Synopsis from the Publisher:

The Plot meets Please Join Us in this psychological suspense debut about a young author at an exclusive writer’s retreat that descends into a nightmare.

Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.

A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: February 21, 2023
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Quick Thoughts:

It seems like most of my Goodreads friends loved this book, but unfortunately this debut thriller wasn’t for me. I was definitely intrigued by the premise. A famous author hosts a writing retreat at her remote mansion for five up and coming women writers under 30. Whoever writes the best novel during the short time they’re together will win a major publishing deal. However, with a snowstorm barreling down on them and mind games afoot, protagonist Alex and the other contestants learn all is not as it seems.

The first half of the book was pretty dull, but after the 50% mark it was somewhat entertaining and often downright bizarre. I loved the claustrophobic snowy setting, and also not knowing who was on which side of the game.

I found most of the characters to be annoying and childish, and some of their dialogue was painfully cringy. There was a “book written within a book” element that for me was boring and unnecessary. And some of what happened was just — strange. Demon sex? Yes, it’s in there. If strong sexual content is not your thing, please skip this.

From the blurb, I really thought I’d enjoy this one, but I guess you can’t love them all. Anyway, please check out the other reviews and decide for yourself!

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review this book.

4 thoughts on “THE WRITING RETREAT by Julia Bartz

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