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The Secret of Isobel Key by Jen McConnel
Published by: Bloomsbury Spark
Publication date: December 19th 2013
Genres: New Adult Mystery
Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Fresh out of college, she’s unemployed and unsure of herself. But when she gets the chance to escape to Scotland with her best friend, it could be the answer to her quest for self-discovery. The trip is not at all what she expected, especially when her tour guide turns out to be the dreamy historian Brian, and together they embark on a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.
They set out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but Lou isn’t prepared for the knowledge that awaits her. She must face her own demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past. Flashing between the seventeenth century and modern day Scotland, The Secret of Isobel Key is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.
The Secret of Isobel Key is part romance, part Scottish adventure, part coming of age story for Louisa. And part witch hunt/ghost story. It all worked really well for me. Louisa, or Lou, has just graduated from college a year early and she hasn’t found the perfect job yet. She is working as a clerk in a bookstore, when finally she has enough and she quits. Her best friend, Tammy, is thrilled but Lou is still trying to figure out what her next step will be. Insert Tammy with free trip to Scotland to visit family. It seems like the perfect getaway for Lou. While they are overseas, they go on a little tour and of course they have a hot tour guide.
Most of the story takes place on the girls trip in Scotland over winter break. Tammy and Lou’s parents are close friends so they both sent their daughters on the trip for Christmas. The book is told in split narrative between present day Lou, and past day Isobel Key. At first I didn’t know how the stories were going to connect, eventually you start to see a little connection. And then later on in the story, you see a little more connection, and then by the end you see even more. I loved how the two stories were intertwined on all these different layers. I thought the whole research on Scottish witches and Isobel Key was really well done. It was detailed, and super interesting.
Tammy is super outgoing and a huge flirt. She has no problem hitting on their tour guide, Brian shamelessly! Lou is quieter, more reserved. She also had a crush on Brian, even before Tammy, but because she is so shy, no one knew about it. What I loved about Tammy is that she finally the great friend that I wish was in more books. When she found out that Brian and Lou liked each other, after she flirted up a storm and let everyone know that she liked him, she simply said, “well, I can’t win them all.” and winked at Lou. That was it. There was no fight, no “you hate me. Why are you doing this?” Just support for her friend. Now Tammy and Lou are not perfect, they later clash over religion. Which, I thought was another interesting layer and element to this book (it is not a Christian story) But the point is that they are always there for each other.
The Secret of Isobel key surprised me. The story was an enchanting one. The ending was not what I expected at all. I was a little disappointed with it, but mostly it was so refreshing to see something different happen. And it still was a “happily ever after”, just a different one than I was expecting. There is much more than meets the eye with this book.
Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. She is the author of The Secret of Isobel Key (NA 2013) and Daughter of Chaos (YA 2014). Visit www.jenmcconnel.com to learn more.
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