The Guardian of Secrets by Jana Petken is a historical fiction that chronicles the ordeals of a recently wedded British woman, Celia Merrill Dobbs, and her family during the Spanish Civil War. In 1912, Celia’s marriage is a dire one when she discovers her husband Joseph is the one who killed her father, and that he used their marriage to get his hands on her father’s prosperous farm in the English countryside. She and her newborn son Peter escape to Spain, where she takes refuge at the Martinéz home, aristocratic landholders in Valencia. Celia falls in love with widower Ernesto Martinéz. Before long, they get married and raise their four children in the middle of increasing political tensions in the country.
Petken does such a good job that easily evokes the elements from the early 20th century, culture, and politics with her complex characters’ development that I effortlessly immersed myself in the story. Her skill certainly resounded with this reader. This is a very compelling historical family drama with a dash of romance. I constantly rooted for Celia, especially when she finds new love, while hoping that her dreadful first husband Joseph won’t ruin everything. The Spanish Civil War serves as a powerful background in The Guardian of Secrets, which is well-written and well-researched. The rich, vivid descriptions of each scene and surroundings, from England to Spain, are excellently portrayed and easy to visualize. All in all, The Guardians of Secrets is a thrilling and engaging read. It will definitely please historical fiction fans.