1950s Mexico, and young, spirited Noemi Taboada is living the very best of lives. The parties, the men, the studies. Supported by her family’s fortune, she has the opportunity to be as carefree as it is possible for a woman in 1950 to be. Then one evening she is called home early from a party by her father; her cousin, Catalina, has written a letter that is clearly distressed. While both father and daughter acknowledge Catalina has always had rather a dramatic streak, the words stick out at them both;
He is trying to poison me.
You must come for me, Noemi.
You have to save me.
Sent from the city to the desolate countryside mansion of High Place, Noemi is sure the matter will be easily resolved. Day by day, however, things become more desperate – both for Catalina, and for Noemi.
The first thing I feel I need to say about this is it’s rather a slow burn. It took some time before I felt that I was engrossed in the story, and certainly some time before I cared about Catalina or Francis, although I loved Noemi’s no-nonsense attitude from the word go. Strong female leads are something I really love – I even wrote a blog piece on them a few weeks ago – and Noemi certainly fills that criteria. She doesn’t back down or scare off easily, and is exactly what Catalina needs in a rescuer.
The writing style felt abrupt at times but once adapted to was easy to be pulled along with. Gothic literature is something I’ve read a fair amount of, but this is by far one of my favourite – both classical, and modern. The backdrop is perfectly spooky, the characters both enchanting and repulsive depending on who you look at, and the story so beautifully constructed that you don’t realise your heart is beating faster until it’s pounding in your chest.
Offset against the racism of old English eugenic-thinking, Noemi stands up as a heroine for all the possible reasons. Determined to support and then rescue her cousin, determined not to breakdown under the pressures thrown at her, determined to break every standard she is expected to uphold, she may shatter but never breaks. I honestly couldn’t love the character more. Once I had warmed to Francis, I wanted to just give him a hug; he had so much accepted his fate that it was beyond him to question doing anything else. So beaten down by everything that had been thrown at him that there was nothing he felt he could do. Similarly, Catalina, it becomes obvious, has far more to her than first appears, and when her character becomes that bit more three dimensional with the story progressing, I was anxious for her to the extreme.
No spoilers from me, as always, but I will say that this book ties up perfectly, with every end explained and completed, which is always such a satisfying way to end a book, knowing that you haven’t been left wanting more – for all the right reasons.
Highest of recommendations from me. If you love:
- Slow build up books
- Slow burn romance
- Strong friendships
- Gothic backdrop
- Women who break the molds
you will love this book. Hell, even if you love none of that, you will probably love this book; it’s attracted large amounts of attention for all the right reasons. Perfect.