Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Abigail Jones by Grace Callaway

 WOW. This is everything I want out of a dark gothic romance: strong heroine, tortured hero, vibes for days, moral ambiguity, just the tiniest bit of dub-con and a little bit of kink, and a little bit of the paranormal. I'm honestly shocked Grace Callaway wrote this, to be honest, because her newer stuff seems like it's for the fluffies, but this was DARK. Also, it's a Jane Eyre retelling?

I loved it.

Abigail Jones works as a maid in the Earl of Huxton's house. She's bookish and quiet and keeps to herself, but beneath the prudish exterior lies a dark secret: her mother was a prostitute who died in an asylum having fucked-up visions, and Abigail fears she'll end up exactly the same. She has nightmares constantly, and sometimes, during the day, she sees things that terrify her... and excite her.

After an encounter with the Earl in the library (ahem), he promotes her to the role of secretary, entrusting her as his confidant. But the closer she gets to him, the less she really knows. What's the deal with the painting of the creepy but beautiful woman in his library? What about the mysterious death of his late wife and his older brother? Where does he go all day and why does he sleep with so many women? The questions keep piling up, and the more there are, the less sure Abby is that she wants to know the answer. This doesn't even really scrape at the surface of what the book is REALLY about but I don't want to spoil things.

No, seriously. That WTF pivot in the middle is priceless.

I just loved this book so much, okay? It showed up on a list of JANE EYRE retellings and since this was one of the few that seemed to be taking the tried and true gothic route, I was immediately intrigued. The way that the author wove the foundational bits into her story while still making it absolutely her own was ingenious. This is one of those books where after I finished it, I walked away thinking, "I wish I'd thought of that." Even when things got kind of weird, I was still into it... because it was my brand of weird. The atmosphere was just as good as the romance, and the writing was simply luscious.

I'm surprised this book has such low ratings but I think part of the problem is how it was probably marketed. The contemporary historical romance crowd tends to prefer lighter fare, so if this was marketed with them in mind as an audience, I think many of them would be disgusted or put off. In terms of theme, I feel like this would actually be a better match for most dark romance readers: the gore, depravity, and morally gray antihero just fit in really neatly with what they tend to want.

Anyone who enjoys historical romances on the darker side will love this book.

5 out of 5 stars

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