Review: A Dreadful Splendor by B.R. Myers

This book has been on my radar for months and I was so excited to start reading it. I planned to read it when I had COVID but I couldn’t focus on anything and I ended up setting it aside and then I sort of forgot about it. Then when I was on my way to Cabo I thought this would be a great book to read on the plane so I picked it up on my way to the airport and was so glad I had it in my bag! I was hooked from the very beginning!

I love gothic tales and ghost stories and this book promised both as well as a little romance. Check, check and check! B. R. Myers is a new to my author but I saw she had written a few other YA books that have received some acclaim for and this book appeared to be her first more adult foray. She tends to write more spooky books from what I could tell when I was researching her and I love spooky reads!

This would probably have been a really good book to read during October, when it’s starting to turn colder and the storms are coming more often but it was still a great read sitting on a beach in Mexico in the 100+ degree weather. I found that it was spooky without being terrifying and I loved all the gothic elements and I certainly hope that Myers continues to write more and more books like this because I would absolutely read them! If you are a fan of gothic lit, you will want this one on your nightstand this fall!

Summary

In this spectacularly imaginative and ghoulishly fun Gothic murder mystery brimming with romance, betrayals, and chills, a fake spiritualist is summoned to hold a séance for a bride who died on the eve before her wedding, but as nefarious secrets are revealed, the line between hoax and haunting blurs.

Be careful what you conjure…

In Victorian London, Genevieve Timmons poses as a spiritualist to swindle wealthy mourners–until one misstep lands her in a jail cell awaiting the noose. Then a stranger arrives to make her a peculiar offer. The Lord he serves, Mr. Pemberton, has been inconsolable since the tragic death of his beautiful bride-to-be. If Genevieve can perform a séance persuasive enough to bring the young Lord peace, she will win her freedom.

Soothing a grieving nobleman should be easy for someone of Genevieve’s skill, but when she arrives at the grand Somerset Park estate, Mr. Pemberton is not the heartbroken lover she expected. The surly–yet exceedingly handsome–gentleman is certain that his fiancée was murdered, even though there is no evidence. Only a confession can bring justice now, and Mr. Pemberton decides Genevieve will help him get it. With his knowledge of the household and her talent for illusion, they can stage a haunting so convincing it will coax the killer into the light. However, when frightful incidents befall the manor, Genevieve realizes her tricks aren’t required after all. She may be a fake, but Somerset’s ghost could be all too real…

A Dreadful Splendor is a wickedly whimsical brew of mystery, spooky thrills, and intoxicating romance that makes for an irresistibly fun and page-turning read. (summary from Goodreads)

Review

While I loved the atmosphere and general plot of this book, I struggled with a few aspects of the larger narrative. Jenny was a great character that really brought the whole ‘medium’ plot to life. I loved reading about how she created a ‘presence’ and I liked discovering how and why she got into that profession. However, I don’t’ know that I needed her back story. Without giving much away, at the end of the main plot, we have a couple of chapters about her family and her mom. For me this didn’t really add or impact the larger story. Personally I found it distracting and her character and the story would have stood alone just fine without diving into her history. I would have liked to have just focused on the main story and characters rather than exploring much of the backstory with her mother and the mother’s family.

I also felt like the romance part of this book could easily have been discarded. The chemistry between Jenny and Mr Pemberton was lukewarm at best. I didn’t feel like they had much of a connection beyond employer and employee. Personally I would have liked to have seen less of Jenny’s backstory and more time spent developing the romance parts or just leave it out all together. The story itself was strong enough on its own to be interesting and entertaining for readers. All criticism aside, this was still an excellent book. I loved the plot twists and turns and was surprised to see how things turned out in the end. I loved exploring the family history and secrets as well as the forbidden romance etc. The paranormal elements were fun and enough to give me some spine tingles!

I was going to give it a 5 star rating but the last couple of chapters about Jenny’s life just left me feeling a little blah about that part so I went with a 4 star rating. The ghost story and investigation into what happened to the late mistress of the house was well written, spooky, and interesting. I loved the alternating parts of the main story and the past diary. It really kept things moving along and interesting. Overall I am excited for more books similar to this from Myers and I think historical fiction fans as well as fans of spooky gothic lit will love this one. I would certainly recommend it to my readers!

Book Info and Rating

Paperback, 416 pages

Expected publication: August 23rd 2022 by William Morrow & Company (first published July 12th 2022)

ISBN 0063209837 (ISBN13: 9780063209831)

Free review copy provided by publisher, William Morrow, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: historical fiction, gothic lit

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