“Secrets of Our House” by Rea Frey

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Genre: Family Drama/Women’s Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s PressSecrets of our House
Pub. Date: February 8, 2022

Women’s fiction seems to be an umbrella term for books about women’s love-life experiences that publishers market to female readers. I have never understood the genre’s name. Women like me enjoy many genres. Novels that are classified as women’s fiction are often clumsily written and filled with silly romantic clichés. Yet, they are not labeled romance, beach books, or chick-lit novels, where you expect the tale to be sappy.  No one would ever call “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy women’s fiction although the story revolves around a woman’s extramarital affair. A more modern example is “We Were the Mulvaneys” by Joyce Carol Oates. A daughter’s reputation is damaged by a rape that tears the family apart. Oates never writes women’s fiction, although her novels often focus on a woman’s love-life experiences. Does anyone have an alternative name for the genre?

This women’s fiction novel revolves around a middle-aged married couple and their 17-year-old daughter. The wife secretly longs for a man who is not her husband. The husband secretly desires a divorce. And the daughter secretly desires not to go to college, but to marry the boy she loves. Get it? Lots of secrets. The repetitive marital angst is way over-the-top. The mother acts like a lovesick teenager no different than her daughter. The young lovers can also irritate with all their drama. At least their angst is age-appropriate, unlike the adults. Where Tolstoy or Oates might portray such a relationship in a believable, engaging way, Frey delivers all the trappings of a plot-driven commercial fiction.  It makes me wonder, do publishers believe women prefer to read books in which the writing only tells a story without stimulating their minds?  Is it just me who thinks this way? Nevertheless, the only part of the novel that I did appreciate is the beauty of nature that is described encompassing their house in the mountains of North Carolina. These sentences paint a colorful picture that shows us a talented author but not enough for me to be able to enjoy the rest of the book.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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One thought on ““Secrets of Our House” by Rea Frey

  1. You could just call it literary fiction, I guess. I tend to think that women’s fiction is a book written (usually by a woman) from a woman’s perspective. However, books like that which are filled with romance are, for me, not women’s fiction, but romance novels. And if they’re filled with both romance and cheesy cliches then they become “chic-lit” for me. I guess if it is about one woman’s family, you could call it a family saga novel.

    Liked by 1 person

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