Book review: Her Mother’s Secret by Natasha Lester

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 Permalink

Natasha Lester’s A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald was one of my favourite reads of 2016. I don’t usually read historical fiction but very much enjoyed the novel set in America in the 1920s.

Lester’s latest release, Her Mother’s Secret is another period drama and again centres around the plight of a young woman forced to fight societal norms and prejudice for acceptance and equality.

Book review: Her Mother’s Secret by Natasha LesterHer Mother's Secret
by Natasha Lester
Published by Hachette Australia
on March 28th 2017
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
ISBN: 9780733634659
Pages: 368

1918, England.
Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora's life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father's chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly.

Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father's life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City.

On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . .

In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she's a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous.

1939, New York City.
Everett's daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalized like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it?

When I wrote about A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald I mentioned that I’d been reminded of my Danielle Steele / Barbara Taylor Bradford reading phase – ie. the time in my love in which I lovedĀ  sweeping sagas. ‘A Kiss’ was quite complex however and dealt with weightier issues than the novels of my young adult years, but the ‘woman fighting against the odds’ was a theme I enjoyed and found surprisingly familiar. (Some 20-30 years on!)

Lester’s writing style is again familiar and accessible and she lures we readers in with the an engaging plot and a cast of characters, most of whom are likeable… although there are of course those who are less sympathetic. And there’s again forbidden and unrequited love. Not to mention a love triangle. Or square. Or perhaps even a rhombus. #orsomething

Lester’s again merged fact and fiction with the appearance of Elizabeth Arden and The Red Door Studio and the research Lester’s undertaken is evident via the science behind Leo’s passion.

It’s a little unfair to compare this to A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, which I enjoyed excessively. Her Mother’s Secret is probably a bit less ambitious in a feminist / societal message sense (than ‘A Kiss’). And I’m conscious I’m implying breaking into the boys club to study medicine is more of a lofty achievement than the world of beauty and department stores… and I don’t believe that’s the case.

Rather, it’s not as heavy in terms of its subject matter. Which may – in fact – appeal to a broader audience less inclined towards medical and obstetrical practices of the early 20th century.

Fans of books and TV shows like The Paradise and Mr Selfridge and / or BTB’s A Woman of Substance (and similar) will certainly enjoy this novel which takes readers on a heady ride against a richly-textured and occasionally-glamorous setting.

Her Mother’s Secret by Natasha Lester was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.



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