I read Sharon Maas’ The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q earlier this year and absolutely loved it. So I jumped at the chance to read this new book and I wasn’t disappointed. Winnie Cox is the privileged daughter of a plantation owner in British Guiana at a turbulent time in that country’s history. When she falls in love with George Quint, a black Post Office worker, it seems that there is no future for them. But Winnie is determined to fight for her man, even though it may mean alienating the rest of her family.
What Sharon does so well in her writing is paint such a vivid picture of her settings that you feel you are right there. Her vibrant descriptions and attention to detail means you can easily visualise the beautiful gardens, imagine the sound of the birds and the scent of the exotic blooms. She has a beautiful, elegant style of writing which can equally well describe the dreadful living conditions of the workers on the plantations – the squalor, the cramped conditions, the filth. The yawning gap between the ‘darkies’, the ‘coolies’ and the rich white people is clear to see.
Sharon also has a knack of creating great characters. Winnie, of course, is central to the story and over the course of the novel she matured from a naïve cossetted young girl living a sheltered life, into a strong woman with an understanding of the unfairness of the society she has been born into and a determination to change things. I enjoyed how her character developed from believing that love could conquer all to realising that it wouldn’t be that easy and that she may need to fight for that love. As Winnie herself said, “I was an older, wiser being now; a woman who knew that even a beloved father can have a dark side”. Auntie Dolly was a wonderful character – so wise and compassionate. The use of Winnie’s mother’s diary at the end of most of the chapters was a excellent way to find out about her, as she was not in Winnie’s life for most of the story. Through the diary, we realise that Winnie and her mother are rather similar people.
I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Winnie Cox and was pleased to read at the end that it is the first in a planned trilogy. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next for Winnie and for George and all the other characters. A beautifully written story of love against all the odds.
My thanks to publishers Bookouture for allowing me to read a review copy via Netgalley. The Secret Life of Winnie Cox was published on 1st October and you can order a copy here: The Secret Life of Winnie Cox.
Winnie Cox lives a privileged life of dances and dresses on her father’s sugar cane plantation. Life is sweet in the kingdom of sugar and Winnie along with her sister Johanna, have neither worries nor responsibilities, they are birds of paradise, protected from the poverty in the world around them. But everything can change in a heartbeat… When Winnie falls in love with George Quint, the post-office boy, a ‘darkie’ from the other side, she soon finds herself slipping into a double life. And as she withdraws from her family, she discovers a shocking secret about those whom are closest to her. Now, more than ever, Winnie is determined to prove her love for George, whatever price she must pay and however tragic the consequences might be.