ARC review: Book of Living Secrets by Madeleine Roux

ARC review: Book of Living Secrets by Madeleine RouxThe Book of Living Secrets by Madeleine Roux
Published by Quill Tree Books
Published on 1 March 2022
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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RRP: $34.99

Perfect for fans of The Hazel Wood, this genre-bending page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Madeleine Roux follows two girls who transport themselves into the world of their favorite book only to encounter the sinister alternate reality that awaits them.
No matter how different best friends Adelle and Connie are, one thing they’ve always had in common is their love of a little-known gothic romance novel called Moira. So when the girls are tempted by a mysterious stranger to enter the world of the book, they hardly suspect it will work. But suddenly they are in the world of Moira, living among characters they’ve obsessed about for years.
Except…all is not how they remembered it. The world has been turned upside down: The lavish balls and star-crossed love affairs are now interlaced with unspeakable horrors. The girls realize that something dark is lurking behind their foray into fiction—and they will have to rewrite their own arcs if they hope to escape this nightmare with their lives.

I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I was super interested in reading this book as I was – and still am – going through a phase where I want to read about people who step into stories.

The blurb totally drew me in: two contemporary teen girls literally (and literarily)  enter the world of their favourite book, gothic romance Moira, only to find it’s not the lush opulent world they thought it would be. Instead, the story takes on a cosmic horror twist straight out of the Necronomicon, which was absolutely not alluded to in the blurb. The blurb only mentions ‘unspeakable horrors’, ‘something dark’, and ‘nightmare’, which quite frankly could have been Jack the Ripper for all it promises.

There is no mention that this is a cosmic horror book where Cthulhu literally makes a guest appearance, although He is not named, and quite frankly the cameo could be lost on a reader who doesn’t know about the Elder Gods. I only do because my husband is lowkey obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft.

So I am trying desperately to keep in mind that the marketers did this author dirty with its promotion, because if I knew it contained tentacled monsters eating dreamless sleepwalkers and other monstrosities, I would not have picked it up. I was drawn to the promise of two modern girls discovering their favourite romance novel might not be everything they think it is, not someone else’s intellectual property taking centre stage. As such, the worldbuilding felt really weird, because, on the one hand, we had this Boston from a hundred and fifty or so years ago. But on the other hand was someone else’s intellectual property. And on the third hand, we had the stuff that was set in the novel, just never talked about (those poor filthy beggars, this isn’t Les Miserable, it’s bloody Bridgerton).

That being said, everything that had nothing to do with the Elder Gods was fun to read. It’s when the cosmic horror began that my interest dropped, and it took me months to finish this.

And before you tell me Cthulhu wasn’t in this novel, let me provide a direct quote:

View Spoiler »

As well as plenty of references to the Old or Elder Gods.

I really liked Adelle and Connie’s characterisation and their relationship with each other. I was afraid they would grow apart, but their friendship remained firm and true. Yay girl power! I especially loved Connie’s inner struggle with coming to terms with her own sexuality. I am a big fan of female friendship.

I loved the Moira sections because the author kindly provided the ‘original’ text in snippets at the beginning of some chapters, so it was so much fun to see where the girls were experiencing things that were different to the book they loved. This was primarily Adelle’s part of the story, as she was the one to find her way into Moira’s sumptuous upper class world. However, I cared much less for Connie’s part, as she was taken in by a gang of starving orphan street children.

I also feel that there were some loose ends not tied up. What happened to the actual book itself after it was done rewriting the cosmic horror? Does it not matter since Adelle and Connie likely owned the only copy ever published? What happened to the remaining characters? Did anyone ever try to read it again?

Overall I cannot say that I truly enjoyed this novel. I believe if I wasn’t feeling obliged to finish my ARC, I likely would have abandoned it, however by the time I made that realisation I was more than halfway through and I just wanted to get it over with. I really hope that this strange mashup of contemporary, Victorian romance, and cosmic horror finds its niche audience because unfortunately, I’m not part of it.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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