This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
Usually on Net Galley, you request a book to read and review and you take your chance as to whether it will be approved. Sometimes books are listed as 'Read Now' which tends to mean the book isn't doing so well or is being undervalued, and the publisher wants it read more widely. Those books are great because I've found many gems among them. There is another option though, which is the 'wish for it' category.
This has also been kind to me because I've found some gems there, too, but since the ones I've wished for have all been granted (to my best recollection), I have to wonder if this category is used because the author or publisher is lacking somewhat in confidence in the book and wants to ensure that it's requested only by those who really want to read it? I don't know. Personally I've tended to enjoy the 'wished-for' books, but I can't say that of this particular one unfortunately.
The blurb for this book makes it all about Charles Hayden, which seems rather genderist since Hayden is only one half of a married couple who travel to Yorkshire in the UK, a place I know and from whence both my parents hailed, but we see very little of Yorkshire. We are confined to an ancient manor house surrounded by a castle-like wall, and it's Erin Hayden's family connections which have led to this inheritance: to this manor isolated in an even more ancient wood. Erin isn't even mentioned in the blurb! Charles may as well have been single.
That said, the story is told from Charles's perspective, thankfully not in first person, but this novel would have been a lot easier to like had either of these two people been themselves remotely likeable. As it was, they were chronic whiners and I was turned off both of them within a few paragraphs of starting to read this.
Both were endlessly wallowing in the loss of their daughter Lissa. A mention of this once in a while would have been perfectly understandable, but as it was, it felt like it was every other paragraph and it became a tedious annoyance, drawing me out of the story as I read again and again of how obsessed they were with their 'lost' daughter. A search for the daughter's name produced 156 hits in this novel. A search for 'daughter' produced another 56. It was too much, and it felt like a failure of writing. It's certainly possible to convey deep grief in a character without rabbiting on about it to a nauseating degree, so this felt like a really bad choice to me.
The fact that we're denied any real information about what happened to Lissa didn't help at all, and actually made things worse. Did she disappear? Was she killed? Did she become fatally ill? Who knows? The author doesn't care to share this information, at least not in the portion of this that I read before becoming so frustrated I didn't want to read any more; nor do we learn anything about the affair Charles had - just that he had one.
This affair is related to us as if it were no more important than his remembering he had once stubbed his toe, so even as big of a betrayal as that was, it carries little import because of the way it's so casually tossed out, yet this woman Syrah, is mentioned a further 34 times in the book. It's another thing that Charles is unaccountably obsessed with. No wonder he gets nothing done: his mind is always elsewhere! And this obsession is a continuing betrayal of his wife.
Frankly, these two, Charles and Erin, were so annoying I wanted to shake them and slap them. Not that I would, but the truth is that they were seriously in need of inpatient psychiatric attention and it showed badly, but no one seemed to care. The fact that we're told his wife has a boatload of medications she's taking and Charles doesn't even care made me dislike him even more intensely. He came across as shallow and selfish and quite frankly, a jerk. His wife was painted a little bit better, but neither of them remotely interested me as characters about whom I would ever want to learn anything more or about whose futures I cared.
At first I had thought the story would end with their daughter being returned to them, but then I learned of another child in the story and it seemed pretty obvious what would happen at that point. I don't know if that's what did happen, but if it did, that would have been way too trite and predictable for my taste. It's been done before.
Charles's other obsession, aside from his daughter, the woman he had an affair with, and the woman, Silva at the local historical society with whom he'd like to have an affair, was this book he stole as a child, and which was written by a Victorian relative of Erin's. He thinks he can write a biography of the author, Caedmon Hollow - yes that's the name of the guy, not the name of the mansion! - but it seems like he's much more interested in getting into Silva's panties than ever he is in writing anything. He's been into that book only once in his entire life, but he's into thinking about Silva at the drop of a hat.
The book and the mystery it was attached to should have been central to the story but there was so much stuff tossed in here (I think there was actually a kitchen sink at one point) that the book robbed that purported mystery of any currency it may have had. It became a secondary issue to everything else that was going on.
Since it was that very mystery which had drawn me to the novel in the first place, this felt like a betrayal if not an outright slap in the face and really contributed to my decision to quit reading. It felt like it was going nowhere and taking a heck of a long time to get there, and I had better things to do with my time. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot commend this book as a worthy read.