The absolutely ridiculous title is what first made me pick up this humorous take on a gothic romance novel. It’s over the top but ultimately a quick and fun read.
After attempting to rescue a stranger, Haley wakes up to find herself cast as the “maiden” in one of her beloved gothic romance novels. There’s a mansion with secret passages, a laconic housekeeper, three brothers and even a ghost! It’s a dream come true, except it’s quickly obvious that something is wrong (maybe it’s the creepy green-eyed rabbits that clued her in…). With Haley’s help, can the residents of Willowweep Manor hold back the forces of evil?
If you’re a fan of gothic romance novels – like Haley – I can’t see how you wouldn’t like this book. The author leans heavily into the tropes (lackwitted younger brother, stoic older brother, etc) with an absolute glee that brought a smile to my face. It’s a little bit cheesy and a lot over-the-top, but it works. The humor was very hit or miss for me, with a lot of repeating gags that didn’t quite hit the mark, but when it worked, it really worked.
Haley was absolutely delightful. Sure, she’s initially a bit confused by waking up in a freaking castle, but she adapts quickly and with such enthusiasm that I couldn’t help rooting for her. I loved that, without being too spoilery, it’s Haley’s love of gothic novels was what saved the day.
The art tends more towards the cartoonish than the beautiful, but I especially loved the expressive faces and attention to detail. For instance, Haley’s black, and at one point the book shows her wearing a (matching) bonnet in bed! The illustrations are perfect for the story, and honestly, what’s better praise than that?
I loved how many gothic tropes were tossed into the book, from the haunted manor to the phlegmatic housekeeper to the windswept moors. But despite all that, it took a bit for me to get into the story. It took about halfway through the book before I was really interested – when the scifi element was introduced – but from there I was sold. The pacing picks up rapidly and the story’s resolution (and lesson) was perfect.
Overall, a very enjoyable read. I’ll definitely be looking for more from this author and illustrator!
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.