“Cold-hearted or dead, Jack,” I said. “Everyone has to choose sometime.”
Published: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Length: 11 Hours (eAudio)
Series: N/A – Standalone
In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?
Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.
Hm. I don’t quite know how to start this review and I honestly wasn’t sure what I would say or how I would rate this, but here we go!
Also, as the top states, there are going to be some spoilers in this because I wouldn’t be able to properly talk about my feelings without talking about some key elements here. I’ll try to only stick to what’s important to the review, but beware.
Okay so I was really excited for this because I loved Simone St. James’ recent releases and I love historical mysteries with paranormal elements and what sounds more spooky and atmospheric then a mental hospital on a desolate island in a grand estate where an entire family ‘disappeared’? Nothing, that’s what. Too bad it wasn’t the hit I wanted it to be.
Where it starts to loose me is the first part of the book; it’s just so ungodly boring. It’s just a lot of set up that doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere. It’s a lot of Kitty talking to the nurses, learning the patients, cleaning and stressing about giving meds because she literally isn’t a nurse. It’s just downright boring, to be honest. The only reason I stuck around was because I was interested in seeing where it was going and Mary Jane Wells is a phenomenal narrator, so I was kind of compelled to keep listening. Thankfully it does start to pick up, but the first half is a snore.
Like I said it does pick up, and I think the second half of the book easily makes up for the less than stellar start. We get to see the ghost story unraveling and there’s more and more questions about where the wealthy family that built the house went. Then we get to see some romance blooming between Kitty and famous war hero turned patient, Jack Yates. While I have to admit I was super into the romance brewing, especially at the end, it still creeped me out slightly that I was digging a nurse being attracted to her psych patient LOL – I guess it’s okay since she wasn’t really a nurse and Jack wasn’t really psychotic, but still, as someone who works in a hospital I was for sure cringing a bit. My notes for the book literally say “Into the romance (strangely)”, so yeah.
Now, moving on to the haunting portion, I really enjoyed it! I thought the lead up was strong and the addition of nightmares made it really interesting, plus we all knew some shit was going to go down on night-shift, no? It was hard because there were times when you weren’t sure if Kitty was seeing a ghost or if someone real was lurking around the corner somewhere, and with some of the staff and residents it’s hard to tell which was worse. I think it played out really intensely, too, especially with the whole medical emergency. It just added a heightened sense of urgency and chaos at the end, I was holding my breath for sure.
Now, my favorite part of this book was the last few chapters. St. James doesn’t leave anyone hanging and she gives everyone a really nice wrap up, which I so appreciated. Jack and Kitty get married and it’s such a nice touch to the end that she ended up with the dashing and clever war hero. I also loved that the haunting wasn’t fully resolved and we’re left with the idea that ghosts still wander the halls of Portis House, it was like one last little chilling detail to leave us with.
This could have been a four or even five star read for me had the first half of the book moved a little quicker. It was a nice historical, for sure, and I loved the time period and the looming dark cloud of the war and I loved the way she weaves the historical with the supernatural and even managed to throw in some romance. I just would have liked some more momentum in the first half.
Other Novels by Simone St. James