Theodora can feel the black spectres waiting for the inhabitants of her home, Woodrow House. With her grandmother being her only living relative, she can’t fathom leaving her behind.
But when the position of governess opens up, Theodora is driven further from safety and into the suspense-ridden halls of Broken Oak Manor.
Read if you like: gothic mystery novels, a protagonist who works as a governess, old secret-filled mansions,
Why did I not see that coming? WHY?
I am usually very perceptive when reading mystery or suspense novels because, after 10+ years of being a reader, there’s very little in the way of plot twists that catches me off-guard.
But L.V. Russell pulled it off!
The moment I read the synopsis of The Quiet Stillness of Empty Houses, I knew I HAD to pick it up. It is a gothic fiction centred around age-old mansions that perhaps “stand tall out of spite” (in her own words).
The author’s writing style is ambient and charged with sensory detail.
It reminded me of Daphne du Maurier and Diana Setterfield’s writing styles – eloquent, character-focused, and hauntingly beautiful.
Written from a third-person omniscient point of view, the story opens with an introduction to the protagonist in the context of her immediate surroundings.
Contrary to the time she lives in, Theodora is a bold woman, as quick to lash out at others as she is to proffer a smile. She lives with a heart full of grief and unresolved feelings.
I didn’t particularly care for the romance between Theodora and Cassias. It was probably necessary, but I would’ve enjoyed the book without it too!
In my experience, characters written as governesses are usually made to be timid, subservient, and rarely argumentative. So, I really enjoyed reading about someone like Theodora, who treats her ward and the lord of the house in the same straightforward manner, not paying any attention to propriety or social hierarchy.
There is an instance of assault that is implied indirectly, so you don’t have to worry about reading the details.
“I have an affinity for things that refuse to know their place.”
This novel has a slow-medium pace. The writing does wander a bit in the middle, and not a lot happens in the way of action.
I was unsure if I liked that about the book – the lack of several conflicts and plot points. But the last few chapters (and the setting and the author’s writing style!) made the whole reading experience worth it.
I don’t think I’ll forget the ending of this book. Especially considering how confident I was about the revelation, and it turned out to be something else altogether!
Looking for an atmospheric gothic novel that is brimming with suspense? Pick up The Quiet Stillness of Empty Houses. I highly recommend it!
Note – I received an ebook copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.