One Last Secret
Thirty-one-year-old Dora works as an “escort” as she calls it. She insists that she is safe in her job and that the woman she works for, Elspeth, keeps her that way. In the beginning, she lets us know that doing sex work isn’t about the money for her and that being rich isn’t that important to her. Being valued is. Dora says that “telling it like it is” is a core skill of hers. Because she’s so adamant about what she does and why, it seems as if she’s a combination of naivete and overconfidence.
When she’s savagely beaten by a client, it scares her so much that she opts to take her friend Evan’s proposal of marriage. After spending time with him, she finds he’s kind and sweet. She thinks she can love him. But she’s out of practice when it comes to having those kinds of feelings. She’s known poverty, and Evan’s independent wealth appeals to her, contradicting her earlier bluster that money isn’t important to her. Dora states that we won’t like her, but she also lets us know that what she is professing is her version of the truth. “We all trade sex for something,” she says. Her bluster often feels as if she’s protesting too much. At other times, it comes off as belonging to a hardened woman. Is Dora a credible narrator?
Dora still believes she can handle anything that comes her way. When Evan needs to leave for a week to work in Hong Kong, Dora takes a job she can’t refuse. It doesn’t involve sex, just accompanying a client, Daniel, to a chateau where his friends will gather and she will play his girlfriend. She rationalizes that this is not “sex work.”
Once there, Dora is introduced to Daniel’s friends who are a mixed lot, and none of them make her feel comfortable. Then she’s introduced to Jonathan who she’s certain is the man who savagely beat her and told her to give up the sex work or the next time would be her last. When she begins to experience frightening physical ailments, she doubts her sanity and wonders what in heaven’s name is happening to her. When she tries to escape, she can’t. Now she knows she shouldn’t have taken this job and these people “aren’t quite right.”
The twists and reversals happen with a speed that often tangles the brain. What exactly is this group of people and who is pulling the strings? When Dora’s background comes to light, the layers of craziness multiply, and what we know gets tangled to the point of wondering about everyone involved.
The final secret alluded to in the title comes down like a hammer. Parks takes us on an almost surreal ride while accompanying Dora. Often what Parks lays out seems to contradict what she’s previously set up, and just as we believe one thing, Parks reverses course. She does this over and over until she lands a brilliant and unexpected ending.
Adele Parks creates a world from the viewpoint of a complex woman who keeps the reader confused at times or judgmental at others. Some of the observations like “…money is power, and I play the game,” and “I guess I am the epitome of inappropriate,” are meant to establish Dora’s attitude toward her work. Parks keeps us confused about her … and on edge. Why does she do what she does? Is she self-destructive or brilliant? Only the ending will tell us and then let us breathe once more.
Adele Parks MBE is the author of twenty-two bestselling novels including the recent London Sunday Times hit and audible Number One sensation in the UK One Last Secret. Over 4 million UK editions of her work have been sold, and she is translated into 31 different languages. Her number one bestsellers Lies Lies Lies and Just My Luck were both shortlisted for the British Book Awards and have been optioned for development for TV.
She is an ambassador of the National Literacy Trust and the Reading Agency: two charities that promote literacy in the UK. She is a judge for the Costa Awards. In 2022 she was awarded an MBE for services to literature.
Adele was born in North Yorkshire and has lived in Botswana, Italy, and London and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, England.
Thank you to Adele Parks, Harlequin Trade Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.