Sometimes we find our true purpose in the most unexpected places.
Becoming governess to a difficult child in a robber baron’s eerie mansion on the Georgia coast is not the life Sarah Anne had envisioned. The cultural clashes between her rural southern upbringing and that of the wealthy northern family send her reeling, but she is determined to be a success. She needs this job for all other doors have closed. Complicating her position are two young men of the family who vie for her attention, engendering emotions that she fights but cannot quell.
With patience and kindness, Sarah Anne breaks through the emotional wall with which her student has surrounded herself. But as her understanding of the family dynamic grows, Sarah Anne comes to realize there may be very good reasons for the child’s troubling behavior. Something is not right within Ripon House. Is the child mentally unbalanced as the father claims, or is the family dead set on protecting a sinister secret no matter the cost?
Published: August 5, 2020
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Gothic & Historical Fiction
Trigger Warnings: abuse, slavery, murder
As I have very little experience with novels in the Gothic genre, I went into this reading experience not knowing what to expect, from either the story nor this new-to-me author. However, as it is broadly historical fiction, the synopsis and subject matter are what drew me to this particular tale.
The story is quite the long one (not as long as, say, The Lord of the Rings), but it does take on many social issues that would have happened during America’s days of slavery. Especially in the deep south. From the heroine’s viewpoint we see these social situations challenged, and – thankfully – this story is NOT centered around just one people group.
Instead, we’re dealing with a killer who isn’t picky about his prey, be the victim friend, foe…or family member. Even though I was able to guess very early on who the culprit was, I was satisfied by the story’s resolution. It does leave room at the end for a potential continuation for two of the characters. Potential without it being a cliffhanger at all.
While the pacing is a bit slow at times, I found that I didn’t mind it at all. This story is very well written with hardly any errors. The only thing that may be a little jarring at first [spoiler] is the switch in point of view between the MC, Sarah Anne, and the thoughts of the killer. It did take me a couple of chapters to get on board with this style, but I can see why Ms. Pennell went with it. You can reveal minute details more through a first-person narrative more than you can second or third.
Though I don’t read a lot of stories set in this time frame (as mentioned earlier), I did thoroughly enjoy this one. Many authors who write about American slavery want to include the barbarism and rough living of the era. While both are certainly true, Ms. Pennell did so in a way that was subtle, in keeping the feel of a household at the forefront of the story. The tension was there, but so was the humanity of the characters represented. For all these reasons, I give this story 5/5 stars.
If you are looking for a well-rounded read for the weekend, then I highly recommend All That Glitters by Linda Bennett Powell.