“Nullum judicium. Non limitat. Nulla verecundia”.
(No judgment. No limits. No Shame)
This is the second S.E.C.R.E.T. book and although it could be read on its own merits I would advice anyone to read the first book before starting this one.
I am so glad that L. Marie Adeline decided to write a sequel to “S.E.C.R.E.T.” Not only because Cassie’s story clearly wasn’t finished when the first book ended. What I really appreciate in this book is that it illustrates that just because we go through a certain process and come out at the end of it successfully doesn’t mean that all our old issues have suddenly disappeared. While Cassie, in the first book, certainly discovered sides to herself she never knew existed and starts looking at herself and her needs and wants in a new way, that doesn’t mean that she has suddenly gotten rid of all the insecurities that hav been bothering her for years, if not her whole life. Growth is a life-long journey and insecurities only release their hold with reluctance, as Cassie comes to realize as the story progresses.
While it seemed, for a few pages at least, that Cassie would end up with everything she ever wanted near the end of the first book, a shocking revelation destroyed all her hopes and dreams and tore her apart from Will, her boss and the man she loves. What is more, there appeared to be little or no hope that she and Will would ever have the opportunity to be together, regardless of their feelings for each other.
When this book starts Cassie has decided that she will stay with S.E.C.R.E.T., the secret organization run by and for women that undertakes to liberate women through a process that has them push their boundaries by participating in nine sexual fantasies.
When Cassie meets Dauphine she knows that she has found the ideal candidate for the S.E.C.R.E.T. process and once Dauphine accepts the challenge, Cassie is only too happy to act as her guide.
Dauphine is in desperate need of a shake up of her (love) life. Dauphine is as stuck in her life as it is possible to be. Betrayed by her boyfriend as well as her best friend eight years ago and very insecure about her curvaceous body she has taken a tight hold of every aspect of her life. Dauphine needs to be in control of everything that happens to and around her and her refusal to take risks has all but paralised her. But, as is pointed out to her once she is introduced to the idea and the women of S.E.C.R.E.T
“That’s a tough one, control. (…) Too much and you never allow yourself to know others. Too little and you never truly know yourself.”
Dauphine has to battle all her self-preserving instincts but in the end realizes that, if she wants more out of her life than she has been getting so far – if she wants to stop being afraid – she has to grab this opportunity.
“Some things are fatefully divine and some are just divinely fated.”
And so begins Dauphine’s wonderful journey. A journey that will not only force her to face fears she didn’t think she’d ever overcome but will also teach her that she is beautiful and good enough. She has some wonderful encounters with equally wonderful men, although my favourite scene was the tango dancing one, taking place in Buenos Aires. And although part of me was disappointed that her journey got cut short – although the way in which was intriguing – it did make perfect sense in the story. By the time Dauphine returns from Argentina, she has indeed conquered the ten steps: surrender, courage, trust, generosity, fearlessness, confidence, curiosity, bravery, exuberance and liberation, even if she didn’t need all the steps or encounters normally required. And her reward more than lives up to everything she’d hoped for.
And I’m glad Dauphine got a happy ending since Cassie’s journey is proving a lot tougher. Although she knows that her hopes of a relationship with Will have forever been dashed she continues to work for him and can’t stop thinking and dreaming about everything that might have been. And just when it seems that maybe Cassie will be able to find happiness for herself, everything comes crashing down around her once again, leaving her dreams shattered but also bringing her to the realization that although she finished her nine-step program, she still has a lot to learn about being truly independent.
It is clear from the way this book ends that there is at least one more S.E.C.R.E.T. title to come and I will be looking forward to reading it. In fact, I can’t wait to get my hands on it because for once I’m not at all sure what ending I am hoping for when it comes to Cassie. I can see at least three possibilities and all of them have their charms as well as their down sides for me so I’m very curious to see where the author will take us.
This book was, like its prequel, a wonderful and very well written story. While “S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared” is definitely a very erotic story, it is so much more. This is a story about women helping and empowering women; a book with a very positive message for all the women out there who think that they are not (good, beautiful or smart) enough. It is great to read books in which women grow into themselves and everything they can be without the answer to their problems necessarily being a man in their lives. Yes, men play a huge part in the journeys these women undertake but they are only the means through which progress is made and not the reason why. For me it is impossible not to love a book that includes a quote like this:
“The word slut, unless employed by iron-clad feminists or ironically by irony experts, has no business coming out of a woman’s mouth, do you hear me. Not when she’s describing her own sexual behaviour and especially if she’s describing another woman’s. It’s the kind of word that can scar, Cassie”. – Mathilda