All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Secret Path by Karen Swan

on September 15, 2021

The Secret Path
Karen Swan
Pan Macmillan
2021, 409p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Every step leads me back to you.

At just twenty years old, Tara Tremain has everything: a trainee doctor, engaged to the man of her dreams—a passionate American biology student called Alex Carter. But just when life seems perfect, Alex betrays her in the worst way possible.

Ten years later, she’s moved on, with a successful career, good friends and a man who loves her. But when she’s pulled back into her wealthy family’s orbit for an unmissable party in the heart of Costa Rica, she finds herself flung into crisis: a child is desperately ill and the only remedy is several days’ trek into the heart of the jungle.

There’s only one person who can help—but it’s the man who shattered her heart a decade before. And how can she trust him, of all people? 

I read a lot of Karen Swan books I think, last year. I had missed this one being released but picked it up recently when I bought that stack of books on sale. The setting of Costa Rica intrigued me and I think regular readers of Karen Swan books kind of know what they’re getting when they pick one up.

Tara is the daughter of a very wealthy man and she’s at university studying medicine. She’s also met and fallen in love with Alex in a matter of months. They’re engaged and now she’s just confided in him how wealthy her family is and is ready to introduce Alex to them in order for them to tell her parents they’re getting married. Having hid her identity from him, Tara feels sure that he’s with her for her, not because her father is one of the richest men in the world, with that status beginning with a B. However when Tara is ready for Alex to talk to her father, instead she finds out something else – something so horrible that she turns her back on him without a second thought.

Ten years later, Tara is back in her favourite place, Costa Rica. She hasn’t been here in years, because here is where Alex is now and the sting of his betrayal is still fresh. But she’s here for a very special event for her father and she’s made sure to surround herself with friends for emotional support. She thinks she’s ready to come face to face with Alex again, even after all these years but nothing has prepared her for the reality. Especially when it turns out that she’ll need to rely on him for a dangerous trek through thick jungle.

Whilst I enjoyed quite a lot about this, particularly the Costa Rican setting, Tara’s career and the focus on environmental issues as well as modern medicine vs traditional methods, unfortunately, the romance did leave quite a bit to be desired. Tara and Alex had a very short-lived, very intense passionate affair and she was ready to spend the rest of her life with him. But then she discovered that he betrayed her in the worst possible way and the fallout of that has left deep scars on her. When she encounters him again 10 years later, she’s a successful surgeon, she’s in a relationship, she wants to prove to Alex that she’s all the better for being without him.

All well and good except the way in which Alex justifies and/or apologises for the betrayal is kind of lacklustre. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was going to actually fall in love with you” is hardly the most ringing of endorsements and it’s obvious at a) he doesn’t regret what he did and b) he’d do it again. When Tara hits him with just how deeply his betrayal cut her and the side effect of it (sort of, I’m not entirely sure the two are related but they certainly are in her eyes) he’s all sad about it but….not really? His “you have to forgive me because you just have to” is a terrible reason. All of this also comes quite late in the story as well so for me, there’s not enough of Alex trying to explain how he really feels and there could’ve been something about the past decade and it’s toll on him but….there doesn’t seem to have been any regrets to be honest. Alex was a very average person and I wanted better for Tara. Much better. Especially at the end. Also her boyfriend Rory, described in a very particular way by everyone completely does a 180 in character as soon as they arrive in Costa Rica and it’s clearly a very clumsy attempt to make the reader dislike him so that they want Tara to get back with Alex.

I enjoyed pretty much everything else, I just wish there’d been a better reason for what Alex did or more explanation (and definitely more apologising/grovelling about it). I’m not sure if we’re supposed to admire him for his environmental convictions but making your living for the past ten years off the father of the woman you betrayed, even if it was something you are very passionate about, made him very unappealing.


Book #151 of 2021

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