Published: October 2017 by Mira Books
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
I should start by mentioning that I was sent a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for participating in its book tour. At first I was just a little bit hesitant, as the synopsis sounds like a book that could go either way for me… But I found that I liked it even more than I thought I would and I’m happy to have been able to participate in this tour. So thanks to TLC Book Tours for getting this copy into my hands!
The book follows the story of Vivien Lockhart, a once famous film star who now lives as a recluse in the Castillo Barbarossa, and Lucy Whitaker, a young woman running from an unfortunate affair who begins working as a housekeeper in the Barbarossa. In alternating chapters, we see Vivien’s story and Lucy’s. It is clear that there are secrets hidden inside the Barbarossa, secrets of a terrible event that took place that no one seems to know anything about except Vivien. Lucy digs into this mysterious past even as her own past starts to catch up with her.
As I said, I was hesitant at first, because I thought this book might be a little too… dramatic. The synopsis on the back is a little over-the-top. But I actually found myself really caught up in the story from the very beginning. Especially the story of Vivien and Gio and Isabella… I had no idea what was going to happen and it had me turning pages to find out the end of their story. Although I was a little less attached to Lucy and her story, I definitely found myself rooting for her in the end. I will admit that I think a little bit more could have been done with her character… but I will get to that a little bit later.
I thought the setting of the Barbarossa was intriguing and well done, and although the book wasn’t nearly as spooky as I was expecting, the setting certainly set the tone for a gothic, mysterious type story.
All that being said, I struggled a little bit with the actual writing of this book. Some passages had rich prose and flowing dialogue… others felt forced and strained and just didn’t work for me. I felt like there was an awful lot of “telling” and not “showing,” as almost always writing instructors seem to warn against. In this way, the writing felt a little amateur at times. It also felt a little too long. At just over 400 pages, I thought the end dragged a bit. I think a lot of it comes down to all of the explanations and internal monologues that could have been “shown” to us differently and in fewer words.
Lastly, I felt like I wanted more from Lucy’s character. The story of her affair was fascinating, and I completely understood her urge to flee and start over. But as we made it farther into the book, her motives were a little less clear for me. I can’t really say I understand why she felt so wrapped up in the mystery of Vivien and why she was so compelled to continue to help her. I would have liked there to be more of her character that explained her actions. I also felt like the book hinted at some bigger connection between Vivien and Lucy that was never fully explained or realized. At the end of the book, although I liked the ending, I was a little bit bothered by that loose end.
Ultimately I’ve decided on 3.5 stars for this book, although I want to make sure everyone knows that I really did enjoy this story very much! It reminded me in some ways of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (see my review of that wonderful book here!) I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it and if you’re looking for something with mystery and intrigue, a little bit of romance, and family drama, give this one a read!