By all accounts this book was practically guaranteed a five star review. It had all the things I love in a Gothic tale…..the wild Cornish coast with foggy/misty mornings, a broken hero, a dark secret, an innocent but curious heroine, and so much atmosphere.
It sounded like a modern Victoria Holt novel and I just couldn’t wait to crack it open! I have read only one other book by this author, Sweet Damages, but it was so long ago that I read it, that I can’t quite recall all the details but I remember that it was more of a modern Gothic tale.
This book mixes modern Gothic with classical Gothic in the duel storylines so I think it will appeal to a lot of readers, especially if you love the Gothic and ghosts!
For more than two centuries, Winterbourne Hall has stood atop a bluff overseeing the English countryside of Cornwall and the sea beyond.
In 1947, Londoner Alice Miller accepts a post as governess at Winterbourne, looking after Captain Jonathan de Grey’s twin children. Falling under the de Greys’ spell, Alice believes the family will heal her own past sorrows. But then the twins’ adoration becomes deceitful and taunting. Their father, ever distant, turns spiteful and cruel. The manor itself seems to lash out. Alice finds her surroundings subtly altered, her air slightly chilled. Something malicious resents her presence, something clouding her senses and threatening her very sanity.
In present day New York, art gallery curator Rachel Wright has learned she is a descendant of the de Greys and heir to Winterbourne. Adopted as an infant, she never knew her birth parents or her lineage. At long last, Rachel will find answers to questions about her identity that have haunted her entire life. But what she finds in Cornwall is a devastating tragic legacy that has afflicted generations of de Greys. A legacy borne from greed and deceit, twisted by madness, and suffused with unrequited love and unequivocal rage. (Summary from Goodreads)
I should have read this book in a matter of days but instead I found myself slowly reading it rather than devouring it. At first that wasn’t intentional, as it started a little slow at first, but then as I started to really get into the meat of the story, I found that I wanted to pace myself rather than rush through it. This one is full of all the classic Gothic elements that readers will love, especially fans of Rebecca! It was layered with atmosphere as I was expecting and the ghost element was genuinely terrifying. I had to put down my book on occasion because I was freaked out about the ghost!
I liked how James really made this one so creepy and really highlighted the setting for atmosphere. I wasn’t really a fan of Alice or Rachel for most of the book though. At first I was kind of put out because I really hoped to feel a connection to at least one of them but I just couldn’t. But I supposed that’s the point of a true Gothic novel where you just don’t like anyone.
While I might not have loved the two main characters, as soon as the story got going, I found myself wanting to read so much later into the night, but I was so scared that I had to force myself to put it down and read something else or just go to bed while I still could! I loved how uneasy this one made me and I loved all the ghost parts so so much!
If you love classic Gothic novels like Rebecca or The Turn of the Screw you will love this more modern take. I loved this one and even if it started a bit slow, I thought it was engaging, chilling, and utterly thrilling to read!