Secret Ones is Nichole Murphy’s debut novel, published by Harper Voyager (Aus) in 2010. It’s a paranormal romance novel set in Ireland and rural New South Wales. Being a paranormal romance, rather than straight urban fantasy, the romantic plot line was significantly more prominent than what I usually read, which was an interesting change of pace.
The main character, Maggie, is one of the gadda, a race of magic-wielding people who look human, but aren’t (and can’t interbreed). Generally, the gadda start their magic training at the age of thirteen, then progress through levels of examinations as they gain more control of their powers. Maggie, however, didn’t want to start when she was thirteen. She stubbornly chose to finish her ordinary human schooling before entering the gadda world at eighteen. Even after joining the ranks of magic users, she continued to pursue human studies, slowing down her magical studies. The result is that, refreshingly, she isn’t a teenager (it’s possible I’ve been reading too many YA urban fantasy novels with be-all and end-all romantic plotlines) and nothing that happens is particularly unrealistic in terms of her reactions and how she deals with it etc. (And of course, there are more sex scenes than in YA.)
The male lead is a physicist (entirely biased yay!) who crosses the heroine’s path when he takes a research position in Australia at her grandfather’s university. Smart, smoking hot and with a dark past, he makes an excellent foil for Maggie and, to an extent, offers an outsider’s perspective on the gadda.
I found the structure of Secret Ones different to other urban fantasy books I’ve read (admittedly, I can only think of one other paranormal romance book I’ve read recently, so it could just be me). The romantic plot line seemed to be more or less tied up before the climax of the fantasy storyline happens a bit suddenly and then there are more ramifications than I expected. Which isn’t to say the novel was badly paced; quite the contrary, in fact. I didn’t feel bored at any point and there weren’t any paragraphs I wanted to skip. It was just different to what I’m used to.
Secret Ones is book one in a trilogy, but the other two books, Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda focus on other characters. That means that, while the overarching plot isn’t resolved, there was no cliff hanger at the end. Sometimes it’s nice not to feel like the world will end if you don’t pick up the next book straight away. …That said, I think I will pick up Power Unbound next.
I found Secret Ones to be an enjoyable, light read. I recommend it to anyone who feels like a bit of paranormal romance or urban fantasy.
3.5 / 5 stars