It's customary for Gothic romance novels to include a mysterious girl locked in the attic. Hannah Smith just wishes she wasn't that girl. As a narcoleptic and the companion to an earl's daughter with a strange affliction of her own, Hannah knows she's lucky to have a roof over her head and food in her belly when so many orphans starve on the streets. Yet freedom is something Hannah longs for. She did not, however, want her freedom to arrive in the form of kidnapping.
Taken by handsome Jack Langley to a place known as Freak House, she finds herself under the same roof as a mad scientist, his niece, a mute servant and Jack, a fire starter with a mysterious past. They assure Hannah she is not a prisoner and that they want to help her. The problem is, they think she's the earl's daughter. What will they do when they discover they took the wrong girl?
When I saw the cover of this book, I gave my imaginary friend a high-five. An ominous looking house with a stylishly Gothic girl standing in front? Yes, please!
Hannah Smith, a fiery, auburn haired 18-year-old, has been living in an attic as the companion of Lady Violet Wade for the past 15 years of her life. Hannah and Lady Violet both have ”conditions” that have kept them tucked away as outcasts and shunned by Violet’s family and society. As an orphan of servants, Hannah has had no choice but to accept her position and endure the recluse life imposed upon her. Their only freedoms come from daily walks on the grounds of the manor which they reside.
Our male lead, Jack Langley, first appears as the mysterious gardener of Wade Manor, and Hannah experiences her first taste of subtle attraction and curiosity while observing him under lowered lashes. Jack has that dash of Damon Salvatore that I adored in C.J. Archer’s male MC from the Emily Chamber novels. This green-eyed, brunet bachelor feels a foreshadowing pull to Hannah, but relishes it from afar. From the beginning of this novel, I had the feeling that this dashing gardener was planning more than the landscaping of Wade Manor, and I couldn’t wait until his schemes were revealed.
C.J. Archer takes us through a tale of Victorian scandal and self-discovery as Hannah is ripped from the life she has grown attached too and is thrown into a palatine house with residents as different as herself. We see some sparks between Jack and Hannah in this book, but the ending foretells future fireworks. The X-men like bones of this story show promise and passion for the novels to come. The story’s pacing is in the vein of Victoria Holt or Jane Austen. I LOVED this novel and recommend it to those who enjoy Historical Mystery or books like Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.