Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas

Title: The Room Beyond
Author: Stephanie Elmas
Publisher: Banstead House Publishing
Publication Date: September 29th, 2013
Genre: Horror, Romance, Thriller
Rating: Four out of Five Stars

Summary: When Serena begins a new life working for the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue she falls in love, not just with its eccentric and alluring inhabitants and their world, but with the house itself. Number 36 is a beautiful Victorian London mansion that has remained in the family for generations. Serena feels that by being here she has escaped the ghosts of her own sad childhood and found a true home, but she soon discovers that behind its gleaming surfaces Marguerite Avenue is plagued by secrets and mystery. Why does such a beautiful tranquil street seem sometimes to shimmer with menace? Is everyone in the family quite who they appear to be? And just what is it that the family is trying to hide from her?

Review: This is a book that is fully capable of sucking you in from the moment you read the first page and start to learn about the characters. We start off with Serena, a young artist who takes on a job as a nanny to support herself, and learn about the eccentric family that she's working with - and the enigmatic Sebastian, who draws her attention from the start.

Then the story leaps back in time, to the 1800's - to Miranda, the young, meek and unassuming new bride of Tristan  and Lucinda, two women who revolve around one man, Tristan Whitehouse. We also meet Lucinda - the beautiful, captivating neighbour who Miranda is sure she has to keep away from her husband.

If it sounds like the start of a typical romance, don't be fooled - there is much, much more to this book, and it's truly fascinating and dark, touching on a hint of horror and supernatural throughout the course of the book. The tone builds up steadily throughout the reading, as the reader starts to learn about the stain that taints both worlds - a touch of madness, all circling around a house that seemingly doesn't exist.

The writing throughout is incredibly descriptive, truly a delight to read - how can you not be delighted, with phrases like this?

"Outside thunder clouds had moved in, tinged blue and black like bruises punched into the sky." 

This sort of description is sprinkled liberally throughout, but not so much that I found it purple-prosey, or too much - it just adds to the feeling of the book, lush and dark.

Miranda's character turns out to be one of the most compelling, much to my surprise - and it's all due to her growth throughout the book - she changes from simply being quiet and nervous to taking charge as her relationship with Tristan pulls her down a dark and twisted rabbit hole. What I expected of her character at the beginning of the book was a far cry from what actually happened by the end - she truly comes into her strength, doing what she has to in order to survive. 

Serena's story, on the other hand, is one of love and loss and ultimately, escape - and it leaves you wondering about the others in the book, and their fate. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but in a satisfying way, when a book disturbs you and makes you want to learn more.

Lucinda's story is by far the darkest of the three - I won't say much, here, other than to say that there were a couple of scenes that I reread, just to make sure that I wasn't misinterpreting, and that what was happening to her was exactly how I read it.

Altogether, this is a dark and haunting thriller that I really enjoyed.

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