“Pat tried not to think of what he’d lost and how his heart had shattered when Edge left, because if he did, he’d lose it even further, and he’d be damned if he was going to do that.”
In a word: Read the thing. This book isn’t particularly short, but I got through it really fast because I just could not put it down. I read the whole thing in two sittings and was a bit sad that it was over, though it ended in a good place. I was a bit apprehensive going into this one because the only other Andrew Grey book I read was A Present in Swaddling Clothes and I didn’t like that one all that much. Poppy’s Secret was a major improvement story and writing wise. This is the story of Pat and Edge trying to navigate a second chance romance after years of hurt and silence. Edge left Pat nine years ago and Pat has never really gotten over it, and Edge’s reappearance initially only causes further pain. It also causes some fear because Pat has a secret that involves him, Edge, and Pat’s daughter Emma. A secret that, in a worst-case scenario, could break up the entire family for good. I will say that Pat’s secret was a bit obvious to me from the beginning, but even knowing it didn’t take away anything from the story because I still wanted to know what the reactions would be to it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Another thing I like about the book was that Pat didn’t take Edge back right away. The story does take place over a fairly short amount of time (a few weeks, maybe a couple of months at the most), but Pat’s warming up to Edge came off like it happened in a natural unforced way that made it easier to get invested in. Pat and Edge both made some mistakes, and they’re mistakes that can’t just be swept under the rug, and they both have to make peace with them if they can realistically be together romantically.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Series: This is book #28 in Dreamspinner Press’ Dreamspun Desires series. This is a series of unrelated novels written by different authors with stereotypical Harlequin Romance type plots. This book doesn’t have any particularly exciting or thrilling bits, focusing more on relationship and family drama.
The Couple: Pat Corrigan and Edgerton “Edge” Winters were together once upon a time (I wanna say they were engaged or something? But at one point Pat refers to Edge as his ex-husband, but every time after that he calls him his ex-boyfriend, so I’m not exactly sure what they were), planning their life together and preparing for their first child. Then Edge, seemingly suffering from cold feet, up and left Pat and their future plans (it actually reminded me a bit of Ryan and Kenny’s backstory from Chris Scully’s Until September). Nine years later, Pat is a single father whose life revolves around his daughter. He hasn’t heard anything from Edge since he left and, deep down, still feels the pain of his loss, though he’s determined to move past it. Edge has spent the past years working as an art professor, but now he’s back in town trying to re-establish himself as an artist. He also hopes to patch things up with Pat and see whether or not there’s a chance for them to get back together. Both men have spent the past nine years low-key pining over each other; Edge has dated a few men, but none of them lasted when Edge constantly compared them to Pat and found them wanting; Pat hasn’t been with anyone since Edge left, focusing all his attention on his daughter and his job to fill up his time. Pat is still hurt by Edge leaving, but he’s still in love with him, and the spark between them is still alive after all these years. Edge desperately wants a second chance, now that he’s older and realizes just exactly what he threw away. He just has to convince Pat to let him back in. Pat is reluctant to reconnect with Edge, there are still some hurt feelings between them, and the stakes are higher now with Pat’s daughter in the picture. Pat does decide to try again with Edge, but not right away, which I was happy about because leaving like Edge did isn’t something that can be immediately gotten over. Both men are older now, but they’re still the same man the other fell in love with, and it isn’t long before they’re back to where they were before. Their new relationship progresses fairly slowly, and it’s mostly Pat holding things back; if it were up to Edge they’d have been in bed together the first night he rolled into town. Edge is the one who left Pat, so Pat is overly cautious about not making the same mistake twice and putting his heart in the hands of a man who might take off again, especially if he finds out about the secret Pat is keeping from him.
The Daughter: Emma Corrigan is Pat’s eight-year-old daughter who was born via a surrogate. Pat has been raising her on his own for the past nearly nine years and his whole world revolves around her. Emma is a sweet little girl, who loves her father very much. She’s not a perfect child and she’s not an annoying character, which is good because she’s in the story a lot as one of the four major characters. We don’t see her interact much at all with many people, but I’m gonna assume that she’s a very outgoing girl because she warms up to Edge pretty quickly when they meet. I don’t know how accurate she reads as an eight-year-old, but I had no problems with her portrayal. I did think that some of her dialogue went back and forth between ‘normal’ and ‘overly cute for laughs’, but it wasn’t a huge problem for me.
The Mother: This would be Pat’s mother, not Emma’s. Emma was born via a surrogate long before the story starts and we never hear of, or from, this woman ever. We do hear a lot from Pat’s mother, Evelyn, as she’s one of the four main characters. Evelyn raised Pat as a single mother, and she didn’t really do that good a job as Pat’s childhood was a bit shit. Evelyn was a free spirit type and often left Pat to fend for himself as she went off to do her own thing with whoever caught her attention. She’s changed in her old age and we get the impression that she’s a better grandmother to Emma than she was a mother to Pat. I wasn’t all that fond of Evelyn at first, mostly because she started off as a meddling mother character (especially when it came to Edge reappearing in Pat’s life), but the more she appeared the more I came to like her. I actually found her quite funny a few times. Pat goes through a bit of a process in the story where he really starts letting go of the resentment he holds toward his mother for the way he was raised. Their relationship seems to improve, which is a real help when Evelyn finds out that she has breast cancer and needs surgery. I really enjoyed reading about Evelyn’s interactions with Emma, because it’s a sweet relationship and it’s very clear that the two of them really love each other.
The Secret: The whole point of the story is Pat and Edge’s relationship and whether or not they’ll get back together. One major possible monkey wrench in the whole works is a secret Pat (who Emma calls ‘Poppy’) has kept for the past nine years. There’s no real big reveal to the reader, there are hints throughout the story and then Pat just acknowledges it (to the reader). I thought it was a fairly obvious secret, something that I thought of immediately actually, and it’s that Edge is Emma’s biological father. Back before Edge left, he and Pat had been in the process of having a child via a surrogate and the plan had always been to have Edge be the biological father. After Edge left, I guess everyone’s assumption was that Pat had decided to continue the plans but with himself as the father. The truth is that the baby, using Edge’s DNA, had already been conceived when Edge told Pat he was leaving. Since Edge was practically out the door, Pat decided to not tell him about the baby and Edge left, completely oblivious. The truth about Emma’s true parentage haunted Pat for a bit, but since it didn’t look like Edge was coming back he figured he was in the clear. Then, of course, Edge returns and Pat now has to deal with his secret and what he should do about it. Does he tell Edge and run the risk of having to fight for custody (Pat has no genetic relation to Emma and I guess that makes for some tricky custody arrangements when it comes to the law, especially for same-sex parents)? Or does he confess to Edge and see what happens. It’s the second biggest roadblock (aside from Pat’s past hurt and him trying to emotionally protect himself and Emma) to Pat and Edge’s romance. Edge eventually does find out about it, it’s not something that can stay secret forever, and what results from it is probably one of the most satisfying ‘liar reveal’ conclusions I’ve ever read.
The Sex: There are two sex scenes, both between Pat and Edge, along with a lot of sexual tension for a lot of the rest of the time. The first is after Pat and Edge’s first date where, after weeks (or years, let’s be honest here) of pining, they fall into bed together and relearn each others bodies after such a long separation. It was a good scene, filled with a lot of emotion as two men who have never really stopped loving each other reconnect and find that, although a lot has changed, some things definitely haven’t. The second scene is just a quickie in Edge’s art studio that was more for fun and reliving old times.
The Writing: I really did love the writing in this, especially the more emotional parts. I really loved that Pat didn’t just take Edge back immediately after a nine-year absence, that he made Edge work for it and tried to make him understand his hurt. I also liked that Edge owned up to what he did wrong and took steps to acknowledge what he put Pat through. I also liked the aftermath of Edge learning Pat’s secret and how both men handled the fallout. There were a few weird things with the writing that I noticed. The first was that there was only one chapter from Edge’s point of view (the rest were all from Pat’s) that featured his sister who we never see or hear from again. She’s never even mentioned after that chapter. The other weird thing was the dialogue. Most of it was fine, but some was a bit to exposition-like for my tastes. There were quite a few times where someone got overly explanatory to answer someone’s question or to catch people up to speed on events they may have missed. Other than that, I’ve got nothing more to say about the writing. I definitely enjoyed reading this and I will be reading more of Andrew Grey’s books in the future.
[Poppy’s Secret was published February 15, 2017, by Dreamspinner Press, it is available both in print and as an ebook]