If I had to sum this book up in one word it, it would be ‘charming.’ If I could use two words, it would be ‘utterly charming.’ I loved the blend of genres in this! In my opinion, this book is first and foremost a romance, secondly historical fiction, and thirdly, a gothic thriller.
In 1875, Alva Webster - a young and wealthy widow with a sullied reputation - moves from Europe back to New York to restore a dilapidated mansion and make a fresh start. The mansion, it turns out, is haunted, which draws the attention of a young inventor and sometimes-paranormal-researcher named Sam Moore, who is part of an eccentric and partially wild family of nationally celebrated scientists. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets surrounding Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history - and her heart.
Biller is at her best when creating witty dialogue and whimsical situations. Her characterizations and interactions amongst Sam’s family are such fun! I could easily read a whole book focused entirely on the peculiar yet lovable Moore family and their scientific exploits. I also loved the dialogue and cat-and-mouse play between Alva and Sam as they get to know each other.
While the psychological underpinnings of Alva seemed incredibly real and interesting, I was left wishing that the dramatic moments and scenes rose to the same level of craft as the lighter and more humorous scenes. I mean that as a testament to Biller’s skill at creating bold, idiosyncratic characters and writing witty banter.
I definitely enjoyed this read! If you are into romance or light historical fiction, I’d recommend it. If you don’t go into it expecting a full-on gothic feel, you won’t be disappointed. And you will probably find yourself smiling and laughing. It’s impossible to read this without being charmed into a good mood.
Thank you St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the ARC!