Secrets of the Heart is a book that surprised me in its content. The interesting plot kept me entertained and I read this book in just one and a half days.
I like the theme of the book, which included mental illness (or "madness") and depression. The parts which described the asylum rang true and I saw myself roaming the dark halls in search of "light". The author wrote in such a way as to draw you in and to sympathize with the victims of the evil forced upon them. I knew I would like it when I read the dedication: "This book is dedicated to everyone who has battled the twin demons of depression and doubt."
I especially enjoyed the character named Simon, who did not appear in the book until 3/4 of the way into the story. This is how he is described:
"The dwarf's attire consisted of a dirty white shirt, red vest, and faded brown pants. The shirtsleeves fell below his hands, and the pants had been cut off so he could walk without tripping. The tip of a pair of moldy boots poked out from beneath his trousers. Given his appearance and stance, Madeline did not feel as though she was in any immediate danger."
Then, in the next paragraph:
"He pulled a wooden harmonica from his ragged shirt pocket nearly hidden by the buttonless vest and immediately started playing a lively folk tune, spinning about her with amazing agility."
The writing is sometimes a bit awkward and at times I felt like the author used a word that could have been substituted with one that had a closer meaning to what she intended to say. It seems like she tried to use different words to avoid using the same one several times, but it served only to make me stop reading and pulled me out of the story, if only for a moment. Pretty annoying.
That is the reason I give Secrets of the Heart 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. Otherwise, a really good book, especially for a debut novel.