THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James {Review}


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears…

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced…


THE BROKEN GIRLS was an amazing book, combining many elements I love: mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, dual time periods, and crime drama. I loved it – yes, it was dark and unsettling, but I was glued to the pages.

The story alternates between the early 1950s and 2014 in a tiny Vermont town. In the past, four teenage girls attend a local boarding school for troubled girls called Idlewild Hall when one goes missing; in the present, a journalist named Fiona investigates the death of her sister whose body was found on Idlewild’s abandoned property two decades earlier. Fiona agrees to write an article on the restoration of Idlewild when it’s purchased by a mysterious buyer. During renovations, a shocking discovery pulls Fiona into the unsolved case of the missing girl. Will it also lead her to answers about her own sister’s death?

This was an atmospheric and creepy read, with some definite chilling moments. Like many Gothic novels, the house, Idlewild, was a haunted, complex character itself, and the tale of its resident ghost was heartbreaking. The mystery was complicated, and I enjoyed how the well-researched historical elements were woven into it. I love Simone St. James’ storytelling, and I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes a spooky story full of emotion and depth.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

LOST AMONG THE LIVING by Simone St. James

LostAmongTheLiving
Publisher: NAL
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


England, 1921. Three years after her husband, Alex, disappeared, shot down over Germany, Jo Manders still mourns his loss. Working as a paid companion to Alex’s wealthy, condescending aunt, Dottie Forsyth, Jo travels to the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside. But there is much she never knew about her husband’s origins…and the revelation of a mysterious death in the Forsyths’ past is just the beginning…

All is not well at Wych Elm House. Dottie’s husband is distant, and her son was grievously injured in the war. Footsteps follow Jo down empty halls, and items in her bedroom are eerily rearranged. The locals say the family is cursed, and that a ghost in the woods has never rested. And when Jo discovers her husband’s darkest secrets, she wonders if she ever really knew him. Isolated in a place of deception and grief, she must find the truth or lose herself forever.

And then a familiar stranger arrives at Wych Elm House…


LOST AMONG THE LIVING is a wonderfully spooky Gothic novel set in the aftermath of World War I.  It’s just the right blend of ghost story, mystery, suspense, romance, and historical fiction — all of my favorite elements. The heroine Jo is an unfortunate character, having lost her husband Alex in the war. With no other means of support, Jo takes a job as assistant to Alex’s snooty Aunt Dottie, which eventually brings her to their remote family home called Wych Elm House. Immediately, she knows something isn’t right. The house holds some very dark secrets about a mysterious death, and Jo soon becomes the target of a restless spirit. I enjoyed the eerie atmosphere of this book, and the mystery kept me guessing until the end. Perfect for fans of vintage Gothic romance!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE by Simone St. James

HauntingMaddyClare
Publisher: NAL Trade
Released: March 6, 2012
Source: Purchased paperback
Rating: ★★★¼


Sarah Piper’s lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah’s task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a deperate struggle. For Maddy’s ghost is real, she’s angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair’s assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, whereshe came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?


I love reading about the time period between the World Wars, which is when THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE is set. The book started out strong as a spooky ghost story/mystery. The main character, Sarah, gets a temp job working for Alistair Gellis, a ghost hunter. They travel to a remote village in the English countryside, where Sarah ends up at the mercy of a very trouble ghost named Maddy. She, Alistair, and his assistant Matthew must uncover Maddy’s tragic past and find out why she’s still stuck in this world.

The mystery surrounding Maddy was intriguing and rather sad, but not too hard to figure out. The mystery could have been stronger, but that story line derailed somewhat with the strained romance (if I could call it that) between Sarah and Matthew. Matthew’s character just wasn’t as developed as Sarah’s, and I didn’t feel the chemistry between them.

Overall, I thought THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE was a good, not great, start to the series, with some very creepy moments. The 1920s time period fit well with this Gothic ghost story.