Island of Secrets; a seductive, historical thriller

After reading Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year In Havana a couple of years ago I developed a fascination of Cuba and its volatile history. So when I received an email inviting me to read and review Island of Secrets, the new novel from Rachel Rhys set in Havana, I jumped at the chance.

However I was in for a surprise – Island of Secrets definitely wasn’t quite what I expected. Never more so is the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ more apt. Yes the cover of this novel is beautiful and in my view romantic; and yes there is a romantic thread interwoven into the story. But Island of Secrets is a captivating historical thriller set against a backdrop of Hollywood, corruption and a country on the brink of revolution.

Island of Secrets is a compelling summer read.

It is the story of Iris, a young portrait artist who is suffocated by her life in Hemel Hampstead where she is expected to become a 1950s housewife. When she receives an invite to draw the guests at the wedding of Hollywood director Hugh Hardman set in Havana, she jumps at the chance.

Rachel Rhys, author of Island of Secrets

Yet behind the glamour of Hollywood and the exotic Cuban beauty, Iris senses a sinister tension surrounding the Hardman family. As her unease intensifies she realises her naivety in coming to a country engulfed in political unrest. She also begins to recognise that the wedding party is much more troubled than glamourous, with some characters actually dangerous. As she realise that she is in danger Iris is unsure who she can truly trust.

Rachel Rhys’s clever use of Iris as a portraitist is brilliant in my view. Yes, Iris is naïve but a ‘portraitist must also be a student of human nature, learning to look for all the ways in which a person will reveal his or her self.’ Many of the other characters underestimate Iris, especially the men. Yet this is also a novel about gender politics and female empowerment. The author’s skillful use of language succinctly reveals this:

It’s a curious thing that the more Iris studies Lana the more insubstantial the girl appears, as if Iris has sketched the outline of her but forgotten to fill it in.

Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of Island of Secrets, an ideal summer read. If you have a Kindle it’s available now as it was released as an ebook on 25th May. It will be published in paperback on 25th June.

To read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour, please see below.

Happy reading everyone! 🙂

My rating:



  1. May 29, 2020 / 11:31 am

    Thanks so much for the blog tour support Kirsty xx

  2. Anne
    May 29, 2020 / 5:02 pm

    So glad this isn’t similar to Chanel Cleeton‘s book! For me Next Year in Havana was just “ok”.
    I really loved both of Rhys’ earlier books; A Dangerous Crossing & Fatal Inheritance, so I’m really looking forward to reading the latest.

  3. May 30, 2020 / 10:25 am

    I love the cover for this one and the setting sounds fascinating

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