The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
Fairham Island 1
Romance | Mystery
July 28, 2014
Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why?After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the North Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who’s asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house. The last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago.Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she’d prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He’s back on the island, and to her surprise, he’s raising a young daughter alone. Maisey’s still attracted to him, but her heart’s too broken to risk…Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must’ve been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister.Maisey’s convinced that child existed. So where is she now?
I have three older sisters (and had one older brother) and plenty of stories I could tell about when we were growing up, but we were definitely not a Leave it to Beaver type of family. There was a lot of contention in our home, which is probably why I remember this one incident so fondly. It happened with the sister closest to me in age.
Debra was tall and skinny (nearly six feet in middle school), which drew quite a bit of attention. Some of it was positive and—you know how kids can be—some of it was negative. Back then a tall girl wasn’t quite as admired as she would be today, so Debra was the victim of some name-calling—Daddy Long Legs, Big Bird, etc. When she got a little older, she became very beautiful and popular and was called Twiggy after the model of the same name, but she had it a little rough before the blossoming. I tell you this so you can get an accurate mental picture of her and me. We have the same mother but not the same father, so I didn’t inherit her “tall” genes. I’m 5’6”, which isn’t short, but being three years younger in addition to not having the same genes made me quite a bit shorter when we were growing up.
When I was ten and she was thirteen, we were offered the opportunity to deliver papers by a friend of my mother's. Excited by what we could earn, we signed on to deliver two hundred newspapers each. On the first day of our paper route, we each received a canvas bag filled with the papers, and because we were too young to drive and the place where we were supposed to deliver was pretty far away, my mother dropped us off.
It was summertime in Chandler, Arizona (just outside of Phoenix). I don’t remember how hot it was exactly. I just remember that it was HOT, and Debra and I could barely stand up beneath the weight of those gigantic bags. We didn’t have any water with us, either (that would never happen in this day and age, right? LOL), so it didn’t take long before we were really struggling. We became so terribly thirsty that we even tried to drink out of a puddle because we were too afraid to knock on a stranger’s door! And yet we kept pushing forward--until I could no longer go on. At that point, Debra said, “Let me take your bag.” She slung it over her tall, willowy body opposite the one she already carried and literally staggered beneath the weight as we moved from house to house, where I would run each paper up to the door so she wouldn’t have to walk any more than necessary.
For all of you who are now thirsty, and waiting for me to say we got a drink--my mother returned before too long, and she had some cold Gatorade in the car. It was the first time in my life I’d ever tried Gatorade, and I don’t think anything has ever tasted so good. The only thing sweeter was the self-sacrificing act of my older sister. :-)
I think observing and experiencing the complex relationships in my own family prepared me to write characters who aren’t overly idealized. Maisey’s family in THE SECRET SISTER isn’t a Leave it to Beaver type of family either. But there aren’t a lot of us who’ve had perfect lives. Most people can relate, so when I saw a Dateline episode that featured a sister and a brother with dim memories of a sibling their mother denied ever existed—I knew I’d just hit upon the idea for my next story.
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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she’s won The National Reader’s Choice, The Bookseller’s Best, The Bookbuyer’s Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com. To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.
Website | @Brenda_Novak | Facebook | Goodreads