Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey is the story of Hallie Welch, a bubbly and somewhat chaotic gardener in Napa. Hallie essentially goes with the flow and can be considered unorganized and indecisive – she wears a collection of necklaces because she can’t just choose one. Word on the street is that her high school crush, Julian Vos, is back in town. Hearing this news, Hallie is determined to get a closer look at her old crush, where she realizes her crush never really went away, and now doesn’t know what to do with these feelings.
Julian Vos, fancy pants professor, is back home at the Vos Vineyard in Napa on a self imposed sabbatical. After seeing a co-worker experience burnout, he decided to proactively take a break from academia and pursue a passion project during his time off to prevent something similar from happening. Julian stays in the guest house at his family’s estate for maximum privacy and concentration. Except he can’t really concentrate on anything once Hallie and her squad of dogs show up to freshen up the guest house’s garden. Hallie’s unique way of gardening clashes with his style of order and organization and despite that, he can’t help but want more.
As Hallie works on the garden at the Vos estate, she can’t help but realize her crush is still very much active. She feels silly still holding onto this crush all these years, knowing nothing will most likely come of it. She remembers getting very close to kissing Julian but nothing happened. Despite that, she clings onto that memory which keeps the crush burning, though seeing him now as an adult relit the crush ablaze. Hallie uses her gardening of the house to catch glimpses of Julian whenever she can, but starts feeling like her crush on Julian will forever remain one sided and nothing will come from it. In an effort to squash the crush, Hallie comes up with the idea of writing Julian a secret admirer letter to open up about her feelings and get rid of her crush once and for all.
While Hallie continues to garden in front of the guest house, Julian can’t stop thinking about her and how different they are. He can’t seem to comprehend Hallie’s disorganized way of living compared to his very organized and methodical lifestyle – everything is planned to the minute. Despite this, Julian yearns to spend more time talking to Hallie as she gardens and realizes that whenever he’s with her, his fever for order is nowhere to be found. Though he can’t imagine himself without a semblance of order, he also begins imagining what would happen if Hallie were no longer nearby? Julian essentially developed his own crush on Hallie, and after trying to fight it due to their drastically different lifestyles, he decides to lean in and go after her.
Common Themes + Opinions:
Hallie’s “chaotic” lifestyle is a byproduct of her upbringing. She travelled often with her mom and never really had a sense of stability in her life, which translated to her disorganization and whimsy. After spending some time in Napa with her grandmother Rebecca, she decided to stay, where her grandma taught her the gardening ropes. Sadly, Hallie lost her grandmother and consequently the small glimpse of stability she had in her life. Hallie realizes that living with her grandma offered her that stability she missed growing up, but also a semblance of order. Since Rebecca’s passing, Hallie’s house and life became chaos where to Hallie, things were better if she kept moving vs coming to a stop, indicating that in “stopping” she’d have to deal with her grief and figure out how to rebuild herself. She knows that her current lifestyle can’t be permanent but she wasn’t quite ready to tackle that yet.
For Julian, his need for order and organization stems from severe anxiety. Perpetually othered by his family, his anxiety reached a boiling point when the vineyard caught fire. After heroically saving his sister, he internally fell apart where he disconnected from reality for a while to be able to cope. His father uttered some really hurtful comments that drove him to seek some way to cope on the daily, hence the methodical planning and organization of his life; he finally felt in control. With Hallie showing up in his life, his structured life begins to unravel where he very slowly begins to get comfortable with the idea of not needing to plan every single minute of every day – especially if he’s with Hallie. In getting to know her, and through the secret admirer letters, he’s forced to face his anxious demons and figure out how to cope without alienating everyone.
Final Thoughts + Ratings:
Overall, Secretly Yours was a cute read. I will admit, it took a few chapters for me to get into it; the story felt a little boring at first. It does start getting interesting once Julian starts to feel attracted to Hallie. As is typical with any Tessa Bailey book, this one is full of dirty talk and sexy times, once Julian and Hallie get to that point, though it does take a while. That said, I give Secretly Yours 3.5 stars for the cute story and the spice.
Have you read Secretly Yours? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!