Friday, October 7, 2022

The Woman in the Water by Kelly Heard


I'm always leery about reading books about authors I'm on friendly terms with, because I've found that nothing can put a wrench in those friendly terms quite as fast as a negative review. So I typically don't read a book by a friend unless I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it (because I'm not going to lie!). Luckily for me, Kelly Heard writes in what is probably my favorite subgenre of fiction: domestic suspense with gothic and romantic elements. Um, yes. Come to mama.

I was initially a little lukewarm on the first book of hers I read, THE SILENT GIRL, which I thought had a ton of promise but didn't take enough advantage of its admittedly cool elements. But it had the recipe for something good and the writing was clear and immersive, so I knew I was definitely going to want to check out other books by this author because it felt like she had a ton of potential. And that potential comes to a head in THE WOMAN IN THE WATER, which was excellent.

Felicity lives in the Virgin Islands in tropical paradise which is abruptly shattered when she gets a call from a Virginian cop in her hometown: her sister is dead and she's been named guardian of her two children. As soon as she touches foot in Virginia, she's swamped by memories: the sexism and classism of her town, the swamplands and lakes where girls have drowned (they're called the "Reverie Girls"), and the creepy abandoned fairgrounds that are haunted by more than just ghosts. Felicity has bad memories of something that happened when she and her sister were teens and of a night that went horribly wrong.

So let's do a check of some of the tropes in this book that were THE BEST: second-chance teen romance revisited as angsty adults, woman going to confront the dark secrets of her hometown, sexism and patriarchy confronted in the narrative, reasonable and mature heroine with a slight spiteful streak (YAS GIRL), sisters with a close bond that broke over betrayal/tragedy, suspicious hot guys, forbidden romance, CREEPY GOTHIC ELEMENTS, a hero who wears GLASSES, dual timeline, sinister stalkers. And let's not even talk about the Reverie girl mythos and all those creepy swamps. I was all over that like orange on a pumpkin.

The only things that really kept this from being a five-star read were some very mild pacing issues (there were parts that felt slow), pseudo-supernatural elements that felt a little too cheesy, Felicity having some truly odd and unrealistic-seeming reactions to things (particularly the bad guy and what they did, but then again I get that people process trauma in different ways-- especially if the whole town is brainwashed by sexism-- so IDK), and the fact that I would have (personally) appreciated just a teensy bit more smuttiness and romance.

But honestly?? I loved this. I can't wait to see what the author writes next.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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