All That is Secret (Book Review)

At a Glance

Author: Patricia Raybon

Publisher: Tyndale House

On-Sale Date: 10/5/21

Recommendation: Highly Recommend with one reservation; see Content Disclosure

Synopsis: Invited by her hometown reverend to investigate her father’s untimely death, Bible professor Annalee Spain returns home to begin making inquiries. Inspired by Sherlock Holmes and aided by the reverend (as well as an orphan boy), Annalee goes undercover to research the local suspects. Set in the 1920s, this well-researched historical novel also provides insight into the real-life atrocities of the resurgence of the KKK in Colorado.

*I received a complimentary e-ARC of the book through the publisher and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Overall Impression

I was surprised, and very impressed, to learn that this was Raybon’s debut novel. Wow! The writing is stellar, the plot well-paced and intriguing, the message insightful. Even though I don’t usually gravitate toward historical fiction, I really enjoyed the novel.

The Writing

Raybon’s writing is excellent. Whereas some books make up for in plot what they lack in writing, Raybon’s storytelling demonstrates skill and ease. I was not surprised to learn that the author previously won awards for her nonfiction memoir. I also found that the book’s endorsements rang true.

In my opinion, Raybon’s writing stands out because of its lyrical quality. To my observation, strong writing often demonstrates a poetic quality, and Raybon certainly delivers. I noted at least one passage that read like a poem, with its descriptiveness and symbolism.

Raybon also demonstrates a knack for voice, crafting a believable and engaging narrative through Annalee’s eyes.

Premise and Genre

One of the reasons I was drawn to this book was due to its unique perspective and premise. Historical romance novels, particularly in the Christian fiction genre, are often/usually written from a white perspective, and it was refreshing to read an #OwnVoices novel by a black author with a black protagonist, which acknowledged the presence of members of other races. I also really appreciated the fact that, although the book was set during Prohibition, it was not all about flappers and Speakeasies. Raybon deftly navigates the period setting, seamlessly incorporating historical elements, without falling prey to period cliches. While the details clearly conformed to the time and place of the setting (as detailed in the Author’s Note), historical elements felt effortlessly integrated, rather than self-consciously placed. I didn’t feel like I was being bombarded with reminders that the book was set in a different time period, but the historicity was sharp. While the book was educational, I didn’t feel like I was being forced to learn— and that is something I look for in historical fiction.

Romance

The romance was both light and tasteful, and I was impressed that the romance plot was a subplot. I would categorize the novel, first, as mystery, then as historical fiction— with a thread of romance. While the romance added to the plotline, it wasn’t the reason I kept reading. Plus, the content was clean 🙂

Content Disclosure

One piece of content I would like to note is that there were several instances where the character would use the term “Lord,” in her thoughts. I think this was more dialect than prayer, but I’m uncomfortable with this use of the Lord’s Name.

Spiritual Elements

Beautiful. This book was full of gems in its exploration of Annalee’s faith and relationship with God. I bookmarked multiple meaningful passages throughout the text. While I recommend some titles more because they are “clean” than because they are uplifting, this was an instance in which I can recommend the book on both grounds.

Favorite Quote:

“Absolutely nothing random… in God’s doings. Not just letting things unfold, drifting along, hoping to get to where you’re aiming and struggling to go.”

Patricia Raybon

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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