"Her death opens up a Pandora's Box..."
Reviewed by Svetlana Libenson
Posted June 20, 2019
Who knew that a desire to adopt a seven-year-old boy as a formality
could result in a house of cards falling down? Joshua Anderson has
long been in love with his girlfriend of seven years, Grace and her son
Logan. But after Grace's accidental death, Joshua decides to formally
adopt her son as his own. But upon embarking on that path, Joshua
begins to discover how little he knows about his former girlfriend; and
that Grace kept has kept tons of secrets from him about herself and
Logan. Will Josh and Logan come out unscathed, or will the secrets
prove too much for their relationship?
I had read and enjoyed Hannah Mary McKinnon's previous novelTHE NEIGHBORS, and was looking
forward to reading HER SECRET
SON. My expectations were average, but little did I know that I
would be unable to put down the book because I wanted to know what
will happen next!
If readers are expecting this to be just another domestic suspense tale,
then they're in for a wonderful surprise. This novel doesn't disappoint
in any shape or form, and Hannah Mary McKinnon is a genius in guiding
readers through this roller coaster of emotions as we watch Joshua's
life begin to unravel thread by thread. One can't help but wonder how it
will all be finished. HER SECRET
SON will shock, flabergast, and hook readers into reading
frantically way past their planned stopping point.
For an addictive, wonderful, and unpredictable read that will keep you
up past your bedtime, HER SECRET
SON by Hannah Mary McKinnon will be a delightful addition to the
to be read list.
How far would you go to protect the ones you
loveâ€¦when they may not be yours to protect?
When Joshâ€™s longtime partner, Grace, dies in a tragic
accident, he is left with a mess of griefâ€”and full custody
of her seven-year-old son, Logan. While not his biological
father, Josh has been a dad to Logan in every way that
counts, and with Grace gone, Logan needs him more than ever.
Wanting to do right by Logan, Josh begins the process of
becoming his legal guardianâ€”something that seems suddenly
urgent, though Grace always brushed it off as an unnecessary
formality. But now, as Josh struggles to find the paperwork
associated with Loganâ€™s birth, he begins to wonder whether
there were more troubling reasons for Graceâ€™s reluctance to
make their family official.
As he digs deeper into the past of the woman he loved, Josh
soon finds that there are many dark secrets to uncover, and
that the truth about where Logan came from is much more
sinister than he could have imaginedâ€¦
Tightly paced and brimming with tension, Her Secret
Son is a heartbreakingly honest portrait of a family on
the edge of disaster and a father desperate to hold on to
the boy who changed his life.
They say the lucky ones experience an incredible,
life-defining moment, a moment they can point back to as the
second everything changed. Maybe it was sitting down on the
bus next to a stranger who became the love of their life. Or
witnessing the birth of a child they were told they'd never
conceive. Perhaps getting that elusive break the day the
boss had the flu, launching a career that, until then, was
only the stuff of dreams.
And then there are the others. People like me, who have
life-shattering moments instead. We're the ones who want to
believe we've had more than our fair share of bad luck,
enough misfortune to last multiple lives over. We get
comfortable, believe nothing else can go wrong because fate
has already played with us the most, seen how far we can be
stretched and bent, twisted into the shape of a pretzel
before becoming brittle and shattering into a million pieces.
For me, one of these moments came late one Friday morning as
I stood in Harlan Gingold's dark, wood-paneled study, the
musty air closing in on me. I pulled at the neck of my
sweater in a futile attempt to cool down. I'd forgotten how
warm he kept this room, as if he secretly longed to be a
gecko under a heat lamp and pretend he was somewhere far
closer to the equator than the outskirts of Albany, in
upstate New York.
His study smelled of expensive whisky and Cuban cigars,
wizened fingers left to linger in an ashtray. A
stereotypical rich man's man-cave, complete with leather
armchairs and gold-lettered law books Harlan no doubt cited
by heart when he valiantly foughtâ€”and usually wonâ€”his cases
in court, something he'd done for longer than I'd been alive.
We were going over the quote for the pool house extension
and elaborate backyard revamp he'd promised his wife for the
spring. While he checked the details again, running an index
finger down the page, I tried to ignore the buzz of my
mobile in my back pocket. Harlan was the kind of man who
commanded nothing but your undivided attention. In this case
I couldn't blame him. Not with the amount of zeros he was
writing on the deposit check my bosses had sent me to collect.
My phone rang a second time. While Harlan put the final
flourish on the paperwork with his thick Mont Blanc fountain
pen, I slid my mobile from my pocket and glanced at the
screen. My neighbor's number. Nothing unusual in itself.
Mrs. Banks often called for a hand around the houseâ€”putting
together yet another of her bookcases, repairing the front
door, unblocking a sink. Nothing that couldn't wait or would
justify the lecture about people's dependence on technology
Harlan would no doubt dispense if I answered.
"There you go, Josh," he said as he handed me the check.
"Thanks," I said. "I'll see you next month?"
"Yes. I've no doubt you'll do a great job, as always. My
yard has never looked better. Those Fraser firs were the
talk of the street when they were lit up for Christmas. Even
Ivan was impressed."
I grinned, thinking I'd enjoy ribbing Ivan about not paying
the compliment forward. I wouldn't give him too much of a
hard time. He'd become my best mate since we'd met a few
years back, and since then he'd pointed a number of his
friends and colleagues my way, including the firm's biggest
cheese and Ivan's uncle, Mr. Harlan Gingold himself. When
I'd told Ivan I owed him one, he'd cheerily replied, "Better
make it a big one, whatever it is," before graciously
settling for a pair of football tickets I'd got on the cheap.
Harlan accompanied me to the front porch where he shook my
hand as I ignored the ongoing buzzing of my phone. He lifted
his nose toward the dark gray, early March skies, swirling
with ominous fast-moving clouds, and breathed in deep,
nostrils flaring. "Something wicked this way comes," he
said. "You'd better batten down the hatches, son. You Brits
aren't used to our snow. Tell that lovely wife of yours to
keep you safe."
I didn't bother reminding him Grace and I weren't married,
or argue that, despite my strong British accent, I'd lived
in the US for twenty years. I was only too familiar with the
legendary winters. For crying out loud, the city competed in
the annual Golden Snowball Award, although it regularly lost
to Syracuse. As Grace once said, upstate New York was where
lake effect and nor'easter storms mated, making trillions of
snowflake babies, and everyone's life beneath a frozen misery.
When we'd said our goodbyes, I finally pulled my phone from
my pocket and trudged to my truck, glancing at the darkening
skies, thinking Harlan's prophecy could turn out to be the
understatement of the season. Not that I'd mind a blizzard,
within reason, anyway. It was Friday, the weekend gloriously
stretching out ahead of us. As far as I knew, work didn't
need me, and Grace hadn't mentioned any special plans. So
what if we couldn't leave the house? It would mean a family
weekend; Grace, Logan and I huddled under the blankets in
front of the TV, eating popcorn and watching movies, exactly
the way we liked it.
If I'd known what was actually coming, how my life was about
to be forever, indelibly changed, I wouldn't have grabbed my
mobile so hastily. I'd have taken a few moments to savor how
my life had become simple again, full of uncomplicated,
innocuous decisions. I'd have mulled over my mundane lunch
choices. Thought about which film Grace and I would watch
once we'd tucked Logan up in his bed. What Grace and I would
do to each other later, after we'd headed upstairs, too. I'd
have enjoyed the excitement building in my gut when I
pictured the ring I'd hidden at the back of my sock drawer,
a gold band solitaire I'd saved up for over the last year in
the hope Grace would say yes this time.
But I didn't do any of that. Instead I unlocked my phone,
looked at all the missed calls from Mrs. Banks and dialed
voice mail. My brow furrowed as I listened to her message.
She sounded unusually high-pitched and grating, breathless,
even, as if she were in the middle of a ten-mile run. A feat
in itself considering she was in her midseventies and walked
with a stick.
"Josh, it's Mrs. Banks," she said. "There's been an
accident. Can you call me? Please. It's urgent.
Call me now."
I pushed a hand against the truck to steady myself. Perhaps
her grandson had put his soccer ball through our bathroom
window again. Or maybe the mangy dog who'd been hanging
around the house, the one I'd caught Logan feeding his
breakfast to, had dug up the tulip bulbs Grace replanted
twice already. Although I grabbed hold of both ideas like a
shipwrecked man to driftwood, I knew from Mrs. Banks's voice
it was more serious. Way more serious. My next thoughts went
to Logan, peppering my brain like fully automatic gunfire.
He's hurt. Grace can't call. She's with him. She told
Mrs. Banks to phone. How bad is it? He's only seven. Christ!
What's going on?
When I tried to hit redial, I missed the button four times,
my fingersâ€”thick and limp as raw sausagesâ€”impossible to
maneuver. Finally I pressed the phone to my ear, and Mrs.
Banks picked up on the first ring.
"Josh! Oh, thank goodness." Her voice sounded shakier than
before, and I could barely make out her words with the
crackling and whooshing of the wind in my ear.
"What's happened?" I said, an icy hand sneaking its way down
to my stomach, grabbing hold of my innards and yanking hard.
"Is Logan okay? Where is he? Has heâ€”"
"It's not Logan... It's...it's..."
Saliva collected in my mouth as Mrs. Banks stopped talking.
Just as I was about to shout into the phone, demand she tell
me what was going on, she very quietly said, "It's Grace."
My stomach lurched, threatened to empty itself right there
on Harlan's driveway. I'd been so sure Logan was hurt, I
thought I'd misheard, but she said it again. "It's Grace."
I opened and closed my mouth three times, my tongue refusing
to form a single syllable until I finally managed, "Is she
okay? What happened?"
"I was drinking my coffee by the windowâ€”" Mrs. Banks's voice
sped up, an out-of-control freight train barreling straight
toward me "â€”when I saw Grace taking out the garbage
and...and, oh, Josh...she slipped on the steps." Her words
came out garbled now, making it harder for my brain to
process what it already struggled to decode. "She went down."
"Where is she?"
Mrs. Banks's voice fell to a strained whisper, as if she
were pressing a hand over her throat, trying to keep her
next sentence inside. "When she didn't get back up, Iâ€”"
"Where is she?"
"â€”ran over and...and..." Her voice tailed off, the last
syllables gobbled up by a sob. "We're outside. The ambulance
is here. And the police. You need to come home. Please, come
"But Grace is okay? Has she broken anything? Can I talk to
her?" Silence. "Mrs. Banks, please. Is she okay?"
More silence, a whisper. "I don't think so, Josh. I really
don't think so."
Yes, this was one of those life-shattering moments, an
instance I'd point to in the future and say it was the
second everything changed. And I was right.
Except that worseâ€”far, far worseâ€”was still to come.
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