Primary Genre(s): Romance
Published: 8 October 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Page count: 352
My Format: free eARC via NetGalley
Would I recommend it: Maybe
Commission Link: Buy The Widow of Rose House
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel.
It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.
Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.
Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.
I am fully admitting upfront that the synopsis of this book made me think I would be reading a very different story than what I actually read and that admittedly skewed my opinion of the book. A misleading synopsis can really ruin a book for me. Here are my pros and cons for The Widow of Rose House:
- I loved the science aspect of the book. Sam and his family were awesome and I loved that the story emphasized Sam’s mom and sister as scientists as well.
- Alva’s backstory was interesting, but I felt like I wanted a little bit more of it. There was just enough information provided to make me understand her personality and her unwillingness to trust people. I think Alva’s backstory would make a great book of its own.
- I expected a gothic ghost story like the synopsis implied… but the ghost story was such a tiny part of the book that it was almost non-existent. I never got that chill, that sense of unease, that psychological distress that you get from a real gothic novel. There was simply no depth to the haunting at all and the little bit of explanation we get near the end of the book about who was haunting the house felt like a serious afterthought. The word gothic shouldn’t have been used to describe this book at all.
- I missed that this book was described as a Romance when I requested it from NetGalley. Romance is all it was, and in my opinion the romance was a bit unbelievable. This is 100% a knight-in-shining-armor (or in this case a scientist in rumpled clothing) swoops in and saves the damsel in distress type of novel. If you like that kind of thing, you will like this book. I don’t mind romance novels, but this one was oddly over-the-top in my opinion. It certainly contained way more bodice-ripping than I anticipated!
- I also wanted way more restoration of the house! Again, the synopsis says “A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion…” There was a lot of talking about restoration, but no restoration took place.
I have a phrase I use for a book like this – surface read. A surface read doesn’t mean it is a bad book per se, but overall there wasn’t enough depth in the story to really appeal to me personally or to make it memorable. I was hoping this would be a spooky October read… it wasn’t. That said, I wasn’t completely disappointed with this book. There were definitely interesting elements and the characterizations were decent, but I wanted way more paranormal and way less paramour.
Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Widow of Rose House. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)