1806: Astrid Poole sits in her bridal clothes, overwhelmed with happiness. But before her marriage can be consummated, she is murdered, and the circle of gold torn from her finger. Her last words are a promise to Collin never to leave him…
Graphic designer Sonya MacTavish is stunned to learn that her late father had a twin he never knew about and that her newly discovered uncle, Collin Poole, has left her almost everything he owned, including a majestic Victorian house on the Maine coast, which the will stipulates she must live in it for at least three years. Her engagement recently broken, she sets off to find out why the boys were separated at birth and why it was all kept secret until a genealogy website brought it to light.
Trey, the young lawyer who greets her at the sprawling clifftop manor, notes Sonya’s unease?and acknowledges that yes, the place is haunted…but just a little. Sure enough, Sonya finds objects moved and music playing out of nowhere. She sees a painting by her father inexplicably hanging in her deceased uncle’s office, and a portrait of a woman named Astrid, whom the lawyer refers to as “the first lost bride.” It’s becoming clear that Sonya has inherited far more than a house. She has inherited a centuries-old curse, and a puzzle to be solved if there is any hope of breaking it…
Synopsis source: Goodreads
Woo, boy, I have a lot to say about this book! After decades of being a huge fan/reader of Nora Roberts, I stopped reading a few years ago feeling like they just weren’t the same quality. When I had the opportunity to request an ARC of this book, I thought how all of the times in recent history that I’d been let down with her writing were in standalone books, not any of her series, which I’d always very much enjoyed. Reading the synopsis for this, it sounded spooky and magical and fun, and I was interested enough to give this a go.
In my experience with NR’s trilogies, they usually follow the same formula. There are three “couples” and each gets their own book in the series with an overarching story that connects them all. No single book in those previous trilogies ends with a huge cliffhanger. There’s always some resolution for the couple while leaving the overarching plot open for the subsequent books. From the synopsis, it’s obvious that she’s breaking from that formula, or at least it appears so at this point. This fact also intrigued me and garnered my interest in the book.
My biggest problems with NR books lately and why I stopped reading them before Inheritance was that the writing wasn’t consistent and didn’t feel up to the same quality I’d gotten used to seeing from NR. The ideas and plotlines were always great, but often the writing or the resolution felt lazy or unsatisfying. In Inheritance, I had a few problems with pacing and dialogue but again, the plotline is fantastic. Let me break that down.
First, the pacing was a bit odd. Often, when pacing is rushed, it occurs at the end of the book, speeding ahead toward a resolution at a pace inconsistent with the rest of the book. However, Inheritance is the first time I’ve experience the beginning of a story to be rushed. It felt like we were racing through Sonya’s back story and I had a hard time making an invested emotional connection with Sonya. Different scenes blended together in a single page, sometimes even a single paragraph and sometimes across large passages of time, which lent to the rushed feeling and gave me whiplash.
But honestly, my biggest problem was with the dialogue. It was all very strange. Sometimes it was hard to discern who was speaking. I think the scene where Sonya is getting ready to leave her townhouse and is saying goodbye to Cleo is a perfect example of this. Line breaks in dialogue usually trigger the reader to know when the character that is speaking has changed, but very frequently through the book there are line breaks with the same character speaking. I had to re-read passages very frequently throughout the book.
Also, I admit that I don’t always read lengthy descriptions in the middle of scenes with heavy dialogue, but I think you do need some description. The scene referred to above starts with just Sonya and Cleo talking but then a neighbor joins the scene, which we’re made aware of by Cleo addressing her randomly. One minute, Donna is there delivering cookies, the next, Cleo is waiving and there’s no mention of Donna leaving. Where did she go? Was she standing next to Cleo or did she walk home again? It didn’t feel very fleshed out. This is just one example but it happens a lot.
Lastly, the dialogue felt…choppy? Disjointed? I don’t know the right word, but it was as if NR was using a shorthand between characters, even characters who didn’t know each other well. This, too, led to the feeling that things were rushed.
For as rushed as the beginning and some of the dialogue felt, the rest of the book was not. The romance, the stage setting, the mystery…all slow burn. There was definitely more time spent developing the setting and the plot than the characters. And if you’re in it for the romance, it’s a very small part of the story. The spicy scenes weren’t as spicy as other NR books from the past and barely merit reference at all.
That said, I really enjoyed the setting of the haunted house and the mystery of the Lost Bride Curse. There were a couple of scenes that I just really loved, like when Sonya was going through her dad’s dream sketches with her mom and Cleo, or the scene when Sonya sees the manor for the first time and gets the tour. I loved the ghostly DJ, the mystical mirror, and the ball-throwing ghost who played with Yoda, the dog. I loved how each of the ghosts had their own character development and personalities that we got to experience. It made the house feel like another character of the book.
I mentioned how in her previous trilogies, NR always pairs couples off, and I can see that happening here again, though so far only 2 couples and not 3 like her usual formula. I hope we get a little more character development in the next book because I do felt like that was rushed and not very thorough in this book. I also hope we get to meet Cleo’s grandmother because she sounds fun.
Be aware, though, if you are used to her normal formula where each subsequent book in her previous trilogies would always continue the story but didn’t end in a dramatic cliffhanger. Inheritance ends with a big, fat, juicy cliffhanger. All my problems with the dialogue and pacing aside, I am eager to know what happens next!
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Until next time,
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