The Bottom Line: Jane Eyre meets The Haunting of Hill House. A terrifying gothic horror novel that readers won’t soon forget.
After the passing of their stepsister, Sarah, sisters Rose and Maggie are happy to be back at their estate and returning to a daily routine. Rose is especially excited and anxious about meeting a potential new suitor at an upcoming ball hosted by their elusive neighbors to introduce their son Henry.
Before getting back to daily life in their seemingly well-to-do Nineteenth Century household, Rose decides to take her sister Maggie along with her to visit Sarah’s grave and pick wildflowers. But when a sudden thunderstorm threatens their outing, Maggie makes a beeline for the house, leaving Rose stuck in the downpour. On her way back, Rose is cut by a briar and falls in the mud just before reaching the house. She sees Maggie on the porch and calls for help, but then her sister disappears.
When a drenched and frustrated Rose finds Maggie in the house and wonders aloud why Maggie didn’t come down from the porch to help her, she is surprised to hear Maggie tell her that she had never been there. Then who was?
Author Emma Beavan deftly unleashes a torrent of additional paranormal activities sure to raise readers’ blood pressure. Mysterious scratches and blood appear on Rose’s arm. A strange cackle is heard. A wardrobe door routinely opens after having been closed. Most frighteningly, Rose begins to be plagued by rage-filled memories. Or were they nightmares? This is just the beginning of this gothic ghost tale of dark family secrets, the sticky web they weave and the thin veil that separates the living from the dead.
Warm up the kettle and light a candle before settling into this book. This plot starts with a slow simmer, taking its time to set up the relationship between the sisters and immerse us in the fraught family dynamic. But by the time you realize that events have heated to a boil, you’ll be too immersed — and terrified — to turn back.
As in the tradition of Victoria literature, Beavan alternates between different time periods. She also flirts with unreliable narration, giving readers a few additional mysteries to unwind as they read. If you love the Bronte sisters, hop on the chaise with a cozy quilt and curl up to this tale. But make sure to keep the light on.