Published by: C J Archer
Release date: 25th May 2013
Series: Freak House #1
I got it from: NetGalley
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?
Ah, there's something particularly comforting and indulgent about a good Gothic fantasy. Set in an 1888, a time when ladies wore bustles and corsets, a girl wasn't allowed to be alone with a boy for fear of losing her reputation, and horse-drawn carriages were the preferred mode of transportation, The Wrong Girl is a wonderfully enjoyable bit of escapism.
If I'm to avoid spoilers here I'll have to be very careful, so I apologise now for any vagueness - I'm sure you'll agree it's better to be a bit mysterious than to let something important slip!
Hannah has spent the 18 years of her life so far locked in an attic. This is because she is the companion to Lady Violet, the daughter of earl who is banished to the attic for reasons I won't divulge. It's not that bad a life really. They have good tutors, decent food, clothes on their backs, and even get to go for walks outside. Hannah knows that as the orphan of servants she could be much, much worse off.
Violet and Hannah are best friends, sisters in soul if not in blood. Hannah does her best to protect, amuse and care for Violet, who is a delicate girl despite her strange affliction. But where Violet is shy and scared to venture out, Hannah is brave and dreams of freedom from her restrictive life. She watches the handsome gardener, reveling in the strange feeling she gets inside when she sees him. He seems to seek her out when she and Violet go for walks, never approaching them but always hovering nearby, watching. The last thing Hannah expects however is for him to kidnap her.
The Wrong Girl is a fun bit of historical paranormal fantasy. With its romantic setting and interesting supernatural twist, it's hard to find anything not to like. My only gripe, and it is a very small one, is that Hannah is extremely forward and outspoken for a girl of the time, especially one who has had such a very sheltered upbringing. I also wasn't sure about the existence of microbiologists working on cures for diseases at that time, but I decided that in my ignorance I could easily accept that the author has done at least a little research and has not merely plucked a professor out of the sky.
The way Hannah deals with her situation felt real and true. She wants to protect Violet so she doesn't let on at first that they've got the wrong girl. Then she finds herself becoming fascinated by her captors. For a while she's torn between refusing to co-operate and giving in. Is this a chance for the freedom she desires, or has she merely swapped one prison cell for another? And what will become of Violet without her there to look after her? If she admits who she really is, will she be punished and will Violet be abducted in her place? There are a lot of questions opened up as the book goes on, and lots of twists that will keep you glued and turning the pages at a rate of knots.
I've been reading a lot of contemporary NA recently, so this side-trip into the nineteenth century was a welcome break, and the paranormal aspect was just what I needed. The hint of romance was just right, and the interesting characters kept me gripped throughout. The element of mystery made for an entertaining and enthralling read, and I'll definitely be looking out for the next book in the series.