Book Review: The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James (ARC)

The Woman in the Mirror

Author: Rebecca James

Publication Date: 17 March 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Gothic Thriller/Horror

Pages: 368

Publisher: Minotaur Books

For more than two centuries, Winterbourne Hall has stood atop a bluff overseeing the English countryside of Cornwall and the sea beyond.

In 1947, Londoner Alice Miller accepts a post as governess at Winterbourne, looking after Captain Jonathan de Grey’s twin children. Falling under the de Greys’ spell, Alice believes the family will heal her own past sorrows. But then the twins’ adoration becomes deceitful and taunting. Their father, ever distant, turns spiteful and cruel. The manor itself seems to lash out. Alice finds her surroundings subtly altered, her air slightly chilled. Something malicious resents her presence, something clouding her senses and threatening her very sanity.

In present day New York, art gallery curator Rachel Wright has learned she is a descendant of the de Greys and heir to Winterbourne. Adopted as an infant, she never knew her birth parents or her lineage. At long last, Rachel will find answers to questions about her identity that have haunted her entire life. But what she finds in Cornwall is a devastating tragic legacy that has afflicted generations of de Greys. A legacy borne from greed and deceit, twisted by madness, and suffused with unrequited love and unequivocal rage.

I am always drawn to gothic settings that feature haunted castles especially in historic settings, so I knew that I need to read The Woman in the Mirror.

Winterbourne Hall is an imposing, gothic-style mansion that has sat atop a bluff that oversees the countryside of Cornwall for over two centuries. The Woman in the Mirror explores the lives of both Alice Miller, a governess who came to Winterbourne in 1947, and Rachel Wright, a gallery owner in present-day who both are tied to the complexities surrounding Winterbourne and the mysterious de Grey family.

Since Rachel was adopted, she has yearned to learn more about her family and heritage. After receiving the call that her Aunt passed away leaving Winterbourne to her, Rachel believes that she will finally get the answers that she so desperately desires. Alice Miller came from a family that always expected her to be nothing. When a governess position unexpectedly becomes available at Winterbourne, Alice immediately leaves her mundane position at the law firm. Alice has always been drawn to Winterbourne, and now she is determined to figure out why.

The story starts off with an incredibly chilling and mysterious atmosphere as we are introduced to the haunting setting that Winterbourne has to offer. Right away, it is clear that both the house as well as the de Grey family are full of secrets and intrigue.

The de Grey twins were downright creepy. They definitely gave my The Shining vibes with the way that they acted towards Alice and treating her as if she were a doll that needed constant grooming. Jonathan de Grey (the Master of the house) was utterly miserable, not that I blame him. His disdain for Winterbourne was evident since it claimed the life of his wife, and he feared his children would end up on the same path.

For the first 50% of the story, I was thoroughly invested in the plot as it was gripping and propulsive. Unfortunately, after that point, the plot became a bit too disjointed than seamlessly interweaving the two timelines. I continued to enjoy Rachel’s character as she learns more information about Winterborne and the de Grey family. Where I lost interest was with Alice and the events surrounding her. I don’t want to give away any details, but there were definitely some plot lines that were not fully developed, which lead to confusion how certain events took place but were never formally addressed or described.

Overall, I think that this story does a fantastic job of immersing you into a haunting, gothic style setting, but the overall story feels a bit disjointed and leaves me with unanswered questions.

Thank you to Minotaur Books for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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