get past the second chapter for exactly the same reason – the dialogue reminded me of those people you can’t help but overhear having mindblowingly mundane conversations on their mobile phones – you want to ttune them out but they are too loud!
    I was going to try it again before passing it on but having read your review of this one and the sample of dialogue, I’m not sure that I can face it, so it will be going in the clear-out pile as soon as I get home.
    Am I right in thinking that the books for this Richard and Judy selection have not been chosen by the same person as the earlier selections?

    1. Jackie says:

      LizF, It is good to know that her other books are similar in style – I know I can avoid them all now.

      You are right in thinking that R&Js books are selected by different people this time. They are chosen by a WH Smith’s buying team and the R&J themselves. Not quite as good ;-)

  11. TERESA says:

    I thought The Memory Garden was okay but had already decided to pass on this one. I wouldn’t have imagined it to be your cup of tea at all, Jackie! Speaking of Kate Morton, I have just finished her latest opus, The Distant Hours but more on that when I review it…

    I read and enjoyed No and Me from the R and J list and still have The Wilding on TBR pile, none of the others really appealed which is unusual for me when it comes to R and J selections.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, Sorry for missing your comment. :-( I have decided that Kate Morton isn’t for me and so I wont be reading The Distant Hours (that hardback would really hurt my wrists too!)

  12. Tortoisebook says:

    Hi, I’ve just finished this one.

    I actually quite liked the story but felt the book was badly let down by its editor. It was too long, the writing style was irritating and it was riddled with errors.

    I’m new to this book blogging lark but think it is important to expose bad publishing especially when the book is benefiting from the lucrative Richard & Judy effect.

    1. Jackie says:

      Tortoisebook, I didn’t make it to the end as that writing style annoyed me so much. I’m glad to hear that the story was OK, but I agree about the editing. Such a shame that R&J are highlighting books like this.


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