Bill Fitzgerald is a war correspondent for an American cable news station. He has been in Bosnia, covering the war there for several months. Bill's boss gives him some vacation time, so he heads to Venice to meet his longtime friend and colleague, Frank. While in Venice, Bill meets Vanessa Stewart, an American glass artist. Bill, Frank and Vanessa tour Venice as a group and have a great time.
It isn't long before Bill and Vanessa realize their attraction to each other and wind up in bed together. When the fireworks are over, Vanessa lets out a secret. She's married, though unhappily so. Bill and Vanessa work this little "wrinkle" out and they decide to continue seeing each other secretly. Bill, who is a widower, even introduces Vanessa to his mother and daughter. In true happy fiction form, everyone gets along just splendidly.
Throughout the entire winter, Bill and Vanessa continue to meet in Venice when they can. Bill goes back to his reporting duties and Vanessa returns to her glasswork. She even moves out of her house and asks her husband for a divorce.
Then in March, Vanessa returns to Venice to meet Bill. This time, however, something is wrong. Bill doesn't show up and leaves no messages for Vanessa. Convinced she has been dumped, Vanessa returns to Southampton. She unplugs her phone, turns of the television, and pours her energy into her work. Unfortunately, these actions prevent Vanessa from finding out the truth. What has happened to Bill?
Ok, I can't stand it anymore. I need to admit that I thought this book was pretty hokey. My biggest peeve with A Secret Affair is that the story seemed rushed. Ms. Bradford hurries through the duties of Bill's job. The actual affair is more hurricane speed than whirlwind romance. As a reader, I wasn't even accustomed to the relationship before Bill vanished. If I didn't know better, I'd say that Ms. Bradford originally wrote an interesting 500-page book. Then, she removed every other line. The result is the 239 page A Secret Affair.
You know what really bugged me about this story? Everything was just a little too convenient. Bill and Vanessa liked each other immediately. There are no roadblocks whatsoever. Not even when Vanessa admitted she was married did Bill slow things down. Even Bill's family accepted Vanessa too readily. The happy simplicity of it all just got tiring to me. Yawn.
A Secret Affair also contains the generic plot formula that works so well for many authors. Beautiful characters + exotic locations + steamy love = a successful story. When you read as many books as I do, this standard plot gets old.
I am not going to dismiss this book outright. It is the perfect length and content for a plane ride or a day at the beach. A Secret Affair isn't going down as a classic in literary history, but it does have its place, I believe. Sometimes, after reading a complicated novel, your brain needs a vacation. This book is perfect for that rest period before you tackle another heavy book. Keep minimal expectations of this story and enjoy.