Secrets, Schemes & Sewing Machines is the second in the series by Katy Cannon for teen/YA readers which starts with Loves, Lies and Lemon Pies, which I reviewed for Amazon Vine a while back. A friend saw that I had quite enjoyed the first book in the series and sent me this to see what I thought of the follow up.
Not quite as much, I’m afraid.
In Cannon’s first book she uses the budding relationship between troubled Lottie and bad boy Mac as her central romance story, which is the usual trope of good student goes slightly off the rails when she meets the tearaway who just happens to be terribly misunderstood and love saves the day thing.
It was saved from predictability by two things. Firstly by Cannon’s brilliant idea to have the whole thing revolve around a baking class, and offer readers recipes between each chapter. The second was to give Lottie much more depth than a usual romantic lead, as the reasons she spirals out of control become clear as the book continues and make it a much darker, more interesting read than you would suspect.
In this second book, which follows some of the same characters from the first book, she attempts to recreate this novelty with, for me, limited success. You do not need to have read the first book in order to make sense of the second, by the way. The author neatly fills in any back story you might need to know, without making it massively obvious that that’s what she’s doing.
My issues with the book were:
Firstly Grace, the super bitch popularity queen from the first book, has already gone some way towards her redemption in book one, so the transformation of her into a caring, albeit flawed heroine, is not quite so exciting as it would have been had she had an epiphany in this book. Having said that, I did like the fact that she didn’t suddenly turn into Mary Poppins, and she still wrestles with her demons, which makes her much more likeable, and also much more realistic than she would have been had she suddenly been transformed by the power of love.
Secondly, Grace also has a family issue to resolve in this book, but unlike Lottie’s it doesn’t really get the space it deserves and the drama is lacking that would give it real emotional punch. Grace seems too absent from much of her own family life for her story to really have the weight it needs. I would have liked a bit more depth in this area, as it could easily have been as interesting as Lottie’s issue in the first book, and Cannon has the skills as an author to pull this off and still maintain the balance between drama and romance.
Thirdly, where the recipes were integral to the last book. In this book, where Grace is sent to sewing club because she has been given the job of wardrobe mistress in the school play, the makes are almost like an aside, as if the author had to find that quirky edge and was grasping at straws.
As a fluffy, predictable romance with likeable characters and a good, strong cast of both boy and girls to care about this is fairly strong. As anything deeper it just lacks the spark of the first book.
It is aimed at a teen/YA market. Grace and her friends are 17 in the book, but I would say it is suitable for girls aged 11 up. There are a few sensitively handled kissing scenes and a point where the friends indulge in a slug of warming whiskey in some New Year’s Eve hot chocolate, but Fifty Shades this isn’t, and everything is toned down in order for it to net as wide an audience as possible.