“Secret,” the latest installment of the Elemental book series by Brigid Kemmerer, is an ambitious effort to tackle serious issues while continuing a fantasy story. All of the Elemental books have taken on themes of that nature — confronting a range of topics from domestic dysfunction to sexual assault, violence, bullying and questions of self-esteem.
In “Secret,” Nick — one half of the good-looking Merrick twins — must come to terms with his sexuality after becoming attracted to a dancer named Adam. As he begins a tentative and secret relationship with Adam, he struggles with the typical fears that come with coming out to his family. Meanwhile, Quinn — his former girlfriend — is aware of his feelings for Adam, but has made a deal with Nick to pretend to date him.
This book, unlike Kammer’s earlier installments in the series, tries to cover multiple relationship storylines. In “Secret,” you watch Nick’s story play out with Adam, while Quinn meets the Merricks’ enemy, Tyler, and discovers a more humane side to him.
I’m a fan of the series, so of course I enjoyed reading about the continuation of the storyline. But I think stretching “Secret” across two separate love stories did some of the characters a disservice. And it allowed for less development of those crucial issues Kemmerer tried to raise. Though Quinn’s home life — which includes violence and substance abuse — is quite serious, you get only a vague sense of what that’s like.
Her first two books — “Storm” and “Spark” — created love interests for the Merrick boys that were just as developed as the Merricks themselves. The last two books, in an attempt to drive the plot forward and cover more characters, lose a little of that magic.
After reading the novella focused on Nick and Adam — which came just before this new book — I was really looking forward to the story that would evolve from these two. It fell a little short of my expectations.
The series has one more book to go, which will focus on Michael, the oldest Merrick brother. I suspect it, too, will be more plot driven. But at this stage, I’ll read it because I have to know how everything works out.
And even though the later Elemental books don’t touch me quite as deeply as the author’s first two, watching previous characters make appearances and interact in the new stories always bring a smile to my face — much like spotting an old friend after a long absence.