Review #137

Title- The Cottingley Secret

Author- Hazel Gaynor

Series- standalone

Rating– 3.7/5

Genre- historical fiction merged with fantasy and dual timeline also throws in contemporary

POV- The prologue was in first person present tense and I wished that continued into chapter one, but it switched to third person past tense. Frances accounts of 1917 are third person past tense though.

Trope- finding oneself, fairies, secrets, Peter Pan type vibe

Steam level- 0/5

Cover– The cottage shows the setting well, but I wasn’t sure of the genre until I read further. The image depicted historical fiction, but I wasn’t anticipating the fantasy element.

Comps– Much Ado About You merges with The Secret Garden


1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

 First chapter- First chapter- 35 year old, Olivia Mae receives her grandfather’s bookstore in his will and a journal of Frances Griffiths’ childhood. Im not yet sure how Frances and Olivia are connected. In 1917, Frances is 9 years old during her timeline and it sounds like she will have loads of adventures with her cousin Elsie after moving across the world during a time of war. The story is settling into who & where determining the baseline. So far I don’t yet have a clear picture of what either main character wants or needs, Olivia in 2014 time period or Frances in 1917. I’m hoping their stories intersect later on with the potential of fairies and magic.

Character Development- Olivia grows into herself and changes her life path

Best part- Iris and Hemingway

What I would change- more “power” to emotions. This was a story-telling novel, depicting the events that happened with lots of letters and books within the book, relaying one’s past.


“In belief, there is hope and wonder. In seeing, there is often question and doubt.”

“Perhaps that is the greatest gift I can give her; the confidence to fill the blank page, the desire to live a life full of tomorrows in which everything is possible and all our best stories are waiting to be told.”

I did enjoy the switches from Cottingley, Yorkshire in 1917 to Ireland present day (2014).

Prose- underwhelming for me. The best part were descriptions of the whimsical setting

Character goals/motivations- weak

Theme- Even after death, those you love are always with you as long as you believe.

Vivid sensory descriptions- with setting yes, but not in regards to taste, smell, sounds overall

Dialogue- average

Diversity- There is a character with Alzheimers. Otherwise, there were no obvious ethnic diversities or LGBTQ characters. The characters all seemed of European descendant. Isda grew up in South Africa, however I was never sure the race of her father.

Ethics/morals- lying and how far to take a lie

Conflict/tension/obstacles- not enoughPacing- slower

Thoughts while reading-

Page 31- I love the bookshop name, “Something Old.”

Page 41 is when I felt hooked

Page 27-60 is a loooong chapter. I’m hoping they’re not all this lengthy. The pacing is slow overall so far.

Page 71- we met (Ross and his daughter). Potential love interest? And obstacle #1 has arisen with a timeline. Perfect. I’m hoping Olivia finds herself abs who she is in this mid-life moment of marriage or not.

Page 80- FYI, a character has Alzheimer’s, in case that’s a triggering topic for a reader.

Page 105- game changer

Page 114- so is she sleep-walking? What does the white flower mean and why does it show up in dual timelines? How are Martha & Frances related? What about the missing girl? Is it a spirit? Does the father ever come back from war?

Page 122- first inkling that there might be an antagonist in the story. But who & why

Page 153- one thing I’m having trouble with is Frances voice in the reconstructed of her 9 year old life. How old was she when she supposedly wrote her memoir because the vocabulary and thought process don’t match up for an adult women reflecting yet in the mindset of a 9 year old girl.

Page 172- ooooh! I had an inkling! But I still have more questions

Halfway through. So I didn’t know that the photographs in this story are true pieces of artwork, “Frances and the Fairy Ring,” “Elsie and the Gnome,” “Frances and the Leaping Fairy,” “Elsie Presented with Flowers.”

Page 228- the last chapter was a strange summary of a longer period of time with little snip-it’s wrapped up to transition to whatever comes next. But it’s slowing down again. I need some answers about the dreams soon or the characters need some more agency because everyone has been in a stand still of “waiting” for too long

Page 292- okay so Aisling and Martha are different. I should’ve figured out the math

Page 303- I’m not a huge fan of novels being broken down into part 1, part 2, and part 3 in labels

Page 367- this is the first book I’ve read to have an epilogue, and an afterword, AND 3 months later lol

Ending- Page 383- I enjoyed these discussion questions at the end:

What are your favorite fairy tales or poems?

Do you believe in other realms/worlds?

Should the girls have confessed their trick sooner?

Do you talk to your grandparents about their past?

Have you ever made a life altering decision?

What are your favorite bookshops to visit?

Do you inscribe books you give as gifts?

Do you think it is possible for reality and imagination to become blurred?

Why do you think they finally confessed? What would you do?

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: