Friday, 28 June 2013

The Wrong Girl Review

The Wrong Girl (Freak House #1)
C.J. Archer

E-Arc Courtesy of Netgalley & CJ Archer

It's customary for Gothic romance novels to include a mysterious girl locked in the attic. Hannah Smith just wishes she wasn't that girl. As a narcoleptic and the companion to an earl's daughter with a strange affliction of her own, Hannah knows she's lucky to have a roof over her head and food in her belly when so many orphans starve on the streets. Yet freedom is something Hannah longs for. She did not, however, want her freedom to arrive in the form of kidnapping. Taken by handsome Jack Langley to a place known as Freak House, she finds herself under the same roof as a mad scientist, his niece, a mute servant and Jack, a fire starter with a mysterious past. They assure Hannah she is not a prisoner and that they want to help her. The problem is, they think she's the earl's daughter. What will they do when they discover they took the wrong girl?

Combining Victorian favourite themes of mistaken identities, mysterious benefactors and unknown orphans in a sprawling gothic mansion, The Wrong Girl feels like Wilkie Collins for teens. Hannah Smith, our orphan is mistaken for the daughter of a Lord and kidnapped. Finding herself among others who have just as mysterious pasts as herself, and determined to protect her friend, she plays along with their assumptions while trying to figure out what is really going on at Freak House.

Hannah is a smart and feisty young lady – which seems a little odd given how sheltered her life was up until this point but it does make her a very modern heroine and easy to relate to. Her kidnappers range from lonely and overlooked young lady, a brooding older guy with secrets of his own and a scientist with odd ideas and changeable moods. There are some periods of over explanation as people spend a lot of time telling Hannah things – these info dumps are interesting but mean the main plot doesn’t move along much. This being the first book in a series it beautifully sets up some intriguing questions and plot arcs for Hannah and co to uncover in the future – why was she hidden in the attic for so long? What happened to her parents? These are all questions I want to know answers to!

However, so much time is spent setting up the wider plot arcs, the plot of these book feels a little rushed. Centring on a break in at Freak House and stolen research notes, the resolution to this was sudden and could easily have been avoided by the characters if they were a little more sensible or patient.

There is some romance but it doesn’t impose on the story or the characters – they both exist as full personalities outside of their relationship and I found it rather sweet – once I got past the whole kidnap thing (which seems a little strange once you get to know the characters!). The writing was very easy to get into and painted the grounds and characters of Freak House in colour and shade. This is a series I want to follow as I need answers!

Recommended for fans of Wilkie Collins and Cassandra Clare. 7.5 out of 10

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