Review: An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St James

Many of you have noticed that I recently became completely obsessed with Simone St James’s novels. I started off with The Broken Girls (her latest novel out in March) and I was completely hooked on her writing style and plots.

I ordered all of her books from my library and haven’t looked back. I’ve shamelessly read them all in the matter of days. Some are better than others naturally but all have an interesting plot angles and intriguing mysteries, ghosts, and romances.

This book was actually on my radar well before I started reading her works. I love gothic novels, specifically Victoria Holt. This book came up on my Goodreads recommendations for fans of Victoria Holt.

So I put it in my TBR list and kind of forgot about it. This same book kept coming up when I read Anne Lee Huber’s Gothic Myth’s series, again I looked at it and thought ‘I need to read this one’ but again forgot about it until I discovered this author’s other works. 

After her uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, Oxford student Jillian Leigh must drive to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings. Almost immediately, unsettling incidents – a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own – escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house and is haunting the woods around Blood Moon Bay. If Toby discovered something sinister during his investigations, was his death no accident?

The arrival of handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken leaves Jillian with more questions than answers – and with the added complication of a powerful mutual attraction. She suspects someone will do anything to hide the truth and begins to discover secrets that lie deep within Rothewell… and at the very heart of who she is (summary from Goodreads).

I had high expectations for this book since I had seen it recommended so many times on my Goodreads. It sounded so gothically wonderful that I was thrilled to pick it up from my library and get lost in it. I don’t know that I liked it as much as The Haunting of Maddy Clare, but it was good. Not the best by her but still enjoyable enough for me to read it in a matter of days.

I think I was expecting a little more romance and a lot more ghosts. The fact that this novel is set on the stormy English coast, in a town known for smuggling, with a haunted woods….I just expected St James to capitalized on the atmosphere more in this novel than she did.

The romance wasn’t the strongest. Sure Drew was sexy, masculine, and appealing but he lacked the same torment and mysteriousness that some of her other leading men have had. I didn’t feel how much he desired Jillian nor did I feel like she was terribly into him. She was very young and innocent and I think that’s what didn’t work for me. Here was this strong, brave, broken hero that was clearly a MAN who had been to war and seen things that haunted him. I felt like he needed a WOMAN who would understand him and could help heal him. For me she was too much of a girl, young and inexperienced. I think there was a chemistry but for me it was more of an infatuation rather than love.

I liked that this ghost was a man, but I was disappointed that he didn’t play a larger role in the narrative. Sometimes I found myself wondering if the plot would have worked without the ghost and I think it easily could have. In this case the ghost didn’t really add anything to the story or bring anything to the table. I simply found myself wondering why??? I would have liked to have seen him play a larger role.

The mystery had strong roots in the post WWI era which was interesting and I liked the angle she used with the town and the war. It was interesting and the town had lots of different characters but yet she was able to maintain a realism about them which readers would find familiar yet different enough to be memorable.

Almost all of St James’s novels are set in a post WWI English town and I love how she uses this historical period in the stories. It’s raw, flawed, and not easy to romanticize which makes her stories so memorable. Though there is a little bit of a formula to them, I never feel like she’s recycling a plot. I love reading about the post war world and people and I think ghostly elements add so much to her books. In this book there is also an Easter egg for fans of her other books….I loved the little shout out to Gellis and Ryder from the Maddy Clare book.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read, it wasn’t her strongest, but it was still entertaining and I read it in just about a single sitting. It was fun to read but not as memorable as the others.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St James 

  • Paperback, 339 pages
    Published March 5th 2013 by Berkley Books
    ISBN 0451239253 (ISBN13: 9780451239259)
  • Review copy provided by: Personal Collection

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3 out of 5

Genre: Gothic Lit, Ghost story, Romance, Historical fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery

Memorable lines/quotes: NA

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