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Book Review: The Secret Keeper of Main Street by Trisha R. Thomas

WELCOME TO MENDOL, POPULATION 18,206 a sign read at the forgettable entrance off Highway 98. That was before a swollen body was found floating on top of the Red River’s thick sludge. Now there was one less person. If the state prosecutor asked for the death penalty in the case of alleged murderer Elsa Grimes, that would make two less citizens in the town of Mendol.

—A Note From The Author


One thing about them secrets, they gon’ spill. And they do…, thankfully not right away in Trisha R. Thomas‘ captivating read ☛THE SECRET KEEPER OF MAIN STREET [pub: William Morrow]. Have you ever been so deeply vested in a novel that you’re actually a bit sad when it ends? 🙋🏾‍♀️ I was in no way ready for this page-gripping story about a “seer” named Bailey who has the ability to read the “heartstrings” of—not just her wedding gown clients, but—anyone she touches. As if a young Black dressmaker with clairvoyant powers isn’t reason enough to crack the spine of this pretty cover, there’s more. I’m talkin’ complicated, yet beautiful love stories woven in between inappropriate rendezvous with dire consequences. And while The Secret Keeper Of Main Street is quite scandalous, I wouldn’t describe it as salacious. It’s weightier than that. For one, it’s part historical fiction, historically factual actually, particularly the description of the 1921 decimation of the Greenwood District in Tulsa where “whites had unleashed hell and brimstone on the small community, believing a Black man had assaulted a white woman. In those days, assault was a widely used term to describe anything from a Black person making direct eye contact with a white person to their brushing against someone’s elbow accidentally…”

Though atrocities occur, it’s the healing elements—the forgiveness, the acceptance, the possibilities—that make this spellbinding suspense with more than a little bit of love on top, so damn endearing to me. The Secret Keeper Of Main Street served as a much needed reminder that even when confronted with reprehensible and inhumane treatment and violence, some of us, many of us miraculously find the tenacity to experience, create and sustain not only joy, but love—familial and forbidden, romantic and communal. And that generation after generation, we magically, no, courageously unearth a resolve to exist, to thrive and most importantly to simply be.


Miss Alice, are you in love with someone else? …I saw something. I know I have no right to say this, but it was you and another man. I’ve seen your future husband, Miss Alice. It wasn’t him.

—Bailey In Chapter 1

“I have these visions,” Bailey Dowery shares with Alice Ledge, a client of hers at the Regal Gown shop where she’s employed in Mendol, Oklahoma. After Bailey shares with Alice that she sees her with someone who is not her fiancé, the young seamstress asks if she’s really going to marry someone she doesn’t love. “Yes. Of course, I am…” Alice replies. “This is Mendol. We don’t marry for love; we marry to honor our families. For the good of our standing in the eyes of God.”

What’s fascinating about Bailey’s supernatural abilities is that while she often sees colors—auras if you will—she doesn’t see the actual visions clearly until nightfall in her dreams. Take for instance the first time Bailey touches the handyman Walter Anderson Graves better known as Wag. “The vibration shot up her hand, immediately followed by a pink burst of light. A horizon of rose color like the first blooms of spring filled her senses.” On the contrary, the first time she reluctantly takes the hand of bride-to-be Elsa Grimes—daughter of “one of the richest white families”—she sees nothing. However, when Bailey invites Elsa to her home, hoping a less hectic setting will reveal something, anything, that very night she dreams of “a closed bud aging rapidly, fast-forwarding into hard, dried petals, completely unopened, clamped so tightly not even light or a saving drop of water could slip past the edges… Leaves curled before Bailey’s closed eyes and dropped, floating infinitely to nowhere. Her throat went dry when she saw Elsa’s face, strained and full of anger.” Admittedly there’s more explicit details in the dream, but I’m not giving away any spoilers…well, really impactful ones that is. 😉



Hearing is one thing. Listening is another. You listen with your heart. You hear with your ears.

—Oda Mae In Chapter 13


Let me say this. I’m completely enamored with Trisha R. Thomas’ descriptions of scents and sounds. “Hold on. You hear that?” Bailey’s Aunt Charlene asks in chapter 23. “She walked over and turned off the table fan. She listened. The distinct hum told her what she was hearing was an expensive automobile that absolutely did not belong on Baker, or on any street on the Eastside. And then the engine cut off. Dead silence.” Can’t you just hear the sudden quietness and envision the car? Or when Bailey makes cornbread for a potential love interest. I am aromatically aroused. “She whipped the eggs and poured warmed butter into the mixture, followed by buttermilk and cornmeal.” In another chapter I could smell the bacon, butter, coffee, cinnamon and sugar cologning the air at Queenie’s, a Black-owned eatery. And my favorite was how the author that brought us Nappily Ever After described Hattie’s—one of Aunt Charlene’s kitchen beautician client’s—unfinished press and curl. “Her hair stuck up like a ball of black cotton on one side. The other side was sleek and dark, straightened by the ruthless heat of Charlene’s hot comb.” I immediately inhaled the familiar smell of a fresh press and visualized—almost to the point of actually feeling—the competing hair textures on Hattie’s head.


We got a long road ahead. I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m scared, is all. People gotta do things in their own time.

—Chapter 49


🪡 I love when a novel lifts me out of my world and drops me into theirs. (You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t citizen of Mendol, the Eastside specifically.)

🧵 I live for that moment in a mystery when I’ve figured out whodunnit and the actual revelation turns out to be deeper and messier than I imagined. (I believe my mouth not only dropped, but actually stayed open for a good five seconds.)

🪡 I love when I start off skeptical of a character that’s a little too curt for my liking and end up actually empathizing and rooting for them. (So much so that I poured libations for my own tough-as-nails aunties, who lovingly softened their voices when they spoke my name.)

🧵 I live for complex love stories. Easy ones too. But there’s something about a second chance romance that I didn’t see coming that fills me up. (I almost picked up my phone to text an ex, but decided best to see what next great love the Future holds for me instead.)


The Secret Keeper Of Main Street moved and entertained me. It is beautiful, yet sometimes unpretty, and still magical and mysterious. Yes, more than two things can be true at once. It’s a reminder that “dignity was a luxury” and stories like Bailey’s, Aunt Charlene’s and even Elsa’s inspire us to reflect on and continue to marvel in the splendor of this thing we call life.🦋

The Secret Keeper of Main Street is available for pre-order now and releases on June 4th.


I’ve Been Raving About The Secret Keeper Of Main Street Since I First Received Earlier This Spring. 


By Popular Demand: The Full Makeup Beat. I Almost Stayed Home To Finish The Novel. 🤷🏾‍♀️I Went Out Though. 💋


Let’s Get Lit with Paula’s Pairing 📚🍸 (21+ only 💳)

Ever sipped a St-Germain Spritz? You must! The effervescent cocktail with hints of pear and honeysuckle is simply St-Germain topped with bubbly, soda water and a lemon twist. Order it the next time you’re at a bar and spot that elegant elderflower liqueur bottle. It’s the perfect accompaniment to The Secret Keeper Of Main Street which releases at the top of wedding season on June 4th. It’s lovely like our protagonist Bailey the self-proclaimed “couturier.”

Image courtesy of St-Germain Liqueur

Fun fact: “St‑Germain is a French liqueur made with fresh elderflowers, handpicked in full bloom every spring. Up to one thousand carefully selected flowers fill every bottle!”


Prefer to read and drink at home? Me too! Most of the time. Check out the recipe below:

Image courtesy of St-Germain Liqueur

Here’s what you’ll need:

1.5 oz St-Germain
2 oz Sparkling Wine – Champagne if you’re feeling fancy.
2 oz Soda or Seltzer Water – plain. No added flavors, y’all.
Lemon Twist

Here’s what you’ll do: 

🧊 Pour St‑Germain over ice into your glass.
🍾Top with bubbly and soda water.
🥄Stir well.
🍋 Twist a lemon peel on top of your drink and garnish.


Full disclosure: I used to request elderflower liqueur and prosecco as my shift drink without the seltzer water and one of my favorite bartenders and former colleagues, Alex Tirapelli, who’s also a writer, renamed it The Paula Special.  It’s so light and refreshing with a bouquet of sweetness.

The Paula Special: Elderflower liqueur topped with prosecco . Photographed by Paula T. Renfroe

Another Fun Fact: There are other brands of elderflower liqueur. Ask your bartender or the salesperson at your favorite spirit shop aka the liquor store. 🥃 Cheers! 🥂



The Secret Keeper of Main Street Synopsis From William Morrow/HarperCollins:

Acclaimed author Trisha R. Thomas delivers a masterful new tale of scandal and intuition. In 1950s oil-rich Oklahoma, Bailey Dowery, a dressmaker with the gift of “second sight,” reluctantly reveals the true loves and intentions of her socialite clients, making her a silent witness to a shocking crime.

1954: In the quaint town of Mendol, Oklahoma, Bailey Dowery is a Black dressmaker for the wives and daughters of local oil barons. She earns a good living fitting designer gowns and creating custom wedding dresses for the town’s elite. But beyond her needle and thread lies a deeper talent, one passed down from her mother: the gift of insight. With just a fleeting touch or brush against the skin, Bailey has sudden flashes of intuition— witnessing the other person’s hopes, dreams, and nightmares, as well as glimpses of their past and future. To protect herself, she wears gloves to keep from grazing the skin of her clients as she pins them into their gowns.

Brides have whispered that Bailey can see if their true love is faithful, or if their marriage will be a success. Her aunt Charlene has always warned her, “It’s safer to stay out of White folks’ business.” But Bailey will reluctantly provide a reading during a fitting, as long as the bride promises to be discreet.

Now Elsa Grimes, daughter of one of the richest oil men in Oklahoma, has come to the Regal Gown as the least joyful bride Bailey has ever seen. Elsa’s big society wedding is imminent and her gown is gorgeous, but what Bailey’s intuition uncovers when she touches Elsa’s hand horrifies her. Against her better judgment, she’s determined to help Elsa in whatever way she can. But when the son of a prominent family turns up dead on the eve of Elsa’s wedding, and the bride-to-be is arrested for his murder, Bailey is suddenly at the center of a firestorm that threatens to overtake her and everyone she loves.

Peace, Love, & Beauty,