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Authors: Barbara O'Neal

Tags: #Romance - Contemporary

The Secret of Everything

BOOK: The Secret of Everything
The Secret of Everything
O'Neal, Barbara
Bantam (2009)
Romance - Contemporary

In this spectacular new novel, Barbara O’Neal delivers a generous helping of the best in life–family, food, and love–in the story of a woman’s search for the one thing worth more than anything.

At thirty-seven, Tessa Harlow is still working her way down her list of goals to “fall in love and have a family.” A self-described rolling stone, Tessa leads hiking tours for adventurous vacationers–it’s a job that’s taken her around the world but never a step closer to home. Then a freak injury during a trip already marred by tragedy forces her to begin her greatest adventure of all.

Located high in the New Mexico mountains, Las Ladronas has become a magnet for the very wealthy and very hip, but once upon a time it was the setting of a childhood trauma Tessa can only half remember. Now, as she rediscovers both her old hometown and her past, Tessa is drawn to search-and-rescue worker Vince Grasso. The handsome widower isn’t her type. No more inclined to settle down than Tessa, Vince is the father of three, including an eight-year-old girl as lost as Tessa herself. But Tessa and Vince are both drawn to the town’s most beloved eatery–100 Breakfasts–and to each other. For Tessa, the restaurant is not only the key to the mystery that has haunted her life but a chance to find the home and the family she’s never known.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Tessa Harlow returns home to her father and her birthplace, Las Ladronas, N.Mex., after a traumatic accident. There she meets Vince, a single father with three high-spirited girls. Vince and Tessa soon become lovers, but know they can't have anything more permanent, because as Tessa tells him, she's a wanderer. Also, as Tessa snoops into town history, she uncovers secrets that call into question everything she thinks she knows about her parents. Too many interlinking plots and convenient resolutions temper the firm grasp O'Neal (
The Lost Recipe for Happiness
) has of the spiritual Southwest. In her favor is a talent for persuasively portraying men, women and children and a definite reverence for cooking. So while the contrived climax may annoy, the recipes and the depth of the characters will please.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Tessa Harlow is on the move again. A travel guide, she’s lived all over the world since she was a child, following Renaissance Faires with her hippie father; but after an accident in a Montana river, she’s been sidelined. When she decides it’s once again time to move, she heads to a small northern New Mexico town called Los Ladrones. The small town is being revived, thanks to the tourists, and she’s testing the waters for work, visiting hotels, restaurants, and churches; but in doing so, she uncovers multiple secrets. Many years ago, she and her father lived on a commune outside of Los Ladrones, now an organic farm, with many of the same residents who now seem to know something she doesn’t. The farm raises more questions than it answers about her family, and memories of something tragic and long buried in her subconscious are resurfacing and cannot be ignored. O’Neal has created a powerful and intriguing story rich in detailed and vivid descriptions of the Southwest. --Hilary Hatton



“A delectable banquet for the reader, celebrating the things that matter most—family, friendship, food, and the healing power of love.”

—Susan Wiggs,
New York Times
bestselling author

“As dark and deep and sweet as chocolate … I wanted to live in this book.”

—Sarah Addison Allen,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Beautiful writing, good storytelling and an endearing heroine set against the backdrop of Aspen, Colorado, are highlights of O’Neal’s novel. A tale that intertwines food, friendship, passion, and love in such a delectable mix is one to truly savoruntil the very last page.”

Romantic Times

“The writing is both subtle and colourful. Elena, in particular, is an engaging, complex character, direct and driven like all gifted chefs.”

Sunday Morning Herald

“Plunges the reader into a world of gastronomic celebration that rings with authenticity.”

Courier Mail

“The food descriptions will be fun for foodies. When the protagonist makes notes for a menu, the descriptions are juicy…. Honest to goodness recipes, like the one for ‘Banana and Chocolate Chip Pancakes’ … focus a reader’s interest in O’Neal’s true-life culinary cache.”

Rocky Mountain News

“Will appeal to women’s fiction fans and foodies, who will enjoy the intriguing recipes … laced through the book”

St. Petersburg Times


The Lost Recipe for Happiness


Because if all the fathers in the world were like mine
there would be a lot fewer broken women in the world
Thanks, Dad


t would be impossible to get books out into the world without a solid network of help and support. My circle is rich, and they deserve the small moments of attention here.

I could never do this without Neal Barlow, my beloved Christopher Robin, who is cheerful and unflappable and laughingly reminds me of all the things I say at the end of every rough draft. I’m also grateful for that fortuitous and terrible spider bite you picked up whilst orienteering. Your pain and suffering were not for naught.

Thanks also go to Christie Ridgway, my lifeline on the end of the phone, for her infamous and incredible box plotting plan, which helped keep me on track with this complicated storyline; and to Teresa Hill for reading messy, messy drafts without freaking out.

I could never get anywhere without the brilliant team at the Jane Rotrosen Agency, primarily my agent Meg Ruley, and Christina Hogrebe; and with deepest thanks to my editor Shauna Summers, for helping me find my best work, over and over again, and challenging me to be better than I think I can be.

Special thanks to my aunt, Lisa Putman, a brilliant cook, who helped poke holes in the recipes and helped me find the best ingredients and ideas. (All mistakes are my own.) You were a great help, Auntie, thanks so much! Baked French Toast is her own Christmas morning recipe.

Also, thanks to my mother, who reads cookbooks for fun, and turned me into a foodie a long time ago; to my sisters who sang the song in this book in rounds with me; and my brother who has more CDs than anyone I have ever met.

And last on the page, but not in my heart, thanks to my readers. The circle is not complete without you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. I
hearing from you and hearing your stories and getting your recipes. Find me online at
or send me an email at
[email protected]


n a foggy August morning, Tessa Harlow had finally tired of her long wallow on the Santa Cruz beaches. Leaving her father’s tidy little bungalow as she did every morning, she carried her breakfast down to the surf: a mango fresh from the local grocer, a hunk of sourdough bread, and a hefty cup of tea she bought from the stand on the corner.

Settling on the sand, she skimmed the thick outer skin from the mango and bit into the buttery flesh, mopping the juice from her chin with a bandana. The tea was hot and milky, sweet with real sugar, and the bread—while not quite as tangy as San Francisco sourdough—complemented the mango perfectly.

A woman walked purposefully along the water’s edge, her calves showing ropy muscle. Gulls wheeled overhead. For the first time in months, Tessa wished for her camera. She would shoot the isolated piles of homeless men sleeping on the buffalo grass, and the boats bobbing in the distance, and maybe even the stack of mango skins on the sand.

It was time to get back to her life. She walked to the edge of the waves, dipped her right hand in the water, and washed her
face and the fingers sticking out of the turquoise cast on her left arm. Letting her skin dry in the air, she sat back down with her cell phone and a sheaf of papers she’d printed out yesterday at the Internet café near her father’s house. Luddite that he was, he didn’t have a computer of his own, and Tessa had lost hers in a river three months ago.

Three months. The weeks had gone by in a wash of aqua and pale gray, deep-blue afternoons that she spent reading whatever she found at the laundromat or the local youth hostel—battered thrillers, dog-eared romances, ancient sagas. Whatever.

Three months. For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost. In Tessa’s case, the nail was a spider that had crawled into her bed in the Rocky Mountains and bitten the sole of her left foot. Not such a big thing, ordinarily. It wouldn’t have been this time, if she had paid attention to it right away.

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