by Simone St. James
Page Count: 318
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Format: Trade Paperback
How got: personal buy from Amazon; pre-ordered
First attention getter: this author is awesome!!
England, 1921. Three years after her husband, Alex, disappeared, shot down over Germany, Jo Manders still mourns his loss. Working as a paid companion to Alex's wealthy, condescending aunt, Dottie Forsyth, Jo travels to the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside. But there is much she never knew about her husband’s origins…and the revelation of a mysterious death in the Forsyths’ past is just the beginning…
All is not well at Wych Elm House. Dottie's husband is distant, and her son was grievously injured in the war. Footsteps follow Jo down empty halls, and items in her bedroom are eerily rearranged. The locals say the family is cursed, and that a ghost in the woods has never rested. And when Jo discovers her husband’s darkest secrets, she wonders if she ever really knew him. Isolated in a place of deception and grief, she must find the truth or lose herself forever.
And then a familiar stranger arrives at Wych Elm House…
Star Rating - 5
Another great addition to St. James’ body of works, I loved the feeling I got from this book. I felt like I was getting all the good creepy vibes that drew me to her first books on top of getting a suspenseful mystery to book that are so prevalent in her more recent novels.
First off, I love her heroine. She’s strong, courageous, feisty, driven, and a bit impulsive. Her grief from her war and personal losses didn’t stop her from creating a life for herself and striving for independence. I can think of other personalities that would have buckled under her plat but not Jo. I loved her guts and pluck.
More than one chill went up my spine from the horror elements in the story. They weren’t as in your face as her first books, yet they didn’t take second stage like in another of her works. The horror and ghosts were a driving element in the mystery story and created some truly spine-tingling imagery to spice up the narrative. They whole clothes in the chair thing? *shiver* Still spooks me out.
I actually liked the mystery in this one. While I wasn’t that surprised at the eventual whodunit (there being after all a limited suspect pool), I enjoyed the journey and sleuthing along the way. I felt the clues and steps along the way were spaced out well and kept up a good pace. The reasoning behind the crime surprised me, though. I never saw that bit coming.
That reasoning behind the crime tied in well with the historical details behind the story. I loved how the author tied in the developing situation in Europe pre-WWI, the effects that chaos had on the lives of ordinary people, and the beginnings of the British secret service all into her story. They brought the history behind to tale to life along with the little details like everyday life and the mourning process for late Edwardian England.
The romance was as emotional as in the previous works as well. I can’t say too much on this front as it would spoils lots of the story, but safe to say that I felt the story as much as read it. The romance is visceral in its strength and powerful in how it draws the readers in, making us root for both hero and heroine.
All in all, this is a worthy follow up to St. James’ other books. I loved everything: the romantic pull of the emotions, the great historical details, a chilling supernatural mystery, and a heroine I could get behind. This book illustrates why I keep going back to her again and again for my reading pleasure. Highly recommended!