Monday, May 25, 2020

The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

I'll admit it was a bit odd finishing this book on a warm, sunny May day, because it's all about the Cornish coast, chill winds, a cold mansion, and a curse. 

I've been reading this book for weeks, and not because I didn't like it--actually, I really enjoyed all the elements of this novel. Gothic to the core-a windswept coast, a family curse, a witch, a handsome tormented owner, and love gone awry. The story bounces back and forth between 1947 and the present day; the link that binds the two timelines is slowly revealed and makes for a fascinating tale. 

1947: Alice is hired to be a nanny to twins Constance and Edmund at the Winterbourne estate on the coast of Cornwall. Their father, Jonathan de Grey is a wounded vet from World War 2, and his wife Laura died a few years before, after he returned from the war. Alice sees this as a chance to escape her miserable life in London, as well as her troubled past and awful secret. 

Alice immediately is drawn to Captain de Grey, and the children love her. But the  kids are a little weird, I'll admit. They seem innocent and loving, but tend to also be cruel and play malicious games on Alice. She's so desperate for a loving home she soon falls for the idea that she will be the children's mother, and Captain de Grey loves her, too. Alice is a bit unstable, to be sure. But there's dark, terrible things swirling around Winterbourne that are helping her along the road to madness. 

Present day: Rachel Wright lives in New York, and has just opened a successful art gallery. She's single, alone, and has no family. She receives a letter from a solicitor in England, telling her she is the sole heir to the Winterbourne estate. Knowing nothing about her birth parents, she's been driven her whole life by the feeling of being unloved and unwanted. This is her chance to find out who her parents were, and why she was put up for adoption. Winterbourne is the key to her mysterious past. Off she goes to Cornwall, to stay at Winterbourne, find out who her parents were, and prepare the estate for sale. 

Alice and Rachel are two women who have some similarities, but definitely Rachel is more of a solid, no nonsense person. Alice was hard to connect with because she definitely has some problems, and it wasn't much to tip her over the edge. I had a hard time feeling bad for her because she was so ready to believe her fantasy life. She was helped along by the evil that permeated the estate. That evil destroyed every woman who hoped to find happiness at Winterbourne. 

Rachel slowly digs away at the secrets of Winterbourne. She's also had a few weird experiences there, and while she is a bit freaked out by it all, she's also determined to stay and figure out her home-it's the only thing she can call her own, and the only link to her past. Will she be able to uncover the dark past and lift the curse from the de Grey family? Or will she succumb to the madness and death that has followed all the women who dared make their home at Winterbourne? 

This was definitely a thriller, and a bit creepy, too. I was a bit put off by Rachel at first, but she eventually defrosted and became more likable-and she was smart enough to dig and investigate. Alice, however, I had a hard time connecting with-mostly because she just wasn't a good person. Molded by an unhappy childhood and a cruel father, she was desperate to be loved and that was her undoing. She was also a bit unstable from the get-go. Oh, the house loved to torment her. 

This was a great read--so many people trapped by the past, and bound to suffer for it. A family curse that did, indeed, live on for generations. Will Rachel break the curse?

Rating: 5/6 for an atmospheric, dark, and creepy tale of love spurned, a family curse, and looking for identity. The last 50 pages or so really kicked in, and answered a lot of questions. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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