*COURTESY OF NETGALLEY*
In nineteenth century London, fifteen year old Maud Greenwood finds herself homeless, after her father died unexpectedly two years ago. Her brief role as a governess has left her with nothing but sleepless nights and nightmares. Having found no other means to make ends meet, and despairing in further bad dreams, the letter that arrives from a cousin she never knew she had, gives her hope for a better life in Rending.
John Shawcross is an artist whose paintings rarely leave the art gallery. His restoration of The Doom, commissioned by Juliana Greenwood, is what’s going into his pockets. His paths cross with the mysterious Maud in Rending, and he too hopes for a better future.
But the devil in the corner was just biding his time.
Interesting premise, isn’t it? (If you thought otherwise, it’s most probably courtesy of my abhorring backside blurb writing skills – check out the Goodreads blurb and you’ll agree). But that’s all this book was.
The story began well enough. I initially thought the narration was bland, but it became verbose and HELLO it’s the nineteenth century lingo which I’m a sucker for (Jane Austen, anyone?), so I became slightly happier. Maud is not a saint-like heroine, she’s real – I was happy.
So when exactly did I start getting annoyed?
The chapters switch between the POVs of Maud and John, and there perhaps was where I started getting irritated with this book. When we hear Maud, we picture this girl that we sympathize with, understand, also admire for her resolution to plough on. When we hear John, we think of Maud as this jealous, whining, controlling, aspiring – but – cautious girlfriend – whom John nevertheless describes as “fairy creature who has laid an enchantment” (I know, right?) – and we think, “Hang on, are we talking about the same Maud?”, and also, “Why John, why?”
I could forgive the romance being silly here because I was playing the “it’s the nineteenth century, you can expect this” excuse (which is, in retrospect, an insult to classics). But then the book starts to get infuriating. He is too selfless, she is too selfish, both are pining away for each other due to circumstances, but she has to court someone else, the plot is meandering through roads not needed…
Meanwhile, the devil in the corner had yet to make a significant appearance.
I hate to ditch a book, so I faithfully reached the end - which is the redeemable part of this book. The genre switches from romance to sh-I’m-not-telling, so yes, this becomes the saving grace.
VERDICT: 2.5 stars