Whetting the Appetite: "Hall of Secrets"

Hello there! It's wonderful to meet you all. I hope that you enjoy my reviews and find them helpful for those of you looking for a great new read. I have a mixed bag, as I read a variety of different genres. My first love was fantasy, but over the years I have broadened my horizons and discovered a passion for historical fiction, enjoyment in a nice juicy mystery, delight over a fairytale retelling, the rush of a staunch thriller, and so on. I am honest with my reviews, casting light on parts of a story that I feel fall short or are poorly executed. There is almost always something that I can find to enjoy, however, so you will usually find something positive even in a low-opinion review. We'll start off this week with a book that I can recommend highly:

During the holidays I was given an ARC for an author I'd never heard of before, Cate Campbell. The book won't be out until later this year, but this will be a little something to whet your appetite! Hall of Secrets is the second book in her series about a well-to-do, progressive family in 1920's Seattle. True to the current fad for all things Roaring 20's Campbell infuses her story with the color and verve of the era. Drama from the previous book, Benedict Hall, carries over and sets the stage for a reckoning that will have lasting repercussions for the leading lady, Margot, and the entire Benedict family...


The 20s: America between the wars, bobbed hair and shorter skirts, the glory of flight, and women in the work force. This time period has always held the glamor of a free society and easy living ... but it wasn't as free or as easy as is often supposed. "Hall of Secrets" portrays part of the tumultuous transitional period between the sovereignty of the old order and an age more and more recognizable to us.

The Seattle Benedicts are the kind of ritzy, wealthy clan which dominated society until the Great War shattered the system. Now they are facing this new era of class ambiguity, and thanks to a forward-thinking father and son team heading the family business and a daughter having faced down the old barriers of the male-dominated medical profession in order to earn her place as a leading physician, the Benedicts of Benedict Hall are going strong.

The San Fransisco Benedicts, on the other hand, are foundering. With parents stuck firmly in the ideals of the 18th Century, Allison Benedict is sent to her Seattle relations in disgrace when a night of fun and youthful frivolity brands her as ruined in the eyes of her mother and father. Never having known what love and affection really are, it is difficult for the young debutante to place her trust in her cousins. But Cousin Margot -- independent and college educated -- sparks an interest in Allison whose own father insists that higher education is wasted on girls. Befriending her relations is the hardest choice Allison will make, and your heart breaks for a girl so torn and twisted up by the mistreatment and manipulation of unfeeling parents.

Beneath the surface, this book is an exploration of the mores of 1920s Seattle society. It brilliantly remains true to the harsh and uncaring truths of some of the more sordid facts of the culture, though offers the hope of progress which Margot and her family are striving for. The issues of racial prejudice, contraception/family planning, women in formerly male-dominated roles, family relations, and the first whispers of what would be known as the Great Depression all come into play through the course of the story. It is all very well researched and masterfully presented!

The only issue I had was that at about 3/4 of the way through it seemed as though there were some scenes which should have been ordered differently. It forced the story to "fast forward" and "rewind" in the plot's timeline very noticeably, where it hadn't up until that point.

Excellent storytelling and strong characterization. Margot and Frank stuck to their guns, but found a happy middle ground to form a foundation on. I was very proud of them! Bravo!
Thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley.com for an ARC of this book!



Check out this review and more at girlwithagoodbook.blogspot.com