Title: The Wrong Girl (The 1st Freak House Series, #1)
Author: C.J. Archer
Publisher: Self (on Netgalley under indie author co-op ‘Patchwork Press’)
Release Date: 25 May 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Gothic, Victorian, paranormal
Page Count: 218 (paperback)
Orphan Hannah Smith is kidnapped from her attic prison and bundled off to a strange house by a handsome young man and his friendly cousin. It’s a case of mistaken identity – or is it? Hannah wants to protect her best friend, a shy firestarter, so she pretends to be Lady Violet in this Victorian Gothic masterpiece with paranormal elements.
To say I’d been kept prisoner my entire life in an attic wasn’t quite true.
With and opening line like that, I knew I would fall in love with this book. By 15% through, I was still wary that a self-published book could burn me, but my fears were totally unfounded. I loved it from the start to the end and I still love it. I am generally hesitant about reading self-published books because a lot of authors think they can (and do) upload their first draft, or some authors think their writing is flawless when it clearly isn’t.
This is NOT the case with CJ Archer. I loved the writing in this book, the story flowed rather well, and Hannah’s insistence on pretending to be Violet to protect her was totally believable. This is one of my favourite books I’ve read this year, and has even made it to my six stars shelf. I can’t praise it enough. It might even end up the Moonlight Library’s Book of the Year for 2013, and that has NEVER happened with a self-published book before.
The only downside was that I didn’t feel the romance between Hannah and Jack – but I’m not really into romance. I felt it developed too quickly for my taste, but for paranormal lovers it would probably be fine. It’s certainly not insta-love, but it did seem a little fast for me.
The real stand out for this was the writing and the character voice. The accents of the characters came through loud and clear in my head. This is obviously not a classic novel, but it is written in the style of a classic novel, and I feel it is very well pulled off. If I got my hands on a leather-bound hardcover edition, I’d totally stand it next to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility on my bookshelf, rather than next to my YA novels. (Doesn’t everyone arrange by genre?)
I was always intrigued to read what was happening next, and the several mysteries unravelled themselves at the right time, even if it was a tad predictable from the start. However, that is not a loss in this book because I fell in love with the characters. Hannah is totally awesome, strong-willed and sharp-witted. Jack was OK, and Sylvia was delightful. The bad guy’s motives were totally understandable, and the villain was equally scary and powerful. I only wish we got to see more of the real Violet because I think her friendship with Hannah was beautiful.
The ending is not a cliffhanger but it does leave several questions unresolved. It’s the first part of a series and I desperately want to read the next book so that’s not bothering me, but it’s not the kind of first-book-in-a-series where everything is wrapped up neatly in a bow.
There’s not much else to say about this book except that if you like Gothic stories, strong heroines, books that pass the Bechdel test, classic literature (as it is set in Victorian times), paranormal or supernatural books (no vampires, but psychic powers), then totally read this book. Read it, and then come and squee with me because I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for Book 2.
Thanks to CJ Archer, Patchwork Press and Netgalley for providing this advanced reader copy for an honest review.