By Hester Fox
Published April 2023
In a single afternoon, Ivy Radcliffe is transformed from barely eking out a living in London into Lady Hayworth, the titled heir to the Blackwood Estate in Yorkshire left to her by a relative she never knew existed. Not one to look away from good fortune, Ivy accepts her inheritance and leaves everything she knows behind for her new home. But once she arrives, she finds a cold and gloomy mansion large enough to get lost in, servants who are anything but deferential, and no idea how to fit into her new society. But the manor boasts a treasure in its library, and Ivy is drawn to it even as the servants do everything in their power to keep her out of it.
There’s a good reason why the staff don’t want Ivy in the library, and as Ivy’s health declines and she becomes more and more forgetful, she begins to wonder if her good fortune isn’t actually a nightmare.
This is one of those releases I looked forward to for months and in some ways, I wasn’t disappointed. The setting is eerily Gothic with a dark manor in the bleak Yorkshire moors, a string of previous owners who all died young, an enticing ghost story, and cryptic servants who refuse to enlighten Ivy. The mystery of the library deepens in stages, with Ivy’s attempt to bring the books to the town going horribly wrong, followed by her declining health and lost memories. However, I think that’s where I had problems with the plotting.
I’ll preface my criticism by saying I wish Ivy had had more agency from the get-go, but that might be me trying to insert my personality on the heroine. She doesn’t once look into the manor’s finances despite leaving her own dire straits behind. She simply accepts what everyone tells her at face value.
The first few scenes where conversations are repeated to her that she doesn’t remember add to the spookiness, then it just got annoying since I had no idea if the servants were refusing to tell her what she needed to know, or if she didn’t remember. It’s hard for her to have agency when she has no memory of anything in the past and it was frustrating to witness. Especially since immediately after she forgets something important that stalls her, she’ll have some other recollection that propels the plot forward, which led to extremely jerky pacing. Honestly, I was almost fed up with her by the end of the book.
Still, for pure atmosphere this book is fantastic so if you’re a big Gothic fan, give it a go. Just let me know what you thought.
Final rating: 3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐+
Until next time, thank you for visiting.