Cover Image: The Art of Inheriting Secrets

The Art of Inheriting Secrets

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Member Reviews

I just adore Barbara O'Neal's books. They are always so heartfelt and realistic to me. Most of them such me right in and before I know it I've completely finished the book! The Art of Inheriting Secrets was a good read but it didn't have me quite as hooked as I'm used to. There were definitely characters I could relate to and as the title says a big secret. The beginning was a little slow but by the middle it picked right up and I couldn't wait to find out what Olivia's mom had in store for her.
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While I enjoyed this book at the beginning, once I got halfway through it suddenly became too sexual for my taste.  I can't say that it was one of the best books I've ever read, but I was at least anticipating the end of the book.  And when you factor in the "F" word popping into the dialogue, it was just too much for me.

I didn't feel like the characters were that well developed.  The plot was scattered, the ex-boyfriend was a jerk in every sense of the word, and the new boyfriend/sexual interest was too perfect.  Though I felt that they both had unresolved issues.

I think I will probably try another Barbara O'Neal book.  But I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to make myself try another one.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal
Source: NetGalley and Audible
My Rating: 5/5 stars

It is so nice to be able to end the book reading year on such a high note!  I kept shuffling this title around on my TBR list and now that I have listened to the book, I am so mad at myself for waiting so long to read this magic!

I listened to this book in a single day (yes, my ears hurt!) and regret nothing.  I couldn’t stop listening to this story and simply had to know how the whole mess would turn out in the end.  From the opening lines to the very end, I was totally absorbed in the mystery of Rosemere Priory, Olivia’s past, and the tragic history of the Shaw family.  

In the span of just a few weeks, Olivia Shaw loses her beloved mother and discovers she has not only inherited land and a home in England, but also a lofty title.  With nothing to do but pack her bags and head to England, Olivia dives into a completely overwhelming situation that takes her through history, challenges her world view, and forces her to make some very difficult decisions about her future and the future of Rosemere.  As it turns out, Olivia isn’t alone in her tasks.  With the help of a wonderful Indian family who also have strong ties to Rosemere, an aging yet wonderfully generous Earl, and a local baker with a long memory, Olivia has a host of helpers willing to listen, aid, and simply act as her champions. 

As Olivia begins to dig through the history of her ancestral home, she uncovers some startling truths with the ability to destroy lives, right ancient wrongs, and answer questions she never even knew she should be asking.  Her family’s history is tangled and twisted, but Olivia is determined she will not repeat history, nor will she become as so many of the Shaw’s before her became.  Olivia is dedicated to Rosemere, to a future in England as a countess, and to revitalizing the entire area and making Rosemere something it hasn’t been in centuries, a place of joy and happiness.  

Unfortunately, Olivia’s path isn’t at all an easy or inexpensive one and there are those who would be better served if Olivia just sold the land and trotted right off back to her old life in San Francisco.  In fact, those with an interest in her land and title are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure she has no reason to stay, no reason to uncover the secrets of the past, and certainly no reason to restore and revitalize the area.  Dark and twisted plans are afoot, and Olivia finds herself in a whole world of hurt far sooner than she ever anticipated.  Her HEA is going to take monumental effort. 

The Bottom Line:  The Art of Inheriting Secrets is one of my favorite tropes, the past meets the present!  I don’t think it would have mattered if I had physically read or listened to this book, I was going to love it.  Olivia is such a strong and resilient character and it was very easy for me to like her and champion her cause.  At every turn, Olivia is confronted by some new fresh hell, but is able to manage it all through patience, loads of question asking, a strong will, and with the support of her new friends.  The uncovering of the past and how it so dramatically impacts the present very much kept me engaged and involved in the story.  Everything is perfectly woven together, nothing is out of place, and it is all laced together with wonderful descriptions and imagery.  Oh, and there’s ALL the food 😊  I am so pleased with this book and find myself wanting to sing its praises far and wide.  One-click this one, dear reader!  You’ll thank me for it later 😊
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I enjoyed this book and the historical aspect of trying to figure out the family secrets. 

It was a fun, quick read. I liked the main character Olivia and how she felt connected to her family's land and despite all of the hardships fought to keep it.
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Though I've loved Barbara O'Neal's books in the past, this one was just OK for me. It was slow moving and I didn't get invested in the story. I was excited at the beginning but just didn't stay engaged throughout the book. I felt like it just kept going and then the ending was so abrupt. This will not keep me from reading future O'Neal books though--in general I love her books.
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Olivia Shaw has had a nasty bit of luck.  She was in a car accident and taken leave from her job as editor of a popular food magazine.  She moves in with her mother to recuperate and her mom dies of the flu.  Her boyfriend of 8 years is "busy" so she travels to England to see her mother's secret inheritance, a castle.  The place is falling apart and she decides to renovate and turn it into a B&B with the help of a new friend, Samir.  She discovers clues about her mother's past and soon is on a hunt for the truth about her mother.  Slow building but a good story.  I've read Barbara O'Neal before and enjoy her writing style. I received a copy of this ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Olivia has just lost her mother, but she is about to learn some shocking secrets. Her mother was an English Countess, and Olivia never knew! She lived her entire life thinking that her mother was just an artist, a friend, and a confidant. 
When she arrives in England to take a look over the estate and figure out what she is going to do, there are several issues to confront head on. Not only is her relationship at home falling apart, but she is alone, and treading water in territory that she has no clue as to navigate. 
When her kindly older neighbor takes her under his wing, she begins to learn and understand more about the life that she has been thrust into. But her mother did not let things just lie - there are secrets and decades old skeletons to uncover.
Olivia must decide if she will rise to the challenge of becoming the Countess of Rosemere or if she will sell out and abandon the past that her mother fled from...

This was an interesting read. It held my attention from the beginning. Enjoyed reading through and getting to dive into a different world all together.
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This started out really strong for me. An American girl's mother dies and she inherits an old crumbling English country manor. She has no idea of her mother's gentry background or the circumstances as to why her mother left England so long ago. I loved the setting of this book. I loved the idea of it. So many family secrets to uncover.

However, I just felt that the build-up was slow and then the secrets were all revealed too fast and were too neatly tied up.

I think this was more of a 2 1/2 stars for me. It just did not entice me as I thought it would.
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When several of my favorite things in books (or life) - a picturesque English countryside, an broody British Indian man, a crumbling manor house in desperate need of repair, family skeletons and an older woman- younger man romance - are paired with a gripping prose, how could I help but devour the book in one sitting? 
A thoroughly enjoyable read.
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At 38 years of age Olivia Shaw, a successful editor of a food magazine has inherited Rosemere Priory from her English mother. Born and raised in America, Olivia knew nothing of her mother’s previous life, especially the fact that her mother was actually Lady Caroline Shaw, or of her uncle Lord Shaw, Earle of Rosemere who disappeared many years ago. Olivia travels to England with the view to sell the property but even steeped in superstition and a curse, she falls under the spell of the house. 

 I found this was such a refreshing read. I really liked the character of Olivia and loved the friendships she made as she finds her way in this new world. For myself, I found the side storyline with her ex fiancé a distraction and I felt the novel would have held up well without it. With its slight gothic feel, family mystery, references to food, new friendships and some romance, it had everything I enjoy in a story and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for an ARC to read.
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Barbara O'neal has done it again--you'll fall into this lush, wonderful story!

I’ve always enjoyed Barbara O’neal’s lushly detailed stories that fill all the senses and engage me wholly in the world, in the characters and this one was no exception. To read The Art of Inheriting Secrets was such a treat–not only because the story is wonderful, but also because I’ve been a devoted reader of her stories for a long time. If you read this one, I suspect you’ll fall in and be immersed much like I was, so satisfying.
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A lovely tale about self discovery and food, lots and lots of food. Olivia’s mother has passed away, and her death has Olivia reeling. On top of that, Olivia was in a debilitating car accident and lost her beloved dog at the same time. All of these together are enough to mess with anyone, but Olivia also discovered that her mother, who was born in England, left behind a full estate and all the trimmings that go with it. Olivia finds herself moving to England from CA and investigating what happened in her mother’s past to have kept it all a secret for so many years.

This story hooked me pretty quickly and by 1/3 in, I did not want to stop reading. I wanted to know more about Olivia’s mom’s story, as well as how Olivia was going to sort through her feelings towards a man she left behind in CA, while also facing feelings towards a man she meets in England. Though the author did not leave too much up the imagination, the plot lines are fun and imaginative. Since Olivia is a food editor, there are also many paragraphs devoted to descriptions of food, so don’t read this book hungry!

I definitely recommend the book for anyone looking for a decent fiction read. It is a little heavier than a beach read but not as complex as literary fiction. I would welcome a sequel to continue the story of how Olivia manages her inheritance as well as her relationship with Sam and members of the community she now calls home.
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I love Barbara O'Neal's books, she always has great stories and wonderful characters. She has a love story, a mystery and always something to do with food, and this one with art as well. 
This story takes place in England. But Olivia Shaw and her mother live in San Francisco, where Olivia is a food editor for a magazine, and her mother,an artist. Olivia  after a bad car accident, went to stay with her mother to recuperate, but soon after, her mother dies, and Olivia is told of an inheritance she has in England, her mothers native country. She has inherited a centuries old English estate, Rosemere and a title that goes with it. The estate had been abandoned for 40 years, Her mother had told her nothing about her past so this was a huge surprise, and a mystery to discover what happened to make the family leave. She needs to decide weather she wants to try and and renovate, or sell, the property. This was a fun and challenging decision.  
This book has so many wonderful story lines, with a romance, the mystery of her mothers childhood, a run down estate, clues in artwork and some good food stories, to mention a few.
I cannot wait for her next book.
I would like to thank Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the ARC of this book.
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Was really enjoying this book but then it got so silly about three quarters of the way through.  The relationship between the two main characters I found annoying.  Would not recommend.
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Barbra O'Neal's books are perfect for when you want something on the lighter side to escape to and especially if you like that escape to have a foodie element. She writes women's fiction, often romantic fiction with heroines that may have tragedy or sadness in their past and are starting over, often discovering things about themselves and their pasts. Her characters are appealing and easy to root for. Take Olivia Shaw, the lead character in The Art of Inheriting Secrets, for example. Olivia recently lost her artist mother only to find that she has inherited a crumbling English estate and is now Lady Shaw--family history her mother never shared with her. Olivia heads to England to learn about her past and why it was kept from her and to solve the clues her mother has left her. In the village surrounding Rosemere Priory, Olivia meets a cast of characters including a hunky and younger roof thatcher, his sister--a talented cook and restaurant owner, an elderly friend of her grandmother in the titled set, who befriends and advises her, and a group of townspeople and neighbors that may be out to help her restore the estate or may want to buy it out from under her. I liked Olivia--I could relate to her sadness over losing her mother and I envied her job as a food and travel writer and editor for a food magazine. There are no big surprises in the story, the romance, and the family mystery--but that's okay. Sometimes I just need a book that draws me in, takes me away, keeps me absorbed (and occasionally drooling over the food), and leaves me feeling satisfied--and The Art of Inheriting Secrets accomplished it all. A great book for your end of summer reading list and if you haven't experienced Barbara O'Neal's writing before, I also recommend her How to Bake a Perfect Life, The Secret of Everything, and The Garden of Happy Endings.
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This author is a top favorite of mine and I adore this book as all her other works.  Each new book is better then the last and a delight to read. 
In this book Olivia Shaw is a food editor who has suddenly inherited a ancient castle in England with hundreds of acres and the promise of a extensive fortune,  With the mansion comes a title and mysterious circumstances to discover along the way before she can claim the rest of her inheritance.
  O'Neal creates an English village that is so real to you in each exquisite detail.  Heartbroken over her mother's death and shocked to her core  by her inheritance of a ruined English manor, the new Lady Olivia Shaw is uncomfortable  in an English village surrounded by people who would see her sell the lands and ruins she's inherited. She has discovered a mystery set up by her late mother. In order to find  a amazing amount of inheritance.  Her task is to go through her history, room by  room to find the truth about her mother, her family and her past.
 A  Indian friend (Samir)   and a talented restaurateur (Pavi) add friendship and exotic food to her life . She soon is enjoying their friendship as they support her in her quest.  The author has such a talent for exceptional writing that draws the reader into the story and soon you feel your at the castle. Her outstanding beautiful language and well crafted story of past, present made this a perfect read. When its over I am sad to wait a year for her next book but I feel as if I have visited the castle, lived in the English village and lived life through Olivia's eyes. . 
Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this excellent book. My opinions are my own, I highly recommend this book for all who enjoy a bit of mystery with a dash of women's fiction and a happy story.
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I both dreaded and looked forward to Barbara O’Neal’s The Art Of Inheriting Secrets, dreaded because I dislike women’s fiction and looked forward to because the blurb offered gothic potential. In the end, the novel’s gothic and romance portions outweighed the women’s fic. I was one contentedly satiated reader at pages’ end. Be warned, there’s also first-person narration, but the narrator is engaging, funny, self-deprecating, intelligent, and as the hero notes, looks like Kate Winslet (I adore Winslet, ever since I saw her in Heavenly Creatures). Our narrator-heroine is San Francisco-based food writer and editor of the fictional magazine Egg and Hen, Olivia Shaw. When the novel opens, Olivia’s life has taken some spectacularly difficult, life-altering turns. She arrives in Hertfordshire’s Saint Ives Cross having recently learned she has inherited a crumbling estate, Rosemere Priory. She is mourning her mother, only six weeks gone, but she’s also learned that her mother kept her identity as Lady Caroline Shaw secret. The drippily unhappy heroine, the rain, the English countryside, the quaint village she arrives in, down to the country-accented friendly cab-driver, who drops her off at the local inn and pub, absorbed me from page one. I loved the premise of the family secrets, I loved the crumbling priory, I loved Olivia’s voice, and the notion of a heroine navigating a new place, culture, community, and her own new-found, strange identity.

To give you a sense of Olivia, I will quote, verbatim, one of my reading notes, “Except for the annoying, rapacious fiancé, Olivia would make a great feral spinster.” What I loved about O’Neal’s handling of Olivia’s characterization is a basis not in character growth, as in a young adult novel, but Olivia’s realizations and reconsiderations. Her mother’s loss and the revelation of her inheritance (with title!) precipitate life-changes, changes requiring bravery. I loved Olivia’s courage: she wasn’t faced with challenges so dear to WF (no Big C stories please). Olivia took time to think, organize (I loved her task-oriented whiteboard, including good-times with the love interest … more of his wonderfulness later), to consider, seek the advice of trustworthy people, and take action, not, as many romance characters do, resolve change. Olivia enacted it, step by step and with considered decision-making.

Olivia wasn’t suspicious, or paranoid, but a good reader of character. When, for example, she realized her relationship with dick-fiancé was a long-time-over, she broke off with him honestly and with class. Here’s an example of Olivia’s thought-process, in a phone conversation with dick-fiancé:

He was using the voice I’d come to know too well – the patient voice. There were times lately I didn’t even like this man, much less want to marry him. Many times. Sometimes I thought I’d never really loved him much at all.

Her honesty with herself was a joy to read, and her decisiveness. Grant turned out worse than she thought, but Olivia didn’t wallow in self-recrimination. Olivia’s journey is of a mature, thoughtful woman, who also possesses humility and humour. 

Another thing I loved about Olivia was how she navigated her relationships, despite feeling unmoored in a new place, people, and identity. She nurtured the worthy ones and divested herself of the unhealthy. One of my favourites, other than with the hero, was Olivia’s relationship with food and her body. O’Neal’s Olivia loves to cook. She knows how to savour and break down flavours; she knows how to celebrate food. Olivia is aware of her early-Kate-Winslet body. When she takes the hero as her lover, there are fleeting moments of self-consciousness about her “squishy bits” and her six-year seniority; overall, however, Olivia celebrates the pleasures of touch as she does of taste. The love scenes, by most romance standards, are circumspect, but they are sensuous, sexy, and healthy for both partners. Really, some of the best I’ve read. As are the food descriptions …

And now we come to the people who surround Olivia and how well-drawn and compelling they are. They come from the far past in the form of her ancestry and what she learns about the secrets her mother kept: her grandmother Violet’s personal tragedy; her mother’s; the ghosts that haunt Rosemere Priory. They come from her recent past: her loving, close relationship with her marvelous artist-mother; the dick-fiancé, and her work colleagues. And they come from her strange, bittersweet new present: the man who accompanies her on her Rosemere Priory ruins’ walks and explorations, Samir Malakar, who becomes her lover with joy and humility; her friendship with Samir’s family, especially his father, Harshad, who knew her mother when she was Lady Caroline; his talented chef sister, Pavi, local restaurant owner, new friend, and introducer of marvelous flavours; and even Samir’s difficult, complex mother; the local shopkeepers, artisans, and bakers, the bringers of tea and pourers of ale. I can’t say I loved the estate-makeover hostess who aids Olivia, Jocasta Edwards, the “Restoration Diva” very much. I can see, however, how she makes the renovation aspect of the story easier to tell and move, so okay. Maybe it was a tad pat, but it worked. 

As I write this post, I sip on a cup of chai latter, which I made, despite the summer heat, to honour how much I loved O’Neal’s romance between Olivia and roof-thatcher (as well as something else, but no spoilers) Samir Malakar. I will give you a small sampling of the moment they knew they were linked (it’s lovely, worthy of a Jane Eyre echo): “Something earthy and green and fertile bloomed between us, twining like the vines through the windows of Rosemere Priory.” The sense of something new, fertile and green, like a new shoot, and its connection to the past, the house, is beautiful and memorable. Samir and Olivia’s relationship is simple, loving, and comfortable. It’s not simplistic: they have to navigate the age difference (doesn’t matter, love is love), Samir’s reticence about class and colour (doesn’t matter, love is love), and the old-fashioned, romance hesitation that they’ve both been hurt by their past, failed relationships (doesn’t matter post-growing-pains because they’re so gentle and honest with each other). Here’s a snippet to lure you to read this O’Neal’s Art Of Inheriting Secrets:

” … the fact remains that our social classes are vastly different.”

“Don’t,” I said, and to emphasize my point, I covered his mouth with my fingers. “Let’s just be us. Let it be.” I took my hand away. “Okay?”

He captured my fingers. “We’re tired. Let’s go to sleep, shall we?”

“Side by side?”


O’Neal has been writing a long time. I’m so glad I have her romances in the TBR, her historical romances and contemporaries and all this new stuff she’s writing. To conclude, my final reader-bait: what does Samir say to Olivia when she wavers on restoring her ancestral home? ” ‘That isn’t who you are. You’re afraid. And you cannot have a life of great meaning if you make decisions out of fear.’ ” I loved that the HEA, as Victor Frankl, urges us to do, is to find happiness as a subsidiary of finding meaning. I’m very glad O’Neal couched this truth in a romance between two equal, worthy people. With Miss Austen, we say that Barbara O’Neal’s The Art Of Inheriting Secrets is proof “there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.

Barbara O’Neal’s The Art Of Inheriting Secrets is published by Lake Union Publishing. It was released on July 17th and may be found at your preferred vendors. I received an e-ARC from Lake Union Publishing, via Netgalley.
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This beautiful story captured me on the first page and whisked me from San Francisco to the fields of England.  An inherited estate with historical significance that our Heroine Olivia had no idea existed. Olivia begins to learn of a history and life of her mother and grandmother that is deeply laden with secrets and surprises.  The town and its characters play a pivotal role in this brilliant story.  The author gives you sweeping descriptions, emotional connections and beauty...and pain.  At the end of this beautiful story, Olivia is right where she needs to be after much discovery, new friends, new loves and lots of wonderful food.  I wanted to immediately buy a plane ticket and travel to this area. Just a fabulous and gorgeous story and read.  I'll be reading anything this author writes.  Bravo!  5 stars.
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Loved the book from the very beginning. I loved the story, characters (most of them) and the writing style. I didn't want to put the book down because I needed to find out what Olivia's mom was hiding and all the secrets surrounding Rosmere. I felt like I was right there with Olivia in the English country side with a crumbling Elizabethan house as my inheritance. The description of all the food was wonderful.

With the death of her mom, Olivia finds out she is the Countess of a crumbling estate. Not just any estate, but Rosmere, an Elizabethan house sitting on 1710 hectares. Olivia had no idea Rosmere existed and it wasn't the only secret her mom was hiding. Now Olivia needs to decide if she is going to sell the estate or keep it and figure out how to maintain it. Olivia sets out to discover the secrets that have been buried for years and the mysteries Rosmere has kept hidden. 

Loved the characters. Sam and Pavi were great friends to Olivia. Whenever Pavi was around there was always talk of food. Sam was an added love interest for Olivia and was leaps and bounds above Grant. Grant was horrible and I can't believe what he expected from Olivia. I enjoyed Olivia's friendship and the interactions she had with the Earl. Not only was he a great mentor but he truly cared for her and wanted to help her as much as possible. Who couldn't love all the sightings of the black and white kitties running in the house and around the estate!!!

The one problem I had was when Olivia found out who was behind all the money being stolen. The names of the people are revealed to her and nothing else was said or mentioned again. Two of the people involved surprised me and I wanted to know how they did it and why. It was just glossed over and more information was needed. How did Violet's room remain untouched? Anyone could walk into the house and kids used to go in there all the time. 

I definitely recommend the book. There's a mystery to solve and a little bit of romance. I look forward to reading more by the author.

Thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing and the author, Barbara O'Neal, for a free electronic ARC of this novel.
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Favorite Quote:

Life had washed me here on this strange errand. Maybe the best thing to do was to just let it show me what it had in mind.

My Review:

This was my first exposure to the clever and stealthy genius of Barbara O’Neal, and I was quickly hooked by her thoughtful and surreptitious storytelling.  Her first-person narrative was evocative, atmospheric, and compelling while her divinely descriptive and nuanced writing style was a feast for all senses, however, be warned, her intricately detailed foodie scenes were a bane for my diet.  Her word voodoo was strong, I swear I could taste the spices and smell the garlic.  The premise was unique and engaging with several well-woven and intriguing storylines just oozing with mystery and confounding clues that kept me tethered to my Kindle late into the night.
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