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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ARC Review Wednesday: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

Standalone to date

Release Date: April 4th, 2017

Goodreads Blurb:
"Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you."

Thank you to Blink Publishers for gifting me with a copy of Toward a Secret Sky in exchange for an honest review!

This was a really cool book!  It took a different twist on angels and demons while keeping the core constant and the plot was really nicely done.  The romance was where it got shaky for me.

1.  The characters.  The characters in general were quite well developed.  I loved getting to know Maren, Hunter, Jo, and Gavin.  I do think their relationships could have been a bit more complex, though.  While by themselves, they were great, it was when they interacted that it felt slightly shallow.  There was definitely potential there.  As for qualities, this goes along with the romance point, but I wanted to mention it here as well.  I just couldn't get behind Maren's attitude.  She's the main character and is finding out about all of this angel demon stuff which is obviously a shock and stressful, but the way she handles it had me face-palming on a regular basis.  She didn't give anyone the full details of what was going on and seemed to just meander around until something scary showed up and then jumped to Gavin's side.  She just didn't stand up for herself or rely on her own inner strength.  In contrast, I loved Hunter and Jo's characters.  They felt so real and while they had their strengths, they also had cracks in their armor which I found endearing.

2.  The plot.  This is where this book truly shines.  The plot is beautifully shaped and progresses with fluidity.  Everything is so well connected and explained, I felt like I was actually there, next to the characters.  I really loved how Maren finds out about the whole new world and how the information is delivered to the reader.  There was never an overwhelming moment.  I also enjoyed, in general, the shape of the plot line.  There's a clear goal in mind but there are also complications along the way which kept the book from feeling too simple or singular.

3.  The romance.  Like I said above, this is the one thing I just can't get behind.  Be warned: there is insta-love.  While it's slightly acceptable because of the whole angel, supernatural powers thing, it was still too fast for my tastes.  Gavin and Maren know each other for like 4 days before they tell each other that they love each other and during the journey, Maren relies upon Gavin's strength to stay afloat and has no backbone of her own.  I just didn't like how the romance was structured as a damsel-in-distress situation.  Once their relationship gets going, it is quite sweet, if you can overlook the lapses into helplessness for Maren.

4.  The idea/setting.  This is also one of the things I adored.  The author keeps with the whole angel-demon idea but twists it enough into something entirely new to me which was really cool.  There are new elements added and some things from the original stories are changed so there are new things to learn as you read.  The story felt entirely original which was a big motivation for me to keep reading.  I was absolutely entranced as I absorbed this new idea.  I also want to mention the setting in this point.  I loved that it was set in England and Scotland.  I've never been to Scotland and with the author's writing, I could feel how it would feel to actually be there and while I have been to England, the author did a wonderful job of constructing the city.

The Final Verdict:
The romance and inner qualities of the main character were pretty large set-backs for me.  However, the plot and the idea take the cake 100%.  They steal the show and kept me turning pages.
3.5 stars

Meet the Author:
Heather Maclean is a Princeton graduate and The New York Times bestselling author and editor of 15 books.

Named one of the '16 Best Entrepreneurs in America' by Sir Richard Branson, she accompanied the adventurous business legend on a 50,000-mile trip around the world, alternately helping improve the lives of others (designing sustainable development initiatives in South Africa) and fearing for her own (rappelling out of a Black Hawk helicopter in a Moroccan sandstorm).

Heather began her career at Disney, where she had the distinction of being the first person ever to answer Mickey Mouse's e-mail.

When not castle hunting in her husband's native Scotland, she and her clan of 3 kids happily reside in Michigan.



  1. Ugh! What's with all these predictable romances? Just an FYI for authors. I'd be good without any romance.

    1. It makes me sad too. If there would have been no insta-love, this would have been the perfect book for me! I would have been content even with a slow burn romance.

  2. Ohhhh I've seen this book on twitter and I immediately added it to my TBR. It's been so long since I've read an angel & demons story. Ahhh no insta-love, why do they do this to us? A slow burn romance is the way to go!! But like you said sometimes there are instances were it is acceptable, bonded mates etc. However I still think I might give this one a go, purely because I love that it's set in England and Scotland, yay!

    Great and honest review Laura!

    Cody @ Literary-ly Obsessed

    1. For sure still read it! The Scotland setting and the angels and demons are all done very well: it's just the insta-love that tarnished the book for me (I really wish I could have given it a higher rating!). I hope you enjoy it more than I did :)

  3. I've seen this one around on NG and was intrigued by the cover and the synopsis but I have/had too much on my plate to even think of requesting it! Now I'm kind of regretting that! It sounds like it was a good one and I'm glad you enjoyed it! Great review. :)

    1. I totally understand :) Somehow books seem to pile up and there are always more to read! Well, if you're a Twilight fan, this will definitely be right up your alley. While it had a lot of potential, I was really disappointed with the romance, but maybe you'll like it more than I did. Thanks for stopping by, Di!

  4. I've been having a lot of trouble when it comes to the romance in what I've been reading lately, so you're definitely not the only one feeling those problems. But I like that this is an original take on angels and demons. I don't really get much angel and demons themes in the books I read, so maybe this is one for me to try?

    1. Yeah, it just hasn't been very good going recently. I did as well! It can be difficult to find originality when it comes to angels and demons because the idea has been out there for literally millennia. Thanks for stopping by, Olivia!

  5. Oh God! I think it's so sad that these days most of the book seem to mess up the romance! they either have love triangles or insta-love or both! I wish authors would listen to readers and get an idea of how we like romances to be! The premise does seem interesting though! Great review Laura <3

    1. It is annoying, isn't it? I'd be happy without any romance! Thanks for stopping by, Uma!


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