The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas
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When Serena begins a new life working for the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue she falls in love, not just with its eccentric and alluring inhabitants and their world, but with the house itself. Number 36 is a beautiful Victorian London mansion that has remained in the family for generations. Serena feels that by being here she has escaped the ghosts of her own sad childhood and found a true home, but she soon discovers that behind its gleaming surfaces Marguerite Avenue is plagued by secrets and mystery. Why does such a beautiful tranquil street seem sometimes to shimmer with menace? Is everyone in the family quite who they appear to be? And just what is it that the family is trying to hide from her?
It is 1892. On a hot summer night scented with jasmine, Miranda Whitestone hosts a dinner party at 34 Marguerite Avenue. Watching helplessly as her husband is seduced by her glamorous neighbour Lucinda Eden, she can have no idea of the consequences the evening will have.
For the history of Marguerite Avenue is more chilling than Serena could have imagined, and the fates of two women – the beautiful renegade Lucinda and the ‘good wife’ Miranda – will reach out from the past to cast a shadow over Serena’s own future.
The Room Beyond is a thriller that delves beneath the romance and grandeur of a London house and finds a family haunted by the legacy of past wrongdoings. As the suspense grows and the fog thickens, will Serena be able to give up all that she has come to love? Will she ever escape?
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is now at the top of my favourite books of the year list. After reading this book, I wanted to accost the first person I saw walking down the street and force them to listen to me whilst I told them all about it (without spoilers, of course.)
It is very hard to write this review without giving away major plot points, as nothing that you see in the first few chapters is what you expect it to be later and the author is a beautiful literary illusionist.
I am now going to do my best to make sense without making too much sense, if that makes any sense.
Reasons I believe you should read this book:
The editing is immaculate. Seriously, there was not so much as a comma in the wrong place, which made for a really smooth and easily flowing reading experience.
The main character was someone that I not only felt I could relate to, but genuinely developed feelings for over the course of the story–although, I have to say, in the end–was still not my favourite character, I will get to that in a moment. Through this author’s writing, you can literally feel the emotions of the characters. You laugh with them, cry with them and hope for them that things will turn out well. On the other hand, Stephanie Elmas has also created villains that are so vile, and so evil that you want to jump into the book and battle them yourself. This does not happen to me very often, where I feel so much dislike for a book character that I actually find my emotions affected by it.
I loved Beth’s character for her precocious nature and her ability to control portions of the story through the actions of the others who surrounded her. I was so impressed with the people in this novel. The dialogue made them seem as if they were friends or relatives that you were in on the secrets of and had known for a long while.
On to that favourite Character. Without giving anything away, Walter was one of the most interesting characters I have ever read. He has mystical and mysterious qualities. He is not attractive physically, but compelling in every other way. I do have to say though, that Gladys was also a rival for my affection.
The plot in this book just keeps taking twists that I could not have expected. This, for me, was one of the most important reasons that I loved it so much. Guess as you may, you will never have it all figured out until the last page.
Pacing is even throughout this story and there was never a time when I had the desire to skim over it or wish it would hurry up. In fact, when I reached the end, I felt saddened that I had to part with it and confused about what I should move onto next. Sometimes it is very difficult to find anything as good as what you just finished, and it may take me a while before I can find anything to compete with this.
If there is a book that I would consider a “you must read this book” novel in the last year, this is it. I am so happy to have found the writing of this author and am very much looking forward to future releases from her.
This review is based on a digital ARC from Netgalley.
*Sorry to the author and other readers that this review is so long, I had a surprising amount to say for trying not to say much:)*
About the author: (I totally lifted this from goodreads:)
Stephanie Elmas was born in Hong Kong to an English father and Czech mother but spent most of her childhood in Bristol. She studied English at university in London. She has worked as a head hunter, taught English in Japan and returned to university to complete a Masters in Victorian fiction. It was here that she developed her interest in the dark dangerous world of Victorian sensation writing. Stephanie now lives in a chaotic house in Surrey with her husband and three highly energetic but wonderful children.