Author: Sara Collins
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Summary: This story had a protagonist I loved getting to know, but the second half of the book lagged.
“All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite…But Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, even if remembering could save her life. She doesn’t know how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood. But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home…” (source)
A lot of reviews praised the unique voice of the protagonist of this novel and that was my favorite part of this story too. The first line felt straight out of Dickens and both the dialogue and Frannie’s narration felt believably Victorian. Even the metaphors she used clearly belonged in her time period. I enjoyed the conceit that Frannie was writing her lawyer a letter, since that enabled her to address us directly. I admired her insistence on telling her own story, resisting not only people who believed her only fit to be a slave, but also those who simply wanted to use her misery to represent the stories of all enslaved black people. She wanted her story to instead reflect her individuality. The author certainly managed that! I came away with a forceful impression of this character’s personality.
Despite loving the protagonist and the setting, something about this book didn’t quite grab me. The story is told from Frannie’s perspective, looking back on her life after she’s been put on trial for murdering the Benhams. The first half of her story was hard to put down. I was excited to learn her life story and couldn’t wait to find out how it led to her current predicament. By the second half, most of the ‘big reveals’ of past events had been foreshadowed enough that they weren’t surprising. The events happening in the present also felt predictable. There just wasn’t any momentum to the story any more. It also turns out that I don’t love a Gothic romance novel. None of this story was unbelievable to me, but it still felt melodramatic.
I’d recommend this book to readers who like a good period piece and a protagonist with a forceful presence. Frannie really did jump off the page! The plot wasn’t my favorite, but if you like the traditional elements of a Gothic romance, I think you may enjoy this even more than I did.