The Guardian of Secrets: And Her Deathly Pact by Jana Petken is a family saga detailing the lives of María Martinéz de Amo’s kin.
Told through a series of narratives from her family’s journals, María’s story spans two generations. As all properly told stories should go, the tale starts at the beginning.
María’s young mother Celia lives on the prosperous Merrill Farm in Kent, England with her father Peter. It is Celia who first starts writing journals to chronicle her life. Both Celia and Peter are quite taken with a handsome and charming visitor named Joseph Dobbs, and within a short time Celia marries Joseph, and Peter makes his son-in-law the heir to Merrill Farm.
Joseph is not what he seems. He is a drinker and a gambler. His destructive and spiteful ways are a dark thread throughout Celia’s life.
Celia flees to the orange groves of Valencia, Spain with her infant son and starts a better life. She marries Ernesto, the wealthy owner of La Glorieta estate. Despite loving Ernesto and having a family (which includes María and her twin sister Marta), it is the early 1900s and civil war consumes Spain. Ernesto and Celia go into exile in London while María, along with her siblings and friends, stay in Spain.
What follows is a fascinating and detailed story of María’s war experiences. Some events are oh so sweet, while the brutality and injustice of other events are an outrage. Jana Petken did a splendid job with the interesting narrative about Spain’s civil war—no boring history book here. Sometimes the characters made poor decisions or took ill-advised actions. Lita wanted to give them a good talking to and set them straight—that is the greatest fun of reading well-written fiction. The outcome of Joseph’s last revengeful stand is satisfying, to say the least.
Gentle Readers who enjoy settling in with a long story about an interesting family would enjoy The Guardian of Secrets: And Her Deathly Pact. Just don’t join Joseph in a game of poker. The stakes are murderously high.