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Book Review: The Grotto's Secret by Paula Wynne

July 20, 2016

 Genre: Historical Conspiracy Thriller


Synopsis: for fans of Glenn Cooper, Kate Mosse and James Rollins

A healing herb kept secret for centuries. A TV show host who stands to lose everything.

Castile de Granada, 1492: Risking her life, Spanish author Ana-María de Carbonela vowed to keep an unknown yet powerful healing herb’s location hidden. It remained a secret …


Until now.


TV show host Kelby Wade is forced into the search when her niece is targeted by the relentless assassin who killed her brother. She is pursued on a perilous quest, from a grotto in rural Andalusia to a bizarre hospital in Surrey, to uncover the mystery found between crumbling sheets of parchment in the ruins of a rural Spanish farm. 

In a race against a conspiracy who want the herb’s power, she struggles to piece together the puzzle and follow the trail her brother left to trace the mysterious plant before the deadly conspirators locate it. 


It’s only a matter of time before the ancient secret gets exposed ... 


My Take:  I received an advanced reader copy, pre-editing, so I won't comment on grammar and style, even though I will preface by saying that may have really pulled me out of the story and made it harder for me to enjoy. 


I enjoyed the back story of Maria and her Madre, but I wanted more details of that world. The historical part was a bit thin. Accurate to many degrees, but very thin. Now I want to go find a good book that takes place during the Spanish Inquisition and really gives me the nitty gritty of life for a woman like Madre. Such a tease! 


The modern story was not as appealing for me. At the beginning I was kinda rooting for the bad guy because he is stalking and murdering the Italian version of Paris Hilton. I didn't feel bad. (Yes, that probably says a lot more about me than the author, but I do not like celebrity personalities.) And given that Kelby is a part of that same world, I had a hard time connecting with her. It is hard to care about her story, if you don't care about her. 


I liked the story of her brother Gary. He was a cool character. I want to read the book that actually talks about his experience. That would have been a much cooler book. Kind of reminiscent of Dirk Pitt, but on land. Unfortunately, I know how his story ends and that would be a bummer. 


I liked Dr. Roy Robson, but their chemistry bugged me. Maybe because I liked him and I didn't like her, I didn't want to see it work. I just like a stronger protagonist. Kelby didn't feel particularly strong to me. She was being led along, and only dumb luck (or possibly some spiritual hoo-joo) kept her alive.  Even the greatest scene where she had a chance to show me her mettle ended up feeling accidental. 


It goes against my need for control, and my need to believe that I have power over my destiny. This felt even more heightened when the author drew parallels between what happened to Maria and what was happening to Kelby. 


Despite all of that, the author created an interesting conspiracy in the pharma world where people are being murdered to prevent them from discovering a wonder plant with remarkable healing properties that would bring the pharma industry to it's knees. I found that part of the story very compelling and would have loved to see more of that.


There was a lot going on in this story, and there were parts I really enjoyed, and parts that were just ho-hum. I can't say that there was anything that made me hate the book. I just didn't love it. I was expecting more focus on the big conspiracy and the historical piece, with a dab of romance . I didn't care for the bizarre added tales of the stalker, or the contract killer who seemed to have his own interesting and dark tale. 


The story was too messy and that troubled me. Part of that was to pull in some red herrings, I suspect, and part of it was probably because the author didn't know where the story was going either.  This is another example of how indie authors can create stories that wouldn't normally get published as they are because they don't fit neatly into genre lines. If you like messy complex stories with lots of extraneous story threads all coming together in an almost, but not quite, Deus Ex Machina moment of improbability, then this is definitely the story for you. Grab a copy of The Grotto's Secret from Amazon and enjoy your ride. I prefer my stories to be a bit more clean and for the protagonist to have a bit more influence rather than being the unexpected hero through fate.  


Have you read the Grotto's Secret? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below. 


Until next time, 


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