Secret Love, by F. Burn…
Francesca Gabel, a learning support assistant, accepts a post at a prestigious Catholic boys’ school. She manages to form a bond with a challenging student named Richard Cunningham, but the lines begin to blur as they become closer. Francesca experiences an internal struggle as she grapples to control her feelings. The passion they develop for one another consumes them as they enter a world of forbidden love and desire. Is it true love or a simple case of lust? Francesca must make a decision: give in to Richard and face the consequences or let him go.
You read about teachers developing inappropriate relationships with pupils and you wonder how it all happened. At what point did they finally decide to cross that line? Whose fault was it? Ultimately the responsibility lies with the adult they say, but when is the student considered an adult? You imagine yourself in that position and you tell yourself that you would never do that, but I found myself in an impossible situation.
Why I seemed to enjoy this destructive need, this obsession, I didn’t know. Maybe we all had it inside of us… Lines from F. Burn’s Secret Love
Everyone knows that Virginia Wallace is an incorrigible pest. I am absolutely notorious for badgering my co-workers out of un-released manuscripts! If a book catches my eye, I’m just like, ‘gimme’! And no, I’m not a paid reviewer, or even an amateur one for that matter. I just love to read, and I am smugly pleased to have access to amazing stories that haven’t been made available to the general public yet.
Fortunately, F. Burn was kind enough to lend me hers, the manuscript for her novel entitled Secret Love. Two words caught my attention when her book was described by my publisher, Ric Savage: ‘Dark’, and ‘poetic’.
She had me at ‘dark’, but ‘poetic’ to boot? WOW!!!
Secret Love could be described as a ‘taboo’ story, and in some sense I suppose it is. It’s the story of a female teacher who falls hard for a male student. It’s no secret that I have a fairly conservative view of relationships and sexuality (I’ve been panned in reviews for that), but this book fascinated me nevertheless. For starters, F. Burn is very careful to make no moral commentary whatsoever upon her character’s actions. Right, wrong, or otherwise, this story is happening… and yes, this kinda stuff does happen.
I loved the moral ambiguity of the tale. Was it wrong for Francesca to fall for Ritchie? It wasn’t like he was a kid, after all. Younger, perhaps, but certainly not a child. But then, many would say it’s always wrong for a teacher to fall for a student. On the other hand, attraction kinda happens even against our will, doesn’t it?
At the end of the day, this story just is what it is. I recommend simply reading it as such, and leaving it at that.
I loved that Francesca was lovely in her own way (as romance novel heroines generally are), but she does describe some self-perceived ‘flaws’ in her appearance, which makes her very relatable. The first-person narrative tense makes the story even more intimate. I loved that Ritchie only weighs in on his own tale at the very end, giving the story a very, very powerful next-to-last chapter.
And I have to say that this is one thing that makes F. Burn’s novel really shine. First-person narrative is a deal with the Devil. It gives one a deeper look into a character’s thoughts than third-person, but at the same time it’s limiting because the reader is forced to view the story entirely through the characters’ lenses. There’s no all-present, omniscient narrator.
It’s hard to be ‘poetic’ when one is writing in the first-person tense. First-person tends to come across as rather matter-of-fact, even though it’s often entertaining. Only three novels narrated in first-person come to mind that I would describe as ‘poetic’: Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. (My Cousin Rachel, by the way, had a similar ‘taboo’ theme to Secret Love.)
Now I’m gonna say four novels. Secret Love just joined the list.
I also loved that the story was defined by a strong sense of restraint on the part of the heroine. Relationships require restraint. Bonds easily forged are bonds easily broken. Creating a lasting relationship requires saying ‘no’ for a long time. Introducing sex too early leads to a selfish satisfying of desire at the expense of truly bonding with another person on an emotional level. I’m not overly fond of stories in which the hero and heroine jump right into bed, and then suddenly realize they’ve found true love and live happily ever after. Life just doesn’t work that way, you know? I certainly don’t write that way. (And yah, I’ve been panned for that, too.) Level-headed people know when to set passion on a back burner in order to build something better, and I loved that trait in both the fictitious Francesca and the real-life imagination of F. Burn.
This book gets an honest five stars from me. Some readers might be uncomfortable with the subject matter, and if that’s you then I suppose I understand.
But this book doesn’t condemn its own subject matter, and neither does it condone it.
It just is what it is.
So if you’re feeling adventurous—if your own comfort zone is starting to feel a bit stifling—check it OUT!!! Secret Love, by the amazingly talented F. Burn.
An Interview with F. Burn
When did you start writing? What made you first decide to try your hand at it?
I first started writing in my teens. I started off writing poetry to express how I felt. Some people described it as dark poetry.
What was your first published work? What do you think of it now?
Some of my poetry was published in anthologies.
How do you balance writing with your personal life?
It’s really hard, but I try to do bits during the week and weekends.
Do people you actually know make appearances in your stories?
Yes, I based a character from my upcoming novel, Secret Love, on my ex.
Do family members or friends help with your writing?
They’ve helped me by being supportive, giving constructive feedback and providing inspiration for my characters.
Do you have stories you want to write that you haven’t yet?
Yes, I have quite a few ideas running around in my head. I am planning a sequel for Secret Love, but it seems to be taking a darker route.
Is there a story you’re afraid to write for some reason? Why?
The sequel of Secret Love. The main character discovers a side to her lover that scares her. There is a thin line between pleasure and pain.
Do you ever target differing age groups or demographics with your writing?
I have a fairly wide target demographic, ranging from age 20-60+
Have you ever written non-fiction? If so, what?
The first book I wrote was a non-fiction piece on astronomy when I was a child.
Are you a ‘normal’ person who likes to write, or do you consider yourself more of the tormented/driven ‘artist’ type?
I guess I am fairly normal, but with a dark side. That dark side is expressed through writing, art and music.
Are you married? How does being a writer affect that? Has your marriage affected the way you write love stories?
I’m not married, but I’m in a committed relationship with my soulmate and best friend. When I met him, I realised that the kind of love which is described in poetry and songs actually existed.
If you could see one of your stories made into a movie, which one would you pick and why?
I would like my novel, Secret Love, to be made into a movie. It reminds me of a movie called ‘Notes on a Scandal‘ which is also about a female teacher engaging in an affair with a student. Though my story focuses more on the teacher’s assistant and is more than just purely physical.
How does your life experience influence your writing?
All my experiences growing up and work experiences have influenced my writing. I am also influenced by some of my favourite movies, music and novels.
Do you try to keep your stories within their pre-determined genres, or do you just tell the story your way regardless of genre expectations?
I definitely just tell the story. Genre can be decided later.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kinds? Does music influence your stories?
Not usually, but I occasionally listen to instrumental music when I write.
Have you ever written a story based on a personal experience you had? If so, what was it about?
Not yet, but I considered writing about the experiences of a relative with a serious mental illness and a friend with Asperger’s. I wanted to tackle the stigma and the stereotypes associated with it.
Is your writing time planned out or structured? Do you go on writing ‘benders’?
Sometimes I go by a rough plan, but sometimes I write and see where the story takes me.
What to you is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?
Reading the finished product and feeling a sense of achievement.
Who is your favorite author, and why?
I have so many favourite authors, but one of my favourite books of all time is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.(Virginia’s Note: I KNEW I loved F. Burn!!!)
Which character of yours is your favorite? Why? Whom would you pick to play him/her/it in a movie?
My favourite character is Ritchie from Secret Love, because he is a complex individual with needs. I would pick a young Jonathan Scarfe to play him.
Do you prefer to read fiction that’s similar to what you write, or do you pick different types of stories?
I usually read horror, science-fiction, dystopian and non-fiction.
What’s one quirky thing about you that your readers might not know?
I am also an artist, who dabbles in song writing, making jewellery, astrology and photography.
What’s your favorite movie? Why?
One of my favourite movies is Alien. I love the design of the alien by H.R. Giger and how the alien is a deadly parasite that gestates inside of a human host.
THANK you so much, F. Burn, for appearing on virginiawallace.com!!! Here’s wishing you a bright future, and CONGRATULATIONS on the release of Secret Love!!!
Secret Love is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!!! Just go to to Amazon.com and paste this into the search box: Secret Love F Burn Black Velvet Seductions (I’d post the link, but Amazon hacks the hell out of your page and overwhelms your entire post.)
Connect with F. Burn on Face Book here: https://www.facebook.com/fburn.co.uk