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Review by Suze
For Bess Edward Brannigan is her life. She thinks she's lucky to be married to him and they are happy. She's organizing a party for Edward's seventieth birthday and the whole family has been invited. Edward's daughter Jojo, however, isn't happy with her father's second wife. She thinks he should still be grieving for his first love instead of being with someone again just two-and-a-half years after her death. Jojo and her husband Hugh have one big wish in their lives, having a family of their own, but things aren't going according to plan and Jojo is messed up both physically and emotionally because of everything that's happening to her. Will her animosity put pressure on her father's marriage or are Edward and Bess strong enough to deal with whatever comes their way?
Cari has sworn she will never date a man again after being left at the altar. Unfortunately Bess and Edward have invited her ex, who married Cari's second cousin, to their party as well. Cari has been through a lot, but what always made her feel better was her job as a successful editor. She's ready to make another step in her career, but one of her coworkers prevents that by stealing her most prestigious author from her. He was her discovery and she knows exactly what he needs, but Cari has to watch someone else take over. What should she do? She can't go to her best friend Jojo for support, because she's going through such a rough phase. Will Cari be tough enough to fight her way through this as well and by herself?
Secrets of a Happy Marriage is a beautiful story about a fascinating family. Misunderstandings, secrets and crippling blows are making the lives of all the Brannigans complicated. Cathy Kelly describes every family member and whatever happens in their lives in detail and I loved her thoroughness and empathy. Edward has two brothers and a sister and they each have built a life with someone. Some of them have children and they have partners, so there are a lot of main characters. The story never becomes confusing though. Because of their different personalities it's easy to keep everyone apart and Cathy Kelly makes sure her readers know where her characters are coming from and what their lives are like. I was immediately intrigued and couldn't wait to find out more about every person in the story.
Cathy Kelly writes about difficult topics, like struggling with fertility treatments, money problems, marriage issues, loneliness, not being able to tell anyone what your life is really like, loss, insecurities and jealousy in a thoughtful empathic way. There's a lot of sadness in the story and for me that raw way of describing people's issues made it realistic and interesting. Everyone is on a hopeful journey towards happiness. It isn't smooth, there are plenty bumps in the road, just like in real life. I absolutely loved that about Secrets of a Happy Marriage. Cathy Kelly combines her honest angle with gorgeous writing and useful advice, which is something I enjoyed very much. Every moving scene put tears in my eyes and the Brannigans stole my heart. I highly recommend this book, it's a stunning genuine story.
Secrets of a Happy Marriage is a perfect choice for readers who love complex family stories. Please keep in mind that this is a story that covers a lot of heavy problems.