By Alexandra Monir
Expected publication December 9, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Imogen's life was changed forever when her parents died in a tragic fire. Now, her life is about to change even more as she learns of the deaths of her grandfather and cousin. Their deaths mean that Imogen is the new Duchess of Rockford - and she'll have to move to their English estate immediately. But something strange is happening at Rockford Manor and Imogen's life is in danger. Can she solve the mystery before it's too late?
Looking back at the Goodreads description of this book, I think I probably downloaded the galley because it's supposed to be a modern-day retelling of Rebecca - admittedly, not my favorite book, but enough to have me intrigued. Unfortunately, I think this book falls far short of reaching du Maurier's level.
Pretty much everything about this book just feels amateur - the characters are not fully fleshed out and neither is the plot or setting. The writing is very basic and the romance suffers from a case of insta-love. The magic is flat-out ridiculous and the ending is completely unbelievable. Despite this, I imagine there are readers who will enjoy this book - I just wasn't one of them. Let me try to take it piece by piece.
The characters: so bland and stereotypical. Ruggedly handsome long-lost crush. Excitable little sister. Overly concerned parents. Imposing maid. Sophisticated and beautiful cousin. And slightly naive, still-grieving teenager. I just didn't care about any of them - they could have come from any old story. Nothing made them special or unique or interesting.
The same could be said about the plot - it feels very run-of-the-mill. A series of mysterious deaths thrusts a teenager into a world she is ill-prepared for. But, she longs to solve the mysteries behind those deaths, not caring about the risky situation she may be putting herself in. Everything plays out as you would expect it to - so much so, that I suspected most things to be red herrings because it just seemed silly that this would actually be the plot.
For all the time Monir spends describing the setting, I still don't find it very interesting. It reads like any other countryside manor - which I guess is probably pretty true to life but doesn't make for a particularly interesting setting. The part that I found most interesting - the Maze and surrounding gardens - was the part that Monir spent the least time describing.
The writing itself is incredibly basic and mostly descriptions and dialogue. Nothing to write home about and definitely some of the weaker writing I've seen in recent YA novels. I don't need every book to be filled with beautiful prose (a la Stiefvater and Taylor) but generally, I'd like it to be more than just functional.
The romance: just UGH. I mean, technically, it's not insta-love: the characters grew up together. But it still feels like it. All the bits where other boys showed interest in Imogen and she couldn't understand why she wasn't interested in them, too? Just BLERGH. No thank you.
The magic here is eyeroll-inducing. When it was first mentioned, I almost thought it was a joke. The way it's described and the fact that everyone just sort of accepts it made me cringe. It's one thing for a world to exist where magic is an accepted part of the world - but the setting that Monir has described does not indicate that kind of world, making the appearance of magic here a bit jarring.
The ending stretches the limits of credibility. It just doesn't make sense, to the point of being laughable.
Just overall, the book did not work for me. That being said, there are readers out there who will likely be able to ignore the flaws I've found and enjoy the mystery. But I won't be recommending this one.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.