When Kate York accepted a temporary position as the music teacher at her former Catholic boarding school, St. Joan of Arc, she expected to deal with rowdy adolescents, strict nuns, and memories of her intense friendship with her old roommate, Tilly Wattle. The last thing Kate expected, however, was for Tilly to show up as the substitute teacher.
The last time the two had seen each other, Tilly had her heart set on joining the sisterhood of nuns that had raised her as an orphan. Tilly longed for a simple life devoting herself to God while Kate longed for a simple life devoting herself to Tilly. Now, twelve years since she forced herself to say goodbye, Kate realizes that she never really got over her sweet, beautiful friend—or the secret kisses they shared as girls.
In her heart of hearts Kate believes that Tilly can match her passion with equal intensity. When Tilly steadfastly refuses to talk about their past, what choice does Kate have but to try to control her own longings and concentrate on renewing their friendship?
But what if Kate isn’t the only one desperate to hide her true feelings…
Lambda Literary Awards
The Secret Chord — Finalist, Lesbian Romance.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Even before I saw a staged production of The Sound of Music at seven years old—my very musical—I was already well on my way to wearing out the VHS tape. The Sound of Music had celebrated it’s thirty-fifth anniversary the year I started kindergarten, but Maria’s courage and tenacity had earned the film a special place in my childhood from the moment I’d first watched her sit on a pinecone. Now, with each rewatch, I always find myself wondering if I’ll ever meet a character as charming as Fraulein Maria.
Faith and identity can make for a complicated marriage. In The Secret Chord, Tilly, who’s spent most of her life believing it her destiny to join the order, suddenly realises she wants something entirely different—her best friend, Kate. The idea of exploring this tension was very, very enticing. I hope you love Kate and Tilly as much as I loved writing their story!"
Orla S. - I have a confession to make, even though this is her third book and she's won a Golden Crown, I hadn't heard of Virginia Hale before reading this gem. It really is one of the best books I've read in a long time and thoroughly deserves the five star rating.
As well as the romantic aspect, parts of "The Secret Chord" are very funny, particularly the passages featuring the school students. As someone who has taught teenage girls and worked as residential staff in a boarding school I can vouch for the accuracy of their portrayal! Some of the nuns are also hilarious, although they are a damn sight nicer than any of the ones I encountered in my convent school days.
I think the best recommendation I can give this book is that before I had even finished it I went and bought Hale's two other books, which I subsequently devoured and adored. Definitely an author on my watch list and I can safely say that Virginia Hale has achieved 'buy without needing to read the synopsis' status.
Lex Kent’s Reviews - One of the things I really appreciate about Hale is she writes books that feel slightly different than the normal romance books we are used to. It did not take long for this book to grab me and after it did, it did not want to let me go. The way Hale writes is impressive and just really works for me.
I would absolutely recommend this to romance fans. In fact I would recommend any of Hale’s books to romances fans. All of them are well written and worth the read. In my opinion Hale is a special author and I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.
Carrie K. - "Tilly had longed for a simple life and devoting herself to God. Kate had longed for a simple life and devoting herself to Tilly."
Rarely do I feel like a book so emphatically resonates with me. All of the pieces have to come together just right. And they did. This was so very complicated. There was longing that I felt in my bones. Deep feelings so heavy they were destined to be revealed. Interactions charged with want. Emotions ran the gamut. Virginia Hale is such a talented writer. She showed us this beautiful relationship between two women. No telling. Showing us with looks, words, and touches. I read a ridiculous amount of books and so few of them can make me feel what the characters are feeling. I loved. I ached. I desired. I hoped.
And who hasn't ever felt this way but never had the words as eloquent to describe?
"It was hard to throw Tilly a buoy when she was in desperate need of a lifeline too."
I didn't even have to finish this book to know it was going to be one of my all-time favorites. Not a single complaint. I loved all of the author's decisions and direction. I'm feeling like this review is inadequate because I can't find the right words to say how much I loved this.
I recommend this to everyone. Romance, second chances, feelings of unrequited love, religious guilt, emotional affair, infidelity, slow burn, will they/won't they, and ferries.
Pin’s Reviews - Hale is again very successful in her storytelling. The book is easy to read, the protagonists are interesting and likable, and the atmosphere at the school is shown convincingly. There is a nice bunch of supporting and minor characters. With all other elements done well, this makes for another good book by this author. I liked it, and will definitely check out her next offering. Recommended.
Grfb’s Reviews - Virginia Hale first impressed me with her debut novel Echo Point. Her writing style is almost impeccable and her stories are always complex and interesting. Where There's A Will was my favorite story of hers until now. The Secret Chord is another level of quality though and it's the brilliant testimony of Hale's creativity and evolution as an author.
I think this novel is one of the best I've read this year. I didn't want it to end, I would really like to see Kate and Tilly in another book as they are such complex and rich characters.
Jude S. - Wow wow wow. I had to make myself stop halfway to get some sleep before going back to The Secret Chord as soon as I woke up this morning. This novel is a rollercoaster of feelings, emotions and angst and I’d happily go for more.
Tilly and Kate were schoolmates at St. Joan’s Catholic school, they were roommates and then a bit more but didn’t go very far, as Tilly was planning on becoming a nun. When they meet again twelve years after graduation as temporary teachers at their old school, Tilly is engaged to a much older man, a vicar who seems mostly interested in her as a nanny for his two young children. Kate, on the other hand, is still as in love with Tilly as she was at sixteen.
I don’t know what it is with books involving Catholic characters but I often postpone reading them (I’m not a Catholic, which might be partly why) only to find that they’re often the most intense. Reconciling religious feelings and being attracted to women makes for a great romance when it’s well done. Tilly is so naive and at the same time so willing to understand, so strong and sweet and complicated, Kate doesn’t stand a chance. My heart was breaking along with Kate’s and mended with hers as well.
This book is going to stay in my mind for a while, no doubt.
Betty H. - As I sit here thinking of how to describe The Secret Chord by Virginia Hale, the one word that keeps popping into my head is ‘intense’. This story grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go until the last page.
I had a hard time putting this book down. It is a powerful love story full of the push/pull of religion over some people’s lives, and shows the strength of will it takes to find the way to love.
This is a wonderfully poignant slow burn, second chance romance that has lingered in my mind for days after I finished reading it. The story unfolds slowly but I never felt bored–I was captivated from the first page and that lasted right to the last one. There’s just the right level of angst and pining to propel things along but this isn’t a total hand-wringer. Instead, this is an intelligent and mature novel of love.