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Historical Novel Society

Review: Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer

Best Kept Secret - Jeffrey Archer

This third installment of Jeffrey Archer's Clifton Chronicles continues in melodramatic, soap-opera style but begins moving on to the next generation with the focus beginning to shift from Harry and Emma to their son Sebastian.

Following Archer's trademark cliffhanger from The Sins of the Father, the reader finally gets the answer to who will inherit the title and estates of Hugo Barrington. Once again, nobody seems concerned with the fact that Harry Clifton would like to marry a woman who is likely his half-sister. It's all about the money.

That settled, the story moves on to Giles running for Parliament, Harry going on book tour, and the reader being told over and over again that Emma is smarter than every man out there . . . and Grace is even smarter. Take that men!

Schoolhouse Bully Fisher makes another implausible appearance thanks to Giles' Beautiful Scheming Bitch wife, and we welcome a new Evil Villain since Hugo Barrington managed to get himself murdered in Book II. While Fisher holds a grudge against the Cliftons and Barringtons decades after they were in school together, the new adversary at least has a little more reason to hate them, even if the introduction of a South American gangster has a little bit of an eye-rolling effect.

As for the writing, it is simplistic but not unskilled. Archer continues with sections named after story characters. Unlike in the past two books, in Best Kept Secret the sections don't really seem to focus solely on the character for which the section was named, making me wonder why he bothered. For example, in a section titled "Sebastian Clifton" the reader was still kept up to date on what was going on with other characters who were in a different country. There was no more having to wait for that character's section to learn their side of the story.

Of course, this book also ends with another cliffhanger, though there is little doubt (in my mind anyway) how it will turn out.

In all, this series is sort of like the sugary cake & fluffy frosting of historical fiction. If you want quick-paced drama, this book has as much of it as the others. It would be a difficult series to pick up in the middle as each book is not really a stand alone story, so start with Book I, Only Time Will Tell.