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The Art of Inheriting Secrets

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Member Reviews

This book was very entertaining. I was drawn in by the little details that made the story come alive. I was surprised to see that this book was released in paperback only. It had all the depth and detail of a big release hard cover title. I will seek out this author again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars
First but not the last!
By Maggie on August 6, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
It is wonderful to discover a new author with a backlist. I adored The Art of Inheriting Secrets. The plot moved along, the love interest was hot, and there was plenty of twists to keep a person guessing. I hope this is going to be the first in a series! I am now looking to read the rest of the author's books. Just the right touch, not too 'literary', not too 'trashy', just loved it
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Olivia Shaw, an editor of a food magazine has just inherited a 400 year old mansion and a title.  Her mother left Britain in the 1970s, moved to San Francisco, had her child and never, ever shared her past life in England,  after she dies, Olivia discovers that her mother was a countess and now  Olivia  has inherited her title as well as the ancestral home. Once in England,  Olivia encounters a ruin of a property, employees who have absconded with profits from the estate, and a mystery concerning her mother’s abrupt departure. It’s a mystery as well as a love story that is easy to recommend.
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The story opens with American Olivia Shaw discovering that she is the long-lost heir to a title and an estate in England. Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?

But just as every cloud is supposed to have a silver lining, every silver lining definitely has its own cloud. Olivia has just made this momentous discovery because she found paperwork regarding the estate among her late mother’s things. Her mother has only been gone a few weeks, and Olivia is still devastated by her death as well as completely overwhelmed by the whole horde of secrets which have suddenly come to light.

Or at least come to less dark. Olivia had no idea that her mother was the Countess of Rosemere, or that the title came with an estate. A profitable estate that includes gardens and farmland and a crumbling (and possibly haunted!) Elizabethan country house. And secrets. Mountains and molehills and acres of secrets.

Her mother was a well-known artist and illustrator of children’s books. Olivia always assumed that the enchanted forest that appeared in so much of her mother’s work was a creation of her imagination. But in truth her mother painted Rosemere over and over and over for her entire life.

One of the questions is why? Another is why did her mother leave the place to rot? And an even bigger question, why did her mother never tell her anything about Rosemere, her inheritance, her legacy, her background or her past?

Olivia’s mother loved treasure hunts. And she has left her daughter one final doozy of a hunt – to discover the secrets and the truths that lie hidden at Rosemere. So those secrets can finally be brought to light, and so that Olivia can finally find her own way.

Escape Rating B+: There is a lot to love in this book, and just a couple of things that didn’t quite work, or at least didn’t work for me.

The story is a gem, combining Olivia’s hunt for her mother’s last secrets with Olivia’s own romance with both novelist-turned-thatcher Samir Malakar and with Rosemere itself. Herself.

Olivia arrives at Rosemere at a personal crossroads. Not just that her beloved mother is dead and left this gigantic mystery, but also that Olivia is still recovering from a terrible automobile accident that left her with a still-healing injury and caused the death of her beloved dog. The injury caused her to take a six weeks and counting leave of absence from her job as editor of a prestigious food and gourmet magazine. To top all of that off, her relationship with the man she’s been living with for the past eight years is falling apart. Or has already fallen.

Olivia comes to Rosemere to pull herself together in the present as much as she does to unearth the mysteries of the past.

In the process, Olivia falls in love with both a person and a place. The more she looks into the secrets of Rosemere, and the more that she explores the tumbledown wreck of the house, the more questions she has. It’s obvious that something truly terrible happened all those years ago to force her mother to leave it all behind and completely reinvent herself.

It’s also equally obvious that she discovers that she feels tied, not so much to the land as to the people that inhabit and surround it. She becomes involved with village life, even as many elements of that society either reject her or her choices. It’s clear that there are multiple agendas revolving around the old estate.

That society also looks down on her choices for friendship and companionship. Her first and closest friends in the village are the Anglo-Indian Malakar family. Olivia’s grandmother came home to England from India with Samir and Pavi’s grandmother Nandini, and the two families have been close ever since. Olivia’s burgeoning relationship with Samir echoes that closeness much more nearly than they believe. But they do not fool themselves that the local squirearchy will not and does not approve of the new Countess’ relationship with someone who is not ‘one of them’, let alone someone of Samir’s heritage.

Olivia’s journey, her search, is absolutely fascinating. She’s our point of view into the story, and she is easy to empathize with and interesting to follow. She’s got a lot on her plate at the beginning, not just her own recovery from both injury and grief, but the gigantic number of decisions she has to face at a time when she is at a very low ebb.

It’s easy to see how Rosemere winds its way into her heart. And her fresh perspective on whatever secrets are hidden there give her both the imperative to discover the truths and just enough distance not to fear whatever may be revealed.

There were a couple of things that niggled me about this story, just enough to keep me from raising it into the A’s. Olivia has plenty of problems to tackle between her mother’s secrets, Rosemere’s secrets, her attempt to rehabilitate the crumbling house and her relationship with Samir. That’s more than enough drama for one life and one book without tacking on either the swindling caretakers or the douchecanoe ex-lover. Throwing both into the soup brings the book a bit too close to melodrama, and definitely went over-the-top in the number of drama llamas.

As much as I loved the way that the relationship developed between Olivia and Samir, a part of it didn’t quite ring true. Again, they had plenty to contend with, as no one seems to have approved for all kinds of reasons. But Olivia made a gigantic deal out of being 7 years older than Samir. She’s 39 and he’s 32, which makes both of them well into adulthood – certainly more than far enough into adulthood for a seven year gap not to be all that big of a deal, and absolutely more than adult enough for Samir to be aware of his own mind and heart. I am 20 years older than my husband, and while I certainly did a fair amount of soul-searching at the beginning of our relationship, I didn’t agonize nearly this much over a gap that is considerably greater. Because of my own experience, some of Olivia’s reactions in this regard didn’t quite ring true for me.

But quibbles and niggles aside, I enjoyed The Art of Inheriting Secrets a great deal. This was the book I was reading as the movers packed up all of our stuff and moved it out of the old house and into the new house. Reading Olivia’s trials and tribulations with beautiful old Rosemere certainly put my moving into perspective!
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It was hard to read this book without salivating at the mouth from all of Barbara O' Neal's descriptions of food.  The "notes" feature on my kindle got used quite heavily as I kept highlighting all of the wonderful descriptions of various food dishes.  I loved how O' Neal personified food throughout her novel.  For example, she writes about a glass of wine that "hit my tongue like a dance troupe" or "cumin kissed ginger; ginger embraced the umami depth of lamb."  My list could go on and on.  Some of the food in this book I've never had such as all of the Indian dishes, but her descriptions of chai tea, strawberries, and asparagus had me practically reading the book up with a spoon in hand.  

Besides all of the superb descriptions of food, I think the other part of this book that kept me reading was the mystery that the author developed.  At the beginning of the book, the reader learns that Olivia Shaw inherited an English estate and the title of Countess after her mother's death.  So right away I was swept up in the mystery of why her mother would never have told her about this ancestral home that was hundreds of years old.  As the book continued, I found myself rooting for Olivia to find a way to raise the funds that would allow her to renovate such a costly project.  I also thought it was very interesting how the secrets of Olivia's family are finally revealed.  I probably would not have made all of the connections that Olivia did in order to figure out her mother's secrets but I suppose Olivia knows her mother's way of thinking better than I do.  

Although there was a bit of a romance story thrown into the book,  I think I enjoyed the parts of the story that dealt more with the mystery and renovation of the Rosemere estate.  However, there were some really good quotes that Samir makes to Olivia that would have had me swooning at the feet if they had been professed to me while dating someone new. 

This book was the first book that I've read by this author and I am looking forward to reading others.  Thanks to Net Galley and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book.  All thoughts expressed are my honest opinions of the book.
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This book set in the English countryside was a quick read for me.  The mystery kept me invested.  The author's detailed description of the English countryside made it easy to imagine being there.
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Overall, it’s a good family-history mystery with beautiful descriptions of an English country estate and hunger-inducing descriptions of mouth-watering foods. Of course, there is a romance thrown in there too. Anglophiles and foodies will love the story that also will appeal to romance-genre readers. A few aspects of the family history were tidied up a little too quickly once they were found out, but ultimately it’s a charming story with a little something for everyone.
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This is the first book I have read by Barbara O'Neal.  I was interested in the plot summary and I loved the book cover.  I totally enjoyed this deeply developed story.  The plot is very engrossing and kept me on edge waiting for the next event to take place.  
The main character, Olivia Shaw, has so many things to deal with.  Her treasured dog dies, then Olivia is in an auto accident and took months to recover, then her beloved mother dies, leaving Olivia in mourning questioning all in her life.  If that was not enough, she then finds papers in her mother’s house that indicate that he is an heir to a title in England.  Once in England she finds that there are secrets everywhere and it seems the more she finds out, the more she does not know.
Her saving grace is that she finds someone that she can trust and almost immediately they know they are meant for each other.  The romance that blooms between Olivia and Samir was wonderful.  I felt their love and was so hoping that the story would have a happy ending for them.
The story is a mixture of romance, mystery, the spiritual blessing food can give, strength of character and responsibility to ancestors.
I received this book from and Lake Union Publishing.  I want to thank them for allowing me to enter the world of this story, which I enjoyed so much.  I wrote this review freely of my own will, with my own opinion of the book not influence by receiving the book.
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When Olivia's mother dies she gets a complete shock when she finds out that her mother was an English countess and that she had inherited the title and an Elizabethan house and estate,  Rosemere Priory.  Leaving her native San Francisco she takes a trip to England and discovers that Rosemere was abandoned 40 years ago and is in a very dilapidated state....... will she ever be able to bring it back to life or should she just accept an offer for it and go back to her old life?  There are too many questions unanswered though and she feels the need to find out the secrets of her mother's past and why she walked out on her life and never spoke of it and with the help of the gorgeous Samir and a tv renovating programme she sets about restoring the beautiful old building

A great saga with plenty of secrets to be discovered and great characters, my only criticism would be that the end seemed to be very rushed but I will definitely be looking for more books by this author
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What a beautifully written story of Olivia, after the death of her mother, finding out secrets that lead her to leave San Francisco for England.  Clues abound as Olivia tries to discover why her mother kept secret that she would inherit Rosemere, an estate with a colorful history.  I loved Samir and Pavi, two people who become important to Olivia and her story.  Highly recommend this lyrically written novel.
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* Unpopular Opinion Alert * When I first started reading it, I very much liked The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O'Neal, but in the end some things just didn't jive with me and I didn't love it as much as I had hoped to.

The Art of Inheriting Secrets is about 38 year old Olivia Shaw who has been the editor of a highly respected magazine when she gets into a car accident and has to take time off work. As if that hasn't hit her life hard enough, her mother then passes away and Olivia finds out she is the heir to an estate in England named Rosemere. A very old and very crumbly estate. She travels to England from San Francisco and she starts falling in love with the small village and the people in it. However, things aren't always what they seem, and she has a lot of secrets from her mom's past that she must unravel as well if she ever hopes to find peace and figure out what to do with Rosemere.

As I got further into this book I realized that this is not just a women's fiction book with mystery, it is also a romance novel. So there are a couple sex scenes that are on the graphic side (for me anyway) that were a little TMI for my liking and I ended up skipping over them completely. 

I also think this book could have been much shorter; and the secrets aren't all reveled until pretty much the last 5% or so of the book. I wouldn't mind this normally, but I thought there was some filler in between I could have done without and things could have moved a bit faster. Also, the explanations were very confusing to me and unfortunately I didn't fully understand exactly what had happened. 

One other thing that really frustrated me was that one revelation is entirely glossed over by Olivia when she finds out something big. She just continues speaking to someone about something else entirely without even touching on how much surprise she should have been feeling. I'm sure this won't bug everyone, but it really bothers me when things that should be touched on just get completely passed over.

On the bright side, O'Neal's writing is truly beautiful and I did love how she described everything. I was also really loving the crumbly mansion and family secrets aspect, along with Olivia's friendships with the villagers (mostly 3 in particular).

Another thing to note is the descriptions of food in this book are MOUTH WATERING. Like they are completely legit, and reading this book made me hungry.

Final Thought: I feel like this review is fairly negative, but I don't mean it to be. I just couldn't get past the romance aspect slowing the mystery down for me and the very confusing conclusion. I definitely recommend checking this book out if you are a fan of romance with a mystery aspect. It just caught me so off guard that I couldn't get past it. There isn't even that much romance, at least as far as sex scenes go, so check this out if it sounds appealing!
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I have never read anything by this author before and I have to say that I was amazed by both the story and the author's writing skill and style.  Obviously, I will hunt up her books to read more. 

The story contained in this book is magical.  It caught me in a tough time - my 12 year old dog died while I was reading this.  It was the one thing that drew me away from my grief the first couple days.  First, the characters; they were so perfectly described that I could see each and every one.  Second, the story line blew me away.  I'm not going into it.  I don't believe in spoilers, but it fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for allowing me to read and provide an honest review of this book.
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An awesome, compelling story.  The characters are so real and the story is crazy good.  I would definitely recommend this book to everyone.  Enjoyed every minute from start to finish.  Loved this book.
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Looking for a light summer read with a gorgeous setting, delicious food descriptions, mystery, and romance? The Art of Inheriting Secrets is a good bet.

In it, we follow food editor Olivia who has inherited from her mother a dilapidated English estate that she didn’t even know existed. She flies from San Francisco to see exactly what it is and quickly has more questions than answers as she tries to determine what to do with it, what it means, and why her mother kept it a secret all this time.

This novel has a number of things going for it: a rich setting that beckons wandering, food descriptions that make me want to spend more time in my kitchen, and an exploration of class systems, ethnic heritage, and sexuality. With these last ideas, the novel provided more diversity than I anticipated. I appreciated that aspect.

I generally read a lot of nonfiction, but like to sprinkle in some fiction, as well, and this book didn’t disappoint. Although I didn’t necessarily relate to the characters, I found the setting remarkably engaging. My favorite aspect of the story was Olivia’s friendship with Pavi, the owner of an Indian restaurant. The way Olivia engaged with food was interesting to me and made me want to appreciate it as much as she does. Reading about the  appealed to my nonfiction side.

If you’re looking for a light read for the end of summer, give this one a try.
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After her mother's death, Olivia Shaw is still deeply mourning the loss. She finds herself in England after uncovering a mystery. Her mother owns an English estate and Olivia holds the title of Lady Olivia. She went to England to settle the estate and sell the land and buildings. What she finds is that she's falling in love with the estate and many of the townspeople.

Rosemere holds a lot of secrets, however. In order to get help restoring all the buildings, Olivia must unravel the truth her mother and grandmother spent decades hiding.

The lush setting and descriptions of foods in The Art of Inheriting Secrets had me hooked. I could smell the dampness overtaking the mansion. I could taste the rich spices of the many Indian dishes Olivia eats during her time in England. I loved the romance between Olivia and a man who many say is beneath her newly discovered title.

That said, there were aspects I felt were left open. I don't know if that means a sequel will follow. I hope so. I feared there would be a big revelation into the truth about Olivia's father. I also wanted to know if Olivia would turn things around financially. That didn't get as much attention.

Hopefully, Barbara O'Neal has a sequel in store. If there is to be one, I'll be one of the first in line to buy it.
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The Art of Inheriting Secrets is the story of Olivia, who finds out after her mother's death, that she is Lady Olivia, Countess of Rosemere, and has inherited not only her mother's extensive art collection, but also a large estate in England. 

The story follows Olivia as she discovers the secrets her mother left behind in a treasure hunt for her to discover. I really enjoyed this story; it has everything I like in a story...mystery, romance, and good storytelling. Also, Olivia is a food editor so there was vivid descriptions of food that made my mouth water. 

If I had one critique of this book, it would be near the end when the last of the secrets were revealed. I'm a little unsettled on who Olivia's father may be. 

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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This was a lovely book with an air of mystery and romance. I loved the foodie aspect of it. The only thing I have to say that I did not like was it was a bit slow going, mostly in the beginning of the book, but otherwise it was quite good. The characters were engaging and the plot was good.
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This novel is filled with beautiful writing. I was on a road trip with my family while I read The Art of Inheriting Secrets. Every once in a while I’d stop and insist that I just had to read a part out loud.

I highlighted so many sections, just for how lovely the descriptions were. I’m not a foodie, but now I want to be. The part about beef stew made my mouth water.

This is my favorite kind of story. Women’s Fiction with strong romantic elements.
Make this your next read if you’re looking for something truly special. Highly recommend this one!

I posted a recommendation on Great Thoughts, Great Readers Facebook page, and tweeted about my website post.
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THE ART OF INHERITING SECRETS by Barbara O’Neal is one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve read in the last few years and I’m excited to have found a new author whose writing style I really appreciate.  The novel follows Olivia who has just lost her mother and gained an English estate and Countess title that she never knew existed.  As she works through what do to with the crumbling mansion and her broken heart, she finds that there are many secrets her mother kept from her throughout her life.  Her mother helps her heal in the most original and artistic way that she knows will help her daughter deal with her loss.  The story has beautiful imagery of decrepit buildings and the English country and excellent characters that bloom through the story into roses and weeds.  There is mystery and romance and heartache and courage.  And the fact Olivia is a food editor doesn’t hurt so you’ll be salivating for both the story line and the food in this novel the entire time you read it.  This book was just a beautiful reading experience with something for everyone.  For fans of Kate Morton, this book is not to be missed.
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When Olivia's mother dies, her world turns upside down.  She discovers a plethora of secrets her mother had been keeping, one of which was that she had a title and an estate in England.  When Olivia goes to England to try to sort everything out, she discovers a life waiting for her beyond anything she could ever have imagined.
I am a huge fan of this author, and I believe this book may be my new favorite of hers.  It kept me so engrossed that I could not put it down.  With characters you want to root for, a story that is fresh and exciting & a bit of romance thrown in for good measure, this is the perfect summer read.
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