Nia Forrester is very good at creating characters that are vivid, believable, vulnerable, and deeply flawed. This talent makes it very easy for me to immerse myself in her stories because the characters come across as very authentic. In Secret, we have Shayla, a woman of some mystery who befriends (as much as she allows herself to be friends with anyone) Tessa, the sister of Trey Dennison, a DC attorney who becomes Shayla’s landlord. Prior to this turn events, Shayla was a member of the same gym as Trey. From this vantage point, she’s watched him working his charm on a slew of women.
Shayla has no misconceptions that she might be just the woman to tame him. All she wants is a brief sexual encounter, because after all, a woman also has needs. After getting what she wanted from him, what she didn’t bargain on was him forging some kind of bond with her. This knocks them booth for a loop as they emerge reeling from a wild, sexy weekend.
Trey finds himself increasingly jealous of her interactions with others, especially men, and isn’t able to reconcile what Shay has made him feel, while Shay is also reluctant to give herself completely to a man, courtesy of that pesky secret she’s harboring. As the reader, you see that these two could solve ninety percent of their issues just by talking to each other honestly, but as great drama goes, the conflict kept simmering in this story is the lifeblood of good fiction.
Forrester is also excellent at making us care about her secondary characters. None of her characters come across as flat and unnecessary. In this story we are also introduced to Tessa, Darren, and Paige. The unique backstory shared by Trey and Tessa is the stuff of fairytales, albeit a sad one. Their relationship as a secondary plot is brilliant. It speaks to why Trey is the way he is, and it gives us a glimpse of how Tessa became the young woman she is. I was enthralled by their relationship almost as much as I was by Shayla and Trey’s.
Darren, Trey’s best friend, is a testament to the adage “birds of a feather.” They are each very attractive men who are both confirmed bachelors, that is, until Shay comes along for Trey. However, you also get the hint that Paige and Darren are feeling each other, and there’s some history between them that has been unresolved.
Going in, I knew that there would be a sequel to this book, so I wasn’t left unsatisfied in any way by how the story ended. The reader is made privy to Shay’s secret and it explains everything, but it’s what we don’t know at the end of “Secret” which is the stuff that will keep us intrigued until ‘The Art of Endings” comes along.
This book will have you rooting for Shayla and Trey almost as much as you find yourself upset with them both for being so pig-headed. It is a story that draws you in and keeps you because you grow to care so deeply about the characters, almost like they are friends of yours. When I find characters that I might consider friends in real life, is when I want to stay immersed in their story world forever. “Secret” is just such a world.
The Art of Endings: The Sequel to Secret
As much as Secret was Shayla’s story, The Art of Endings is Trey and Darren’s stories and how they reconcile their pasts with the women who will be their futures. With Secret ending the way it did a reader might expect The Art of Endings to pick up there, but Nia surprised me yet again with her refusal to be boxed into a formulaic storyline to be populated by predictable characters.
Trey takes center stage in his and Shayla’s romance this go round, and he has a doozy of a situation to work through. A former hook-up who happens to be the daughter of someone who could make or break his career is holding the paternity of an unborn child over his head, while he’s simultaneously dealing with Tessa leaving the fold, and Shayla coming into her own career-wise. Not to mention, the looming specter of Shayla’s ex Justin Ford’s life possibly converging with theirs.
Darren finds himself soul-searching as he witnesses his best friend finding the kind of love that has always eluded him. In Paige Freeman he sees an opportunity lost, and a love that is forbidden, because she is the fiancé of his best friend who died in the military in the Middle East. He has set this woman on a pedestal and feels, as he always has concerning her, that he’s just not good enough. In college he’d been unable to reconcile their dissimilar backgrounds, so when his friend Clint came along who possessed the pedigree of a man he thought that a woman like Paige deserved, he stepped aside.
The Art of Endings is a well-crafted story, delving into history coming back to bite two men who were both womanizers for various and sundry reasons who finally realize the “more” they want out of life can be found with the women who are right under their proverbial noses. There, of course, are other themes, but I’m not going any deeper. You’ll have to read the book yourself to find the others.
My favorite and least-liked character was Darren. He’s my favorite because he was so flawed, complicated, and more likely to eff up. And he was my least-liked because he did some trifling things as a result of his inability to reconcile his feelings for Paige early on. I wanted to send him off to a therapist several times in the book–or beat his ass, one of the two. However, I feel like he was thoroughly redeemed, despite everything he put Paige through. In fact, I believe I also liked Darren so much because he reminds me of a guy one of my best college friends fell for back in the day. They are married now and have a beautiful family, but she endured much of what Paige did before they finally got there. This goes to show that sometimes, it takes a very special woman/man to love that person that many see as totally unlovable.
I had to read The Art of Endings the moment it was released because I wanted to find out what happened with Shayla and Trey, but also to get a three-dimensional view of the lives of the secondary characters I’d grown to love almost as much as the primary characters.