Alex Hyde is the leaders’ leader. An executive coach par excellence, she’s the person the Great and Good turn to when the pressure gets too much; she can change the way they think, how they operate, she can turn around the very fortunes of their companies.
Her waiting list is months’ long, but she can’t turn down the unorthodox but highly lucrative crisis call that comes her way a few weeks before Christmas, regarding the troublesome – and troubled – head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland: Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees.
It should be business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only when she gets to the remote island of Islay, with the winter snows falling, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone . For once, she’s not in control – Lochlan, though darkly charismatic, is unpredictable and destructive, her usual methods gaining no traction with him – and with Christmas and her deadline fast approaching, she must win his trusted find a way to close this deal.
But as she pulls ever close to him, boundaries become blurred, loyalties loosen and Alex finds herself faced with an impossible choice as she realises nothing and no one is as they first seemed.
I love Christmas and its traditions, the tree, presents, special time with family and for me, over the past few years, a Karen Swan Christmas novel. I don’t normally read Christmas books before December, but I was sent this proof copy of The Christmas Secret by Pan Macmillan, so I have started early.
The Christmas Secret, as the other festive novels by Karen Swan, is a brilliant read; great plot, interesting characters, and beautifully written. The plot centres around Alex, as she tries to save Kentallen Distillery and its CEO. As well as the main plot there is a sub plot from 1918, World War I and a sunken American war ship. Details are drip fed, at the beginning of many of the chapters, and it isn’t until the end of the book that you find out the significance of these events one hundred years previously. Karen Swan has obviously done her research into the Whisky industry which enhances the narrative, it is a bonus in a book when I learn something new.
The central characters of Alex and Lochlan are both at the pinnacle at their careers; ambitious, driven and successful. But are on opposite sides in this tale of power play with a battle of wills, but maybe more alike than they at first realise. They both have secrets from their past which have driven them forward in the chosen profession, but which have also give them insecurities, left them isolated and hiding behind their careers . There is a full cast of supporting characters; Skye, Lachlan’s ex fiancee, Callum and Torquil, Lachlan’s cousins and members of the Kentallen Board, Louise, Alex’s superwoman PA, the Peggies whom Alex stays with whilst on Islay. These relationships give insight in to the characters of both Alex and Lachlan, and also give a break in the tension of the relationship between the two main characters, and insert some humour into the proceedings.
The Christmas Secret is an enchanting novel to get lost in in the build up to the festive season. Like the whisky that is at the centre of the plot, this book is full of warmth, goes down easily and will leave you happy with a fuzzy feeling. Another superb novel from Karen Swan.