The Secret of Matterdale Hall Review

  • Author: Marianne Ratcliffe
  • Series: Standalone
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • No. of pages: 380
  • Dates read: 01.11.2022 – 08.11.2022
  • Star Rating: DNF

Plot: Susan Mottram lives an idyllic existence until her eighteenth birthday, when her father’s sudden death plunges the family into penury. To support her mother and younger sister, Susan takes employment as a teacher at a remote Yorkshire boarding school, Matterdale Hall, owned by the radical Dr. Claybourn and his penny-pinching wife. Susan soon discovers that all is not as it seems. Why is little Mary so silent? What really happened to Susan’s predecessor? Is anyone safe in the school’s draughty halls? Through a life-changing meeting with the beautiful and mysterious Cassandra, Susan begins to uncover the truth about Matterdale Hall, and discovers the cruelty, and love, that can lie within the human heart.

So normally I don’t review DNFs but this was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. I also think there may be things that personally didn’t work for me that could be a reason why someone would want to pick this book up. Art is subjective of course.

So, unfortunately, I did DNF this book. I got about 100 pages into the story before I decided to put it down. Because of that my opinion of the book are of that first 20 or so percent of the novel. While there were some elements to the story I did like this ultimately didn’t work for me.

Starting off with the things I did like. I felt that the story itself flowed well and the writing was accessible. I felt firmly in place in the historical setting and I could picture the world around me very clearly due to Ratcliffe’s writing.

But certain things that I found a bit hard were the progression of the plot. As you all know at this point, I am a plot reader over a character based reader. This came to be a bit of a struggle for me when approaching this book as I felt the plot was quite minimal at the beginning of the book. The story spent more time creating the characters and setting them up before jumping more into the plot itself. So the story didn’t really capture my attention enough.

I also struggled with the characterisation of our main characters. I found the main character too be a little bit too naive and I couldn’t connect to her as I found a lot of her decisions to be rash and they annoyed me slightly. I also found the side characters to be either slightly forgetful or kind of comically over the top. The Doctor in particular came across as kind of comical mad professor character which I couldn’t understand if that was what Ratcliffe intended with his characterisation. And Mrs Claybourn felt a bit like a Disney villain from something like Cinderella rather than a formidable force I should fear. Which again I was not sure what the intended characterisations were.

Since this was a more character focused novel than a plot focused one, these characters were not enough for me to feel connected to the story nor did I feel any drive to continue the story. I made the decision to not finish the novel.

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