DISCLAIMER: I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Writing collaboratively is not new to authors Carolyn and Loretta Re. The sisters have been crafting stories together since they were young. Almost ironically, Carolyn and Loretta put technology to good use in the creation of Secrets of the IN-group, using Skype to discuss and develop the novel.
Both women have experience writing solo, with Loretta publishing middle grade novel Stand Up and Cheer in 2015, and Carolyn regularly writing a humour column for Medical Observer.
Feeling suddenly alone and increasingly irrelevant, six women from the quiet city of Albury decide to get together and learn a little about the online world.
The thought of connecting virtually with friends and family scattered across the globe seems like an exciting change of pace—at first. But this decision to dive headfirst into the world of Facebook, online dating, and eBay, may just change the course of each woman's life in shocking and unexpected ways.
Weaving hope, romance, and friendship with secrets, betrayal, and mysteries, Carolyn and Loretta Re have written a novel that is full of feeling and intrigue and is hard to put down.
It's immediately obvious that Carolyn and Loretta Re are deeply familiar with their chosen scenery. The women paint a beautiful picture of both the picturesque New South Wales city of Albury and the sleek and hustling and bustling city of Sydney.
From the first introduction of the modernised library of Albury, even I (as a modern library user) could feel how easy it is to become out of touch. With the intrinsic details of the newly technologically-focused library, the authors easily translate the character's sense of overwhelm to every reader.
"Everything was so complicated these days, even borrowing a book from the library."
- Carolyn Re & Loretta Re, Secrets of the IN-group
Not all of the characters were quite so overwhelmed by the library itself, but instead hope that the IN-group can teach them something else useful. Neelam, for instance, hopes to start a blog. This choice by Carolyn and Loretta Re to write characters with differing comfort levels regarding technology was a great move as it's easy to root for or identify with at least one of the IN-group ladies.
The narrative flits between a handful of the women in the club, each with their own fascinating life, career, and relationships. The only downside to this is that occasionally I had to double-check which character I was reading about. For the most part, though, the character voices do differ.
Overall, The IN-group is the perfect novel to relax in the garden on a spring day. With thoughtful observations of people, friends, family, romance, culture, and the unique Australian landscape, Carolyn and Loretta Re have created a warm, funny, and a little bit cautionary tale that is a thoroughly enjoyable read.