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A satisfying holiday read. Novel set in Barcelona and Fuerteventura (and West Dorset)

31st May 2014

Bay of Secrets by Rosanna Ley – novel set in Barcelona, Fuerteventura and West Dorset

1780875061.01.ZTZZZZZZThis novel has all the key ingredients to make for a really satisfying holiday read – skilful plotting, great characterisation and a believable romance. What takes this book further than most holiday romances, however, is the clever way Ley interweaves the historical element.

The central character, Ruby Rae, faced with her parents’ sudden death and the ending of an ill-fated relationship of her own, returns to the Dorset coast of her childhood and begins the task of sorting out her parents’ house. In a shoebox she discovers some old photographs featuring an unknown young woman holding a baby as well as a letter from the family doctor to her parents confirming their unexplained fertility. Understandably confused, this sets Ruby off on a quest to discover the truth. In Ruby, Ley creates a character we can understand and like; she is feisty with more to think about than falling in love.

The historical element of the book then takes us to Barcelona in the 1930’s and the life of Sister Julia, who is forced by her parents to enter a convent, as they can see no other way to keep her safe and provide for her. Sister Julia is sensitively drawn; Ley gives us a fascinating insight into the way someone can come to terms with a cloistered life, despite being resistant initially. Sister Julia makes the best of the hand she has been dealt and finds some comfort in her work in the maternity wards, where she is given the task of helping to look after “the fallen women”. In time, this leads to the appalling discovery of what the ghastly Dr. Lopez is really up to. Ley, here, has utilised the true story of the “Ninos Robados”, babies stolen from their single mothers after birth to be sold to wealthy childless couples deemed to be of the right political persuasion, a practice which began under Franco and supposedly continued until the 1990’s.

Bay of Secrets also delivers on the romantic front. The hero, Andres Moran is a charismatic character, with secrets of his own and a mystery about his own childhood that he is keen to unravel. The romance that develops between him and Ruby is believable, although not the main thrust of the book.

As you read, however, you find yourself wondering how Ley is going to interweave these two strands but she does at the end of the novel, when the action turns to Fuerteventura and all the characters are brought together in a very satisfying and quite unexpected denouement. Here, against the backdrop of the island’s white beaches and picturesque villages, Sister Julia finds a way of dealing with the knowledge she has carried with her all those years and Ruby Rae finally finds the answers to her questions, as well as her man.

The only drawback to the novel is that, being set in three places – West Dorset, Barcelona and Fuerteventura (Barcelona is barely glimpsed, since most of the time we are behind the secure walls of the convent or busy in the hospital) – this novel doesn’t really give us much of a feel of any of the places, but who cares, since it delivers so much on every other front?

Ellen for the TripFiction Team

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