Diane Chamberlain has been writing books since the late 1980s and she’s quite good at it. The American author has frequently appeared at the top of the New York Times best seller list and Wall Street Journal best seller list over the past 30 years. Her books are always fictional stories rich with storytelling and revolve around characters that readers love.
Most of her books take place in the 1960s or earlier. Due to that, Diane Chamberlain does a lot of research about the time period to make the books as historically accurate as possible. Many consider her books to be historical fiction because they are so accurate to the time period.
More to Come!
This article will review some of the best rated Diane Chamberlain books. The list will have a rough order of Diane Chamberlain’s best to worst books. It’s also important to note that Diane Chamberlain is an active author that publishes a new chick lit book per year. She will likely continue to write books better than those listed, so it’s important to stay up-to-date about her recent publications.
Best Diane Chamberlain Books
|Necessary Lies||9.74/10||354 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|The Stolen Marriage||9.60/10||376 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|The Last House on the Street||9.48/10||346 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Big Lies in a Small Town||9.46/10||411 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Breaking The Silence||9.34/10||297 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
An Instant Classic
Necessary Lies is one of the best books by Diane Chamberlain. It’s also the start of the extremely popular Necessary Lies series. The story takes place in 1960 on a rural tobacco farm in North Carolina and follows two protagonists – 15 year old Ivy Hart and a social worker named Jane Forrester.
Both Hart’s parents have died and Hart must take care of her mentally disabled sister, aging grandmother, and deal with her own epilepsy. Forrester, on the other hand, is a social worker assigned to Hart’s case as part of North Carolina’s eugenics program, but Forrester has doubts about the forced sterilization of Hart and quickly discovers some dark secrets about the Hart family.
Chamberlain has a real talent when it comes to developing characters that the reader can get behind. Hart and Forrester are both written in a way that the reader roots for them throughout the story. As for the story itself, it offers a good glimpse into the sterilization program in the US – a program where those deemed to have too low of an IQ would be sterilized by the government.
It’s clear that Chamberlain did quite a bit of research when writing Necessary Lies because all the historical information checks out. I rank this as one of the best Diane Chamberlain books out there. It has good, interesting characters and an interesting plot that draws the reader into it.
The Stolen Marriage
A Rocky Marriage
The Stolen Marriage is another top Diane Chamberlain book. It was published in 2017, but takes place in 1943 at the height of World War II and a polio epidemic in the United States. The story follows 23 year old Tess DeMello. DeMello had a promising career as a hospital nurse and was engaged to a doctor.
This changed when DeMello couldn’t overcome the guilt of living a lie and canceled the engagement to marry a different man – Henry “Hank” Kraft. DeMello moves to a small town in North Carolina to live with him and things begin to get weird from day one. Kraft is a quiet man that keeps secrets from DeMello. He sneaks out at night without DeMello and even hides money from her.
Excellent Historical Fiction
A polio epidemic breaks out in the rural North Carolina town and the townspeople get together to open a treatment center. DeMello uses her nursing expertise to work at the center, to the protests of Kraft, and slowly begins to discover the truth behind her husband, Henry Kraft.
The story takes place in the rural south in 1943. As such, concepts like race and the expectations of women of the time are central to the plot. Chamberlain, as usual, shows she did an excellent job researching the time period. The writing and various characters are historically accurate for the time the novel takes place. This story is obviously fiction, but Chamberlain put so much research into the time period that the story could very well be non-fiction.
The Last House on the Street
Tragedy in a Home
The Last House on the Street is a dual timeline novel that follows two protagonists: Ellie Hockley, a young college student volunteering for the SCOPE Project in 1965, which needs white volunteers to live with black families in order to get them out to vote. And Kayla Carter, a young woman moving into a newly built North Carolina house that her husband died in while building it in 2010.
It’s clear from the first introduction to Ellie and Carter’s other neighbor that the neighborhood, and one particular house on the street, has some tragic memories associated with it. It’s up to Carter to sort through the web of lies and deception and figure out the secrets of the house at the end of her street.
Ellie’s Story Beats Kayla’s Story
I liked this book overall. However, one complaint I have, and it seems like a common one in reviews, is that Ellie’s story and character is far superior to Kayla’s story. I felt like I was simply waiting for Kayla’s story to end and Ellie’s story to begin while I was reading the book.
That’s not to say that Ellie’s story was bad, but placing it in the same book as Ellie’s story makes it difficult for the reader to truly invest in it. Ellie’s story covers a lot of interesting topics and her character just seemed more likable than Kayla. The two stories still mesh well together and Ellie’s story would feel a little incomplete without Kayla. It’s definitely a Diane Chamberlain novel worth reading and, again, Chamberlain gets it right with historical accuracy.
Big Lies in a Small Town
The Hidden Past
Big Lies in a Small Town is another dual timeline book by Diane Chamberlain. It follows the story of Morgan Christopher, an art major spending three years in a North Carolina prison for a crime she didn’t commit in 2018. The other story takes place in 1939 and follows Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey commissioned to paint a mural for a North Carolina post office. She took the job without realizing the whirlwind of issues she would face for painting the mural.
The story starts with Christopher in year two of her three year sentence. She receives a visitor, an odd occurrence because she never receives visitors, that offers her a job that would allow her to leave prison – restore an old mural to its former glory. The restoration process uncovers some secrets about the town hidden for nearly 80 years.
Exciting Plot and Good Characters
Big Lies in a Small Town has an exciting plot with a lot of questions that will have the reader excited for every turn of the page. Some of the questions include: Why would a gallery commission a woman sitting in jail with no restoration experience to restore a mural? What lies and secrets does the small North Carolina town hold? Will Morgan uncover the truth about Anna Dale?
As for the characters, both characters are very likable and the parallels in their life can be seen despite their stories taking place nearly 80 years apart. This makes the dual timeline an interesting narration style. In fact, the story would be far less captivating without it. It’s another one that I would classify as a classic, must-read book by her. It’s almost universally ranked as the best Diane Chamberlain novel.
Breaking The Silence
Dead Men Tell No Secrets
Laura Brandon made one promise to her dying father – she would visit an eldely woman. This visit had lasting repercussions as almost immediately following it her husband committed suicide in front of her five year old daughter, Emma. Emma refuses to talk about the suicide and what her father may have said before taking his own life. Left with no options, Laura pays a visit to someone she only met once – Emma’s real father.
The story follows Emma and Laura as they unravel the truth of what happened to Laura’s husband and the secrets that the mysterious old woman keeps. It’s an exciting page-turner with a lot of twists and unexpected subplots that will leave the reader dazzled and possibly in tears.
Breaking The Silence has a little bit of everything. It’s emotional with a sense of mystery, romance, and then some family drama added to it. It also explores some of the ways that the mentally disabled were treated in the mid 20th century. The book isn’t just an interesting story, it will also teach you about how 1950s America treated those with mental health problems.
It has a rather large cast of seemingly unrelated characters that all come together by the end of the novel. It’s not a difficult story to follow, though. Chamberlain does an excellent job weaving all the characters together and making the story work. She does rush a little bit at the end to tie up any loose ends. It’s still a very good story with interesting characters despite the rushed ending.
The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes
What It Means to be a Mom
The year is 1977 and a pregnant woman named Genevieve Russell disappeared. Her body was not found until 1997 when Timothy Gleason is charged with murder. However, the unborn baby that Russel was carrying is not found with Russel’s body.
The only person that knows what happened to the baby is CeeCee Wilkes because she was there when Russel died and chose to raise the baby as her own. Does she come forward with this information and ruin her life? Or does she take it to the grave at the cost of having an innocent man face the death penalty?
This isn’t the type of story that you passively read. It’s difficult to not place yourself in the shoes of the main character. I constantly asked myself, would I make the same decisions she made?
I probably would not. However, Chamberlain provided enough depth to the character so I could understand why the character made the decisions she made. One other thing I will add. This story has a lot of twists in it. I thought the story would go one way and then something completely different and unexpected would happen. The conclusion of the story caught me off guard (no spoilers). Admittedly, it was a little far fetched, but that did not detract from the story in any way.
The Midwife’s Confession
A Secret Life
A midwife, Noelle, suddenly commits suicide and leaves nothing but an unfinished letter for her two friends, Tara and Emerson. The two friends piece together the clues and find out all the secrets that Noelle hid from them over their 20 year relationship.
The Midwife’s Confession is an excellent story that combines drama, mystery, and romantic relationships. The story is told from the first person perspective of six or seven characters, which can make it chaotic to read at times. Fortunately, Chamberlain does a good job blending the different perspectives in a way that moves the story forward. It’s one of Diane Chamberlain’s best rated books for a reason.
Lots of Twists
As with a lot of Diane Chamberlain novels, this one has a lot of plot twists and unexpected turns. Some of the twists in The Wife’s Confession are expected and not too surprising while others will completely shock the reader. It’s a fun story to read and follow along with Tara and Emerson as they piece together the clues to reveal the type of person Noelle was and some of the less-than-desirable actions she got up to as a midwife.
The only real complaint I have about this book is that Noelle had a lot of secrets. So many secrets that it’s hard to believe her friends of 20 years would not have any idea about them. Though this might be Chamberlain trying to tell us that you never really someone’s secrets. It just comes off as a bit too much at times. That aside, it’s a great story with well-developed, likable characters and a fast moving plot. It’s certainly one of Diane Chamberlain’s best novels.
Pretending to Dance
The Past Comes Out
Molly Arnette has a lot of secrets and she’s very good at keeping them from, well, everyone. She currently lives in San Diego with her loving husband and the two are trying to adopt a child. The adoption process has caused some of Molly’s secrets from her upbringing in North Carolina to come out. She claims her mother is dead – she’s alive. And the circumstances surrounding her father’s death still haunt her.
As Molly discovers the truth about her family, she must reconcile that with the lies she has been telling her husband. Will she ever find peace when she discovers how her father really died?
The story takes place in two different times. It starts with a 38 year old, married Molly working as a lawyer and looking to adopt a child with her husband. The story then jumps to a 14 year old Molly where all the secrets she is hiding about her family are revealed. She has trauma that occurred in her young years, told as they occur when she’s 14 years old, that causes her to have doubts about adopting a child.
The twist is not super unpredictable, but it’s believable and Chamberlain does a great job building up to it. Adult Molly story’s is a little dry at times compared to the young Molly story, though. It’s also sometimes hard to believe that 14 year old Molly became 38 year old Molly after everything that happened to her. It’s not Diane Chamberlain’s best book in my opinion (she could have dropped or changed the adult Molly story), but it’s still a great novel and worth a read.
The Silent Sister
Riley MacPherson grew up believing that her older sister committed suicide. While cleaning out her dad’s house after his death Riley discovers that her sister is not actually dead and living under an assumed name. This story takes you on a journey as Riley searches for the truth of her family and how she must come to grips with the new reality she has discovered.
Why did her sister fake her death and run away from home? What secrets does she hide? What secrets does the rest of Riley’s family hide?
The story is complex with a lot of twists and turns in it. It has the usual Diane Chamberlain storyline of a family that has a deep secret that the protagonist must discover and then learn to live with after uncovering. The parts I like about this story are that it’s a perfect mix of emotion, suspense, and mystery. I felt a lot of different emotions towards the characters and events unfolding around them while reading this book.
The Silent Sister is a New York Times best seller for a reason – it’s one of the most popular Diane Chamberlain books. It’s a well-written emotional story that takes you on a journey as a woman discovers some dark secrets about her family and community.
Before the Storm
A Mother’s Love
Laurel Lockwood has already lost one child due to her neglect. She vowed to not lose her second child, 15 year old Andy Lockwood, to the same neglect. Andy would be considered special needs by most. He has no filter on his mouth, but Laurel knows he has a heart made of gold.
This is shown when a fire breaks out at Andy’s youth group and he saves the lives of some of his friends. But things change when arson investigators suspect that the fire was not entirely organic – Andy is now a suspect in arson.
Before the Storm has the usual twists and emotional punches typical of a Diane Chamberlain novel. However, what really makes it stand out in my opinion is how relatable the moral dilemma is for Laurel. Her son possibly committed a serious crime and she has to make a tough decision in regards to that.
It’s a story that asks some very real questions of the reader. And Chamberlain does an excellent job placing the reader in the mind of Laurel in order for them to better understand the decisions she makes throughout the novel.I rate this as one of the best Diane Chamberlain books out there. Something about the struggle Laurel Lockwood has with having a son commit a heinous crime makes this story very emotional and heart wrenching, especially if you are a parent.
Diane Chamberlain is an amazing author that many avid readers do not know about. She writes excellent novels for women and does a perfect job with character development and creating exciting stories that contain plenty of twists and surprises.
The best Diane Chamberlain books mostly focus on some sort of secret that the protagonist must discover to mature as a person. I strongly recommend reading her novels if you like mystery books that contain drama along with emotional thrills. It’s really difficult to compile a list of the top ranked Diane Chamberlain books because they are all very good books, but I would rank the Necessary Lies series at the top if I had to pick some of her best books.
Alissa is an avid reader, blogger, and wannabe writer. (She's a much better cook than a writer actually). Alissa is married, has one human, one feline, and two canine kids. She always looks a mess and never meets a deadline.