The Secrets of Second Wives [Kerry Fisher]

Two husbands. Two wives with a secret. One devastating betrayal.

Maggie loves her husband Nico. He’s caring and thoughtful but the shadow of his ‘perfect’ first wife Caitlin, constantly hangs over her. Then Maggie discovers that Caitlin has done something terrible, which if revealed could change Nico and Maggie’s lives forever …

Lara is married to Nico’s brother, Massimo. Their lives appear happy yet behind closed doors Lara has a secret that she can never tell. When she comes face to face with Massimo’s ex-wife, Lara is suddenly forced to confront her deepest fears about her life.

For a family held together by lies, the truth will come at a devastating price.

My thoughts on the novel: The Secrets of Second Wives turned out to be an incredible literary surprise. It is a gripping, emotional novel about how complicated it can be to navigate married life as a second wife. Forget the fairy tale and the happily ever after. This book is a page-turner with a worst-case scenario but a satisfying ending.

Through the prism of Maggie’s and Lara’s own perspectives, the reader has access to their deeper, inner thoughts, and the alternation of discourse offers a different angle on the events they experience and sometimes share. Following their streams of thought, you can really understand how they wound up where they are, why they react the way they do and how it all unfolded to reach this particular point in their lives. You can really connect with these two women.

The novel is somehow reminiscent of the Desperate Housewives storyline. Not only do they all live on the same street, but keeping appearances is also important in this posh family. Whilst reading, I often had the impression of hearing Marie Alice as the voice-over. You are really looking forward to seeing how the deeply buried family secrets will finally blow up in their faces! And the ending does not disappoint.

As a woman, you cannot but feel sorry for both characters who have to endure quite a tedious daily life — Maggie is struggling with a rude teenage stepdaughter who lost her mother but she also has to live in the shadow of the presumably perfect dead first wife. Lara is dealing with her bully of a husband, Massimo, who clearly has a severe narcissistic personality disorder. Both have married into a rich family of Italian origins, so you also have to count on a mother-in-law (Anna) who truly embodies your worst nightmare. She’s half harpy, half dragon! As a reader, I found myself deeply rooting for Lara to finally speak up her mind and free herself (and her son) from this hell she ended up living in. I really enjoyed the character of Beryl, Maggie’s mother. She’s not afraid to say things as they are. It was refreshing and exhilarating to see how she would put Anna in her place.

The novel is beautifully written with a complex, yet easy to read prose. It’s an emotional read on interesting topics — the power dynamics in couples, the sacrifices women make for their families, the flawed nature of human beings.

I’m sure Lara is a character that will speak to a lot of women who also had to give up their careers to raise their families (voluntarily or not quite). But, on top of that, seeing that she’s financially and emotionally trapped gave a very gripping dimension to the intrigue. The novel conveys a strong message about female empowerment and mutual respect.

I strongly recommend The Secrets of Second Wives, a well written novel about family, personal choices and life struggles.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥