BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Pursuit Of William Abbey – by Claire North #blogtour @Tr4cyF3nt0n @OrbitBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Pursuit Of William Abbey blog tour! A huge thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to try Claire North‘s books for ages now and there was just no way on earth I was going to be able to resist that blurb. Today I’m interrupting my blogging break to talk about this most intriguing story… Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Pursuit Of William Abbey
Author: Claire North
Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: November 12th 2019
Publisher: Orbit Books
Finished reading: November 13th 2019
Pages: 432

“And whatever you love most is the thing the shadow kills. That is the first lesson of the curse that was laid upon me.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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As soon as I started reading the blurb, The Pursuit Of William Abbey started ticking all the right boxes for me. A historical and international setting: check. A shocking event that changes the life of the main character forever: check. A curse and everything it entails: check. The promise of a lot of movement: check. That feeling of impending doom: check. Oh yes, the blurb alone already fully convinced me I was going to be in for a VERY interesting ride. And now I’ve had the chance to read The Pursuit Of William Abbey, I can state that this story has one of the most compelling and captivating premises I’ve had the chance to encounter this year.

There are quite a few different elements I loved in The Pursuit Of William Abbey. I’m struggling a bit to decide where to start, but I guess we’ll keep it simple and return to the core of this story. And there is just no way to describe the plot without calling the curse the key stone on which the rest of the story is build. I don’t want to give away too much, but as you might have guessed from reading the blurb, the main character William Abbey is cursed in the beginning of this story and his life changes forever after that. In the rest of the story, this curse is omnipresent and will determine every movement and even thought of William Abbey and those close to him. The curse gives The Pursuit Of William Abbey a touch of the mystical and what I personally would call magical realism. Why? This story isn’t full blown fantasy; instead it’s rather a work of literary fiction with a historical setting and a blurred line between the surreal and reality. This mix of genres is most fascinating and while it might not be for everyone, (historical) fiction fans will find it probably very easy to warm up to this story.

Another thing that stands out in The Pursuit Of William Abbey is both the international setting and diversity of different countries, local customs and politics incorporated into the plot. The nature of the curse alone forces William Abbey to travel a lot, and as the story develops he will have more than one reason to travel the globe. The many many references to different countries, local events and culture definitely made my travel heart happy and gives this story a complex, multifaceted and global feel. From Europe to Asia to Africa to the US; William Abbey never stops and as a consequence we never stop either.

The structure of the plot is also very intriguing. Basically, we start at the end, set in 1917, and then slowly learn more about the events in 1884 and the years after as William Abbey narrates his story through flashbacks. This way, his motivation for his actions in 1917 France are not clear for a long time, and this technique definitely helps you stay invested as you try to find all the answers. There are also quite a few characters in play, and this might be a bit of a juggle in the beginning, but my advice would be to just take your time with this story… This won’t be too difficult, as the pace in The Pursuit Of William Abbey is surprisingly slow in general despite the many different settings, events and quite some action. Part of this slower pace can be explained through the detailed descriptions that help this story come alive… If you are a fan of elaborate and thorough descriptions, you will definitely be in for a treat.

The slower pace in The Pursuit Of William Abbey can also be explained through the extensive character development, and the fact that this book can be considered a mainly character driven story. While the different international settings and events of course play a role, I felt the main focus was on William Abbey, the other key characters and their development. A lot of thought was put in both their descriptions and growth over time. It was also fascinating to see the different attitudes towards and reactions to the curse. The characters helped build the bridge that connects the surreal with the more worldly elements… And they are definitely the reason why this mix of different genres works so well.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot itself and the things that happen to William Abbey to avoid spoiling the fun of discovering it all on your own… But I can say this about The Pursuit Of William Abbey in general: if you are a fan of slower character driven (historical) fiction, don’t mind a hint of magical realism and love a multilayered international plot, you should definitely add this fascinating story to your wishlist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire North is the pen name for the Carnegie-nominated Catherine Webb, who also writes under the name Kate Griffin. Her latest book, 84K has been shortlisted for the Brave New Words and Philip K. Dick Awards. Catherine currently works as a live music lighting designer, teaches women’s self-defense, and is a fan of big cities, long walks, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.


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DNF ARC REVIEW: The Noble Path – by Peter May

Title: The Noble Path
Author: Peter May
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: May 31st 1992
Publisher: Quercus Books
Finished reading: October 27th 2019
Pages: 544
DNF at 35% (190 pages)

“Nothing was more difficult in life than coming to terms with your own limitations.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Quercus Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have been meaning to try Peter May‘s books for a long time now… In fact, I have a physical copy of Entry Island waiting on my shelves, but somehow I haven’t been able to find time to read it yet. I was stoked when I received the email that my request for The Noble Path was approved a few months back, and after multiple fellow bloggers recommending his work, I fully expected to enjoy my time with this story. And I most definitely never would have guessed I would end up DNFing it instead!

First of all I have to say that this is most likely a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me‘, especially since it has such a high rating on Goodreads and overall positive reviews. I’ve tried really hard to warm up to the story, giving it a second, third and fourth chance and even reading other books in between to see if a change of scenery would help me finally connect to The Noble Path afterwards. But no such luck, and after days of struggling and seeing myself starting to skimread just to try and turn those pages, I knew it was time to just throw in the towel and let this story be. I hardly ever DNF a story and I still feel mighty guilty about this, but it has become painfully clear that The Noble Path just isn’t the right story for me and I might just not have been the right target group to begin with.

I still think that the historical background and setting of The Noble Path is absolutely fascinating. 1978 is a turbulent, dark and bloody time for Cambodia, with the Khmer Rouge reign and devastating genocide. A very disturbing and heartbreaking backdrop for this story, and I do believe the author does a great job with his descriptions of both the Cambodian and Thai setting and the events related to that era in history. It shows a lot of work has gone into research of this period, and I can really appreciate that. That said, I’m just not sure if I’m the right target group for this story. The Noble Path has that Rambo/Die Hard typical action movie vibe with an overload of action, violence and bloody scenes; especially once Elliott is in Asia it almost feels like you reading about a  Rambo II spin-off… Not necessarily a bad thing, but not exactly my cup of tea and it made me struggle to connect to the story.

The Noble Path has quite a few different POVs, and it can be a challenge (especially in the beginning) juggling them as well as trying to connect them to get a full picture of what is going on. I wasn’t really a fan of how the different characters were described, and I once again felt like the wrong target group as the story seemed written for the typical white male audience with its sometimes sexist comments, excessive violence and graphic scenes. I by no means have a weak stomach and don’t mind things getting bloody,dark and violent, but the tone in The Noble Path really put me off. Once again, this is a personal reaction and I’m by no means saying this is a bad read, but it did prevent me from actually reaching that final page. I’m really sad my first encounter with Peter May‘s work ended on this negative note, but I still have hope for his other books… Although I confess that I’m going to take a little break for now.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #129 – Fever 1793 & The Museum Of Extraordinary Things (DNF)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two historical fiction reads that I fully expected to love, but somehow failed to connect to. The historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, but the characters fell a bit flat for me… And with a superslow pace and flat characters, I saw no other option but to DNF The Museum Of Extraordinary Things. Oh yes, sadly it’s time for a double dose of unpopular opinion reviews!


Title: Fever 1793
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
First published: September 1st 2000
Publisher: Aladdin
Finished reading: October 17th 2019
Pages: 252

“Life was a battle, and Mother a tired and bitter captain. The captain I had to obey.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I was browsing for possible titles that are set in the 18th century to read for the final era for the When Are You Reading? challenge when I saw this title pop up. I enjoyed her other title Wintergirls when I read it earlier this year and the historical setting and plot sounded fascinating, so I immediately knew I wanted to read this title. I’m not sure if this was the wrong book at the wrong time for me, or if it’s just that I’m not that used to middle grade books in the first place… But the fact is that I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by this story. First things first, and I have to say that the historical setting is well developed and detailed when it comes to the facts of 18th century Philadelphia and the yellow fever outbreak. It shows that the author has investigated historical facts thoroughly and the descriptions feel realistic and help teach the readers more about yellow fever and the impact of the outbreak back then. I could also appreciate the explanation of what was based on historical facts and what might have been changed in the story. That said, I struggled to connect to the story. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has somewhat to do with the fact that I never felt a real connection with the main characters, making me feel mostly detached from  everything that happened to the main characters. In short, while the historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, the characters somehow ended up falling a bit flat for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you haven’t tried this story yet and are intrigued by the blurb, you shouldn’t hesitate to try your luck.


Title: The Museum Of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: February 18th 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Finished reading: October 21st 2019
Pages: 385
DNF at 38% (146 pages)

“Coney Island was, above all else, a place of dreams, with amusements like no others, rides that defied the rules of gravity, concerts and games of chance, ballrooms with so many electric lights they glowed as if on fire.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’ve been meaning to read this title for a long time, so I was excited when my TBR jar decided it was time to finally read it. The premise of The Museum Of Extraordinary Things sounds fantastic, so I fully expected to enjoy the story… Sadly, surprisingly enough it wasn’t ment to be. I’m not sure if it was just the wrong time for this story or if my book hangerover after finishing The Lion Tamer Who Lost the other day would have made me struggle with any book in the first place… But the fact is, I REALLY struggled with The Museum Of Extraordinary Things and I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading any longer. The pace is so so slow in general and the parts written in cursive are even slower… I had a hard time staying focused on the story and even started skimreading certain parts; definitely not a good sign. On top of that, I found the main characters to be quite flat and cliche… They lacked development for me to make them more rounded (at least in the part I read), and as The Museum Of Extraordinary Things seems to be a more character driven story, this became a real issue for me. I do have to say that the historical setting in early 20th century New York/Coney Island is absolutely fascinating and the historical references are probably the main reason I even made it this far. But as a whole, this story and me definitely didn’t get along.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #128 – Infinity + One & Thin Air

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles I’ve been looking forward to read, and both ended up being excellent reads. Amy Harmon is one of my favorite authors and Infinity + One was without doubt another great read. And I’ve been looking forward to pick up my beautiful copy of Thin Air ever since I bought it, and it was just the right story for the time of the year.


Title: Infinity + One
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Music
First published: June 8th 2014
Finished reading: October 14th 2019
Pages: 350

“We weren’t so different, Finn and I. Cages come in lots of colors and shapes. Some are gilded, while others have a slamming door. But golden handcuffs are still handcuffs.”


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I think most will be aware of the fact that I adore Amy Harmon‘s books by now… I’ve decided to make the wait for her next story Where The Lost Wander a little less painful by tackling some of her backlist titles I still had pending. I was going to finally pick up The Bird And The Sword, but my heart screamed for a dose of contemporary romance and Infinity + One sounded perfect for the job. As soon as I realized this story was going to have references to the infamous Bonnie and Clyde couple, I was sold. I’m a huge sucker for historical crime references, and who hasn’t heard about the story of Bonnie and Clyde?! This element was definitely a huge bonus for me, and I loved how it played a role through the whole story in multiple ways. Bonnie and Finn are in many way opposites, but I loved how well their characters worked together in this story. The thorough development of both characters, giving them flaws and having them making mistakes, really makes them come alive for me and I was soon addicted to their story despite the fact it kind of has that insta-love vibe going on. But between the road trip feel of the plot, the dangerous angle, the Bonnie and Clyde references, the music and the spark between Bonnie and Finn among other things, there were many elements to make you forget about those few cliches. The writing is just as wonderful as I’ve come to expect of her work, and while Infinity + One isn’t my absolute favorite of her work, it’s undeniably an excellent read fans of the genre will love.


Title: Thin Air
Author: Michelle Paver

Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
First published: October 6th 2016
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: October 16th 2019
Pages: 240

“Up and up my eye climbs, past sweeping, dark-red precipices and glaring white ice, to those immaculate peaks, the highest trailing a banner of wind-blown snow across a sky so intensely blue that it’s almost black.

Kangchenjunga.”


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I admit this was initially a cover love buy for me, although as soon as I read the blurb I was convinced I made the right choice. Partly a historical adventure story set in the 1935 Himalayas, partly a ghost story, Thin Air turned out to have a very interesting mix of different elements and it’s a story perfect for this Halloween month. First up we have the historical fiction aspect, as this story is set in 1935… I think the author did a great job describing the historical elements and it gives us a good idea what it would have been like joining such a expedition back then. That brings us to the next element: the international setting in the Himalayas (India, Nepal), with the mountain Kangchenjunga being almost like another character. The descriptions of the setting really made the mountains come alive for me, and it’s part of the reason I enjoyed the story. Another thing that stands out is the paranormal aspect of this story. We learn about a past failed expedition and its tragic end… And with strange things happening to the main character Stephen, you definitely get that spooky vibe. But this story also almost reads like an adventure journal where you learn more about mountain climbing, what happens during this expedition as well as the other characters as Stephen sees them. Some are definitely not that likeable, but it was very interesting what the extreme experience and weather conditions do to a person. I had a great time reading this story and definitely didn’t see that ending coming! Thin Air is without doubt a great Halloween as well as a proper Winter read. It definitely makes you want to bundle up in a pile of blankets with a steaming mug of your favorite beverage closeby!


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ARC REVIEW: The Huntress – by Kate Quinn @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK

Title: The Huntress
Author: Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: February 26th 2019
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Finished reading: September 30th 2019
Pages: 560

“It was pointless trying to find evil in a face. So often, evil sat invisible behind perfectly ordinary features.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and HarperCollins UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


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I kept seeing glowing reviews about The Huntress ever since it was published earlier this year, so I was over the moon when my request for an ARC was actually approved. WWII historical fiction is one of my absolute favorite subgenres, so it is easy to say that between the glowing reviews and the bonus of a favorite genre I had extremely high expectations for this story. It’s the first time I read one of Kate Quinn‘s books (I have The Alice Network high on my TBR though), and I was definitely blown away by what I found. My expectations were more than met and I have found a new favorite story as well as author. Say hello to one of my 2019 top reads!

With its 560 pages, there is so much going on in The Huntress that I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start with my review. For lack of better ideas, I’ve decided to keep it simple and start with the historical setting. Due to the complexity of this story, we have three different storylines, POVs and thus three different historical settings to discuss… The one I found most striking was Nina’s POV, as we don’t often see a focus on the Russian side of the war, let alone learn more about female Russian pilots and everything related to their role in the war. We see Nina evolve as she grows up in inhospitable Siberia and wants to follow her dream to conquer the sky… The descriptions of the different places in Russia are simply fantastic, and the same goes for the incorporation of historical facts about the female pilot division and everything that relates to the Night Witches, the bombings and other things happening during the war. And I have to say that Nina’s POV alone already made me want to hand out the full 5 stars for this story.

To contrast this rather intense storyline, we have the milder POV set in postwar Boston with Jordan in the lead. This is a story of a young woman with a passion for photography, dreaming about a seemingly unreachable exciting life but instead being pushed to tie the knot with her boyfriend and take over her father’s business in the future. This storyline is also focused on family and has that whole ‘possibly evil’ stepmother vibe… It was really interesting to see both this storyline and Jordan’s character evolve over time and slowly merge with the third POV: Ian. Ian Graham is a British war correspondent who is determined to hunt down as many Nazi members as possible after the war with the help of his colleague Tony. Their journey starts in Austria as they decide to track down the infamous ‘huntress’, and here comes Nina in play as well as the only witness who saw the woman and survived.

At this point in the story we don’t know about Nina’s past yet, and it was fascinating to see how all different storylines slowly evolve as the hunt continues and brings them to different places and closer to the final so-called reckoning. I especially liked how we only learned about Nina’s past in small doses, absorbing those final details just before the story reaches its climax. The three different storylines and POVs are woven together in the most expert way and basically give you three different high quality stories to follow all wrapped together into one brilliant masterpiece. I’m not lying when I say that this is without doubt one of the best WWII inspired historical fiction stories I’ve read to this date, and I’m not taking those words lightly… The Huntress left me lost for words.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot as I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but what I can say is that between the complex and rich plot, the writing, the different characters, historical references and settings, there is a lot to love in The Huntress. While the pace might be slower in points, the story also has moments of speed (especially in Nina’s POV) and you will have to prepare yourself for a healthy dose of surprises in the plot. The writing is simply beautiful and draws you right in, and I loved the use of foreign words here and there. The character development is also sublime, and I loved how the different storylines slowly came together until the full picture is finally revealed as you fit the last piece of the puzzle. Most of the characters are so easy to like as well, partly because of their flaws and realistic development, partly because of their charms. Especially Nina stood out for me (I loved her bluntness), but it was great to follow Ian and Jordan as well. Even the ‘huntress’ was a fascinating and well developed character, though of course she can never be called likeable.

As you might have guessed, there is a lot to love in The Huntress and I can highly highly recommend it to anyone who loves WWII historical fiction as much as I do. Between an unique, complex and rich plot, beautiful writing, fascinating characters, detailed descriptions that really make the historical settings come alive and a healthy dose of secrets and surprises, you will find yourself having a hard time picking what exactly your favorite element of this story is.


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ARC REVIEW: Finding Henry Applebee – by Celia Reynolds

Title: Finding Henry Applebee
Author: Celia Reynolds
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
First published: October 4th 2019
Publisher: One More Chapter
Finished reading: September 19th 2019
Pages: 427

“Because he’d learned by now that some moments in life are pivotal. And when they happen, you know things are never going to be the same again.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and One More Chapter in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


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I always like mixing up genres and read a good contemporary every once in a while… As soon as I read the blurb of Finding Henry Applebee, I knew I was most likely going to enjoy this story. My instincts turned out to be right, because I had a great time getting to know the main characters and learning about their journey. It is without doubt a heartwarming and poignant read!

The power of Finding Henry Applebee is above all in its main characters. The story is told with the help of three different POVs: Henry, Ariel and Travis. What would one eighty-five-year-old man and two young characters have in common, would you say? That’s for you to discover as the plot and its twists are revealed in due course (I don’t want to spoil the surprises), but it all starts with a train ride from London to Edinburgh. Each character is thoroughly and realistically developed, and are very easy to connect to. First up we have the eighty-five-year-old Henry, the star of this story and one with a heartbreaking past and quest. We get a glimpse of his past through flashbacks set mostly in 1948 Blackpool, and the present chapters are wonderfully developed as well. Next is Ariel, a troubled teenager weighted down by grief and currently on a very important mission. I liked how her character was developed as well, and how we slowly learn a little more about her past as well as why she is currently on the train to Edinburgh. The last POV belongs to Travis, an American musician on his way to see his uncle. His character is very easy to like and brings a little light to balance the more heavy themes.

I really liked the idea of the train journey and the three characters meeting this way. I love travel themed stories and this was without doubt a nice touch! The train advancing can also been seen in the corresponding progress in the development of both the characters and the plot itself… The three different POVs and flashbacks are woven together into a coherent and moving story and the connection between the different storylines makes it really easy to just keep turning those pages. The main mystery is of course around Henry’s past and what happened to Francine, but we also have the question of the package Ariel was sent to deliver by her deceased mother. More heavy themes as the post-war era, regret, cancer and grief are contrasted with moments of lightness and even humor, turning Finding Henry Applebee into a well balanced read. There is some romance involved as well, but not distractingly so and I personally didn’t like a little dose of happiness added to the plot. This story will both make you laugh and make you cry before you reach the final page and is without doubt a beautifully written and poignant read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #122 – The Old Man And The Sea & Stalking Jack The Ripper

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a classic I’ve been meaning to read for ages and a YA story that has been recommended to me multiple times. Both ended up surprising me… I wasn’t expecting to, but I actually really enjoyed my time with The Old Man And The Sea. And while I was fully expecting to love Stalking Jack The Ripper, the romance put a damper on things.


Title: The Old Man And The Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway

Genre: Classics, Fiction
First published: September 1952
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: August 23rd 2019
Pages: 132

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”


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Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever read Ernest Hemingway‘s books before. *hides in a corner* I’ve been meaning to pick up The Old Man And The Sea for quite some time now, and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m glad I thought of this title when I was browsing for short reads to fit one of the prompts for #NEWTsReadathon2019, because I ended up enjoying it so much more than I thought I would. The plot of this classic is very simple: basically it’s a very old man struggling to catch and bring home a huge fish. Not very interesting unless you love fishing, you might say, but I think the power of this story might just be in its simplicity. There are no distractions, just the man, the boat, the sea and the huge fish. The description of the struggle of the old man is thorough and detailed, and it was interesting to see his character evolve over time. You might wonder why on earth he would keep up the struggle for that long. You might wonder why he doesn’t just give up when the sharks come visiting, as he is basically risking his life to bring in some fish meat. Still, there was just something about this short classic that made me enjoyed the ride. And while I’ve heard that The Old Man And The Sea is by far the most entertaining of his books, I’ll be looking forward to try more of Ernest Hemingway‘s books in the future.


Title: Stalking Jack The Ripper
(Stalking Jack The Ripper #1)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Thriller
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Finished reading: August 24th 2019
Pages: 336

“Corpses kept him company most nights, like intriguing textbooks; he cherished dissecting them and discovering the secrets held between the pages of their skin and bones.”


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Warning: it’s unpopular opinion time again!

As soon as I first heard about this book I was completely intrigued. I mean, a Jack The Ripper inspired story set in the same time period and place? There was just no way on earth I was going to be resisting that. A lot of people have been recommending Stalking Jack The Ripper to me over the years, and I was really excited to finally get to it. The story started out strong for me and I had high hopes it would be a winner for me as well… But I guess it wasn’t ment to be in the end. First things first, and I have to say I loved the historical setting and how many historical references to the Jack The Ripper case are incorporated into the plot. Descriptions are thorough and I really felt like I was right there in 1888 along with the main characters. I can also appreciate the twist on the original Jack The Ripper case and his new identity. While I did guess the identity quite early on, it did bring an interesting twist to the story. The forensic medicine element is likewise an interesting touch. BUT. I didn’t see coming that there would be so much romance involved AT ALL. The whole enemy to lovers trope and the constant bantering really took away the attention from what was happening and as things continued I started to struggle to keep focused on the story. The fact that main character Audrey Rose REALLY wants you to know she is an empowering and intelligent young woman and deserves to be working with her Uncle really got on my nerves as well. Her superiority complex and arrogance made me enjoy the story considerably less than I thought I would, and I’m still not sure what to think of Thomas and his behavior either. In short, the characters and romance made me enjoy this story a lot less than I thought I would… That said, with the sequel having Vlad The Impaler references, I will most likely still give the sequel a go some time in the future.


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