Author: Renee Ross
Publisher: Great Owl
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐
The story starts in New London, Connecticut, in 1892, and is written in the third person point of view of Kate Embry.
Seventeen-year-old Kate and her older brother, Edward, are travelling to New Hampshire where Kate will live with Olivia Windham, the maternal grandmother she has never met, while Edward pursues his studies in medicine. Their mother died in childbirth after giving birth to Kate, and their father died a few weeks ago.
They arrive at Windcliff, an imposing mansion that is their grandmother’s home. Kate is shown to her room, a beautiful and luxurious one, where she sleeps one night.
The next morning, after Edward leaves, Kate is moved to her ‘new’ room, a dingy place that contains a narrow cot, a wash stand, a desk and a cabinet. Kate is now the new serving maid. Working as a scullery and kitchen maid is hard work, but Kate tries her best. She makes friends with fellow maid, Clara, and stable hand, Will.
She writes to Edward to inform him about this strange situation she is in, but he never responds. As her grandmother’s hostility continues, Kate is determined to find out why she hates her.
When she finds a grave in the family graveyard with her own name on it, Kate decides to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Who is buried in the grave? Why does her grandmother hate her so much? And why is Clara behaving so strangely with her?
The author drops a few details here and there about Kate, which helps us to gain a fuller picture of her.
Interestingly, the author speaks of Kate in an amused, teasing tone that I liked. When the rain rolls off her bonnet’s brim, she felt like a human fountain. At one time, Kate wishes that they could travel on top of the train, then changes her mind when it begins to rain.
There were plenty of errors. She had ‘borne’ became ‘born’; a ‘contiguous’ facility became a ‘contagious’ facility; 'coarse’ blanket becomes ‘course’ and how she was ‘faring’ became ‘fairing’.
The book would have been shorter and tighter had much of it been edited out.
None of the characters were strong. The heroine, Kate, was downright annoying. When she wasn’t playing He-loves-me-He-loves-me-not games on behalf of Clara, she was playing them for herself. We never find ourselves rooting for her.
For a romantic hero, with two women vying for his attention, Will is rather bland and insipid.
And then there is the annoying badly managed sweetheart ball.
The twist was a damp squib, one that ten out of ten readers would have easily guessed. I would have expected a solid reason for Olivia’s hatred of Kate, but there wasn’t any.
The author should at least have ended the book with Olivia feeling some sort of grudging respect for Kate, but even that doesn’t happen. And the villain track was so badly constructed.
All in all, neither a strong Gothic mystery nor a strong romance.