The second book in HelenKay Dimon’s Whitaker Island series released on December 30th, and it is not to be missed. The Secret She Keeps takes us back to this somewhat strange but oddly endearing island to witness Connor Rye and Maddie Rhine’s hard-earned happily ever after. Connor is the brother of Hansen, the hero in book one, Her Other Secret. Where Hansen vented his anger and upset surrounding a tragic family event, Connor was left to keep the family business afloat, thus locking away his unresolved emotions around the tragedy. The man has some baggage, to say the very least. Maddie is the island’s recluse. On the surface, she seems a bit quirky, but when you lift the veil just a little, you discover she’s actually hiding out. The “who” and “why” parts of her seclusion are the significant suspenseful parts of the book.
In one of my favorite meet-cutes ever, Maddie and Connor’s first encounter ends with Connor being knocked unconscious. The chain of events is kinda’ awesome and definitely gets the book off to a running start. Watching their love story unfold is a pleasure to read. Dimon’s pacing and authenticity place you on the island and makes you feel the vulnerabilities of the characters in your soul. Dimon is a fabulous storyteller who doesn’t skimp on the heat. Maddie makes Connor face his demons, and in doing so, he gains her trust, which is a huge milestone for her.
I cherish every opportunity I get to read and/or chat with HelenKay Dimon. I’ve been a fan of hers for as long as I’ve been part of the romance community. I’m so thankful she took some time out of her schedule to chat with us about Whitaker Island, grumpy heroes and romance writing in general. Take a moment to enjoy our conversation and then get this book. If you haven’t read book one, have no fear you can easily jump into this series with The Secret She Keeps without confusion.
Donna: Whitaker Island is a very intriguing place and seems to attract a lot of trouble! Is it based on any particular place you’ve visited, for research, of course?
HKD: Whitaker Island is a totally fictional place but it grew out of my love for the Pacific Northwest and, specifically, Bainbridge Island, WA. When I was trying to get the look of Whitaker in my head, I visited Bainbridge and Poulsbo, WA. I love the mix of the rich, green surroundings, the slightly unpredictable weather, and those stunning water views.
My particular catnip is a grumpy hero, much like Hansen from Her Other Secret. Connor Rye is our hero in The Secret She Keeps, how would he compare on the grump-o-meter and what is your favorite quality in him?
HKD: Mine, too! On a scale of 0 to 10, Hansen is a 400 on the grumpy meter. His brother is more easygoing. But I actually think Hansen is the emotionally healthier of the two brothers. When he’s angry, he doesn’t hide it. Connor is in denial. This horrible thing happened to their family and Hansen came out swinging, ready to fight. Connor did what had to be done. Kept the lights on at the family business. Stayed solid and in control. To do that he buried his anger and guilt deep inside. It’s been there, simmering, and that is never easy on a person.
What or who was your inspiration for Maddie Rhine? If you met her at a coffee shop, what do you think you’d find most interesting about her?
HKD: I adore Maddie. She’s reclusive and odd. Very quirky. She doesn’t want to be with a lot of people and hates small talk. She’s a self-protective survivor. In many ways, she possesses some of the usual romance hero qualities. But she’s also determined, loyal, determined, charming and smart. I would want to be her friend but I doubt she’d allow that.
I know you for your fabulous romantic suspense tales. This Whitaker Island series is suspenseful but feels a little heavier on the mystery aspect. How much harder is it to incorporate a mystery, is the planning for your book different?
HKD: This series does have a different feel. I didn’t want it to be about special operatives or military professionals. I wanted to take “regular” people who don’t possess any real investigative skills and have their pasts come back to haunt them. I love the idea of an island where people go to start over or hide, and that’s Whitaker.
I’ve loved thrillers and suspense and mysteries forever. The plotting and pacing are different for each, but I tend to write them the same – with my fingers crossed that I can pull it off.
With 2020’s arrival and resolutions taking center stage, what do you think Conner and Maddie have on their New Year’s Resolution list?
HKD: After a quick trip home to introduce Maddie to the family — Connor is a big-time family guy, after all— he’d likely want a vacation on a beach. She would convince him to return to Whitaker. She’s practical like that. The idea of cold weather and a comfy couch, wrapped in a blanket with Connor, would appeal to her.
And as a follow up, do you have any New Year’s Resolutions you’d like to share?
HKD: I know this sounds negative but it’s really not. I’m trying to make 2020 the “year of no.” What I mean is that I tend to say yes if someone needs me to do something. In 2020, I’ve vowed to reassess sand prioritize the things that are important to me. That includes dedicating more time to my writing and to trying to accomplish some career milestones I’ve been chasing for a while.
You are the author of over forty romance novels, after all this time, how do you define success?
HKD: Still being relevant and liked by readers. Nothing about this career happens without dedicated readers, and I am so grateful for them. My goal every year is to stay published…that is a work in progress.
Thanks for having me here.
About the Author:
HelenKay Dimon is a divorce lawyer turned full-time author of over forty romance novels and novellas. Her award-winning books have been showcased in numerous venues, including the Washington Post, and her books have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” in Cosmopolitan magazine. She is an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award winner and RITA® Award winner in romantic suspense. You can learn more at her website: helenkaydimon.com.