Island of Secrets by Rachel Rhys | Blog Tour Review | #IslandOfSecrets

Published by Black Swan/Transworld
Available in ebook, audiobook & paperback (25 June 2020)
368 pages
Source: Review copy received via Netgalley


Set in the exotic city of Havana on the cusp of revolution, an English woman discovers mystery, romance and scandal in the atmospheric new novel by Rachel Rhys for fans of DINAH JEFFRIES, LUCINDA RILEY and SANTA MONTEFIORE

1957: Iris Bailey is bored to death of working in the typing pool and living with her parents in Hemel Hempstead. A gifted portraitist with a talent for sketching party guests, she dreams of becoming an artist. So she can’t believe her luck when socialite Nell Hardman invites her to Havana to draw at the wedding of her Hollywood director father.

Far from home, she quickly realizes the cocktails, tropical scents and azure skies mask a darker reality. As Cuba teeters on the edge of revolution and Iris’s heart melts for troubled photographer Joe, she discovers someone in the charismatic Hardman family is hiding a terrible secret. Can she uncover the ugly truth behind the glamour and the dazzle before all their lives are torn apart?


I loved Rachel Rhys’ previous novels, both of which are featured here A Dangerous Crossing and Fatal Inheritance and was so looking forward to Island of Secrets, set in Havana.

Set in 1957, Island of Secrets features Iris, a talented portrait artist but working as a typist. She is bored and dissatisfied with her job. Her boyfriend Peter is rather overbearing and she feels that surely there is more to life than living in Hemel Hempstead with her parents. She uses her skills to sketch guests at parties and she is thrilled to receive an invitation from socialite Nell Hardman to come to Havana and draw at the wedding of her father, famous director Hugh Hardman to the much younger actress Lana.

There is some controversy surrounding Hugh for this is not his first wedding, and his second wife, Hollywood actress Jean Summers, died in mysterious circumstances.  The family relationship is complicated and there are clearly tensions between them which Iris cannot quite understand.

Iris is not the only ‘employee’ attending – also in the guest lodgings with her is Eugene, a cheery journalist together with the brooding Joe, both there to cover the wedding. Joe is a former war photographer who because of personal issues now focuses on much lighter subjects however there is something about him that both mesmerises and concerns Iris.

With Fidel Castro and his followers gaining support, Cuba is on the cusp of political change, however the businessmen in Hugh Hardman’s circle are convinced that Americans and their money will always be welcome and they continue with their plans for development making the divide between the rich and poor even bigger. It is against this backdrop of corruption and political rebellion that there is a sense of danger.  Add in the unease regarding the wedding; the suspicions regarding the death of Jean Summers and it is clear that not everyone is who they seem.

This was such an absorbing read, I spent a few happy hours engrossed in the complex Hardman family dynamics that Iris had to negotiate. Iris had a naivety and with her own modest background she was unaccustomed to such decadence and extravagance and frequently found herself out of her depth in every way.  I felt for her at times when she wished for her old life in Hemel Hempstead. Nell had invited her but Iris didn’t know her that well, and convinced that she was being watched, she didn’t know who she could trust.

The sultry heat of Havana, the vivid and evocative descriptions, the differing personalities, many it seems with their own agenda, all thrown together – this is a family with secrets that they don’t want exposed. Rachel Rhys writes such a colourful and captivating story of Hollywood lifestyles, dangerous businessmen all with an unsettling undertone to show the political unrest of the time. I couldn’t help but be drawn in. A fabulous read and I very much enjoyed it.

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invitation and to the publisher for the ecopy via Netgalley.


Rachel Rhys is the pen-name of a much-loved psychological suspense author. She is the author of the Richard and Judy bookclub pick, Dangerous Crossing and the bestselling A Fatal Inheritance. Rachel Rhys lives in North London with her family.

Author Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Book Links:
Amazon UK | Waterstones | Hive


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